Seed Technology’s new future-proofed automated grass seed mixing plant

  • BDC Systems increases output, accuracy of mixing and reduces labour requirements, driving up the bottom line

To satisfy the mixing demands of Seed Technology Ltd’s (Seedtech) biggest partner in the grass seed sector, DLF Ireland, Seedtech worked with seed handling experts BDC Systems Ltd, to design and direct the installation of a bespoke, state of the art, future-proofed grass seed mixing plant.

“We had a small grass seed mixing plant which was very labour intensive and delivered limited output,” explained Nigel Whyte, Seedtech’s general manager. “We needed a plant that would allow us to easily, quickly and accurately mix up to 20 varieties of grass seed to meet the individual seed mixes our customers require.” Waterford-based Seedtech is the leading developer and producer of arable seed varieties for Irish tillage farmers.

“Andrew Lee, BDC Systems’ director and his team were the first on the team sheet for this project,” said Whyte. “We have a longstanding and trusted relationship with Andrew Lee and for a development of this potential complexity, we understood the value of being able to draw on his vast experience and connections across the grain handling sector.”

During the scoping for this new project Seedtech and BDC Systems’ Lee, evaluated existing seed mixing plants in the UK, Ireland and Denmark.

Working together and agreeing BDC Systems’ final design for the plant, Seedtech then faced another challenge – how to organise the installation during a ‘down period’ and to synchronise the timings across the necessary teams so that the new plant would be up and running ahead of Seedtech’s new season.

“Lee and the entire BDC team provided both onsite and remote support and successfully liaised with all of the contractors to ensure the job of work was completed,” continued Whyte. “As with projects of this size and complexity there were some time delays but the new plant was fully operational in time for the new season.”

Installation was conducted by BDC Systems’ established partner, Irish Grain Handling Systems Ltd, supported by Castle Facility Electrical Services Ltd, in the Autumn of 2022 and was commissioned early in 2023.

Lee and the BDC Systems team have designed an automated grass seed mixing plant that enables up to 20 varieties of seed to be drawn from individual storage hoppers and then mixed to deliver specific mixes.

“We designed a PLC control panel for the plant which integrates with Seedtech’s warehouse management system (WMS) so that the necessary automation could be achieved,” said Lee.

Grass seed is received into the plant in approx two cubic metre bags, placed over an above ground intake equipped with a splitting knife, which automatically opens the bags so that seed is discharged into the intake.

From the intake seed is transported via a Skandia belt and bucket elevator to a reciprocating cleaner which removes any foreign objects. A second Skandia elevator discharges the seed onto a belt conveyor where it is taken to the appropriate storage hopper. The destination hopper is determined by integration between the PLC control panel and the WMS.

BDC Systems’ bespoke design included 20 x 1.5m sq, 60 degree BM Silo hoppers with rounded corners to prevent any lodging of seed. Each hopper sits on a set of four weigh cells – one on each leg.

Seed orders are handled by the PLC control panel and the WMS so that the exact amount of grass seed variety is drawn from the correct hopper, until all of the needed varieties have been gathered to make up the required mix.

The amount of seed drawn from each hopper is controlled by a rotary seal which acts as a mechanical metering system. The weigh cells identify when the required amount of seed has been extracted and the rotary seal closes.

The grass seed then goes into a premix buffer hopper and via another Skandia belt and bucket elevator and a belt conveyor, is discharged into the mixer once it is free. The mixer was sourced by Seedtech and DLF and BDC Systems successfully incorporated it into the plant’s design.

As soon as the mixer is full, the PLC control panel and the WMS gather seed for the next mix from the individual hoppers and the premix buffer is filled.

If necessary small amounts of seed can be manually weighed and added before the seed is transported to the mixer.

Once mixed the seed is taken to the pre-bagging buffer hopper where it can be bagged into whatever size bag is required.

“Our new grass seed mixing plant has been fully operational for almost four months and whilst we are still adapting to the system, we are extremely happy with how it is working for us,” stated Whyte. “But, more importantly the Seedtech employees who run the plant are happy and proud to be working in such a state-of-the-art facility.

“The automation has greatly reduced manual handling which is crucial as finding good quality employees is a growing struggle. Reduced labour costs, reduced overtime, increased accuracy in mixing and increased output, delivers significant savings to our business.”

Seedtech is confident that BDC Systems’ design of the new plant not only meets its current requirements but has enough built-in capacity to meet its forecasted growth ambitions.

“It pays to engage with a partner like Andrew Lee and the entire BDC System team. Andrew understands the importance of putting time and effort into the planning and design stage of any project. Plus, he brings a bank of knowledge and expertise to the table and can correctly interpret the feedback from customers, especially from those who will be operating at the coalface of the project. The end result is that everyone’s expectations are not just met, but exceeded,” concluded Whyte.

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