The CX-6 Smart Seeder features SeedSync Software, which enables the integration of seed and soil maps to optimize site-specific management. Photo: Clean Seed Capital Group.

Improvements in technology and equipment are happening all the time in the seed sector. Innovations in seeders and sorters are driving the industry forward.

Every so often, technological innovations come along that have the potential to revolutionize industry practices. The makers of the CX-6 Smart Seeder are confident their machine holds such promise.

“It’s fairly disruptive technology,” says Colin Rosengren, who helped design the seeder. “It’s a big leap — like when the first air drill was created and took over from diskers and drills.”

Rosengren is a director with Clean Seed Agricultural Technologies Ltd. based in British Columbia. He says each of the six openers on the CX-6 has wirelessly controlled meters that allow the operator to deliver precise amounts of seed and inputs to maximize efficiency and yield while reducing costs.

The seeder uses prescription maps to deliver crop enhancement products where they’re needed most. The result, according to Rosengren, is “very controlled metering on a foot-by-foot level of each individual product.”

He says farmers can be more responsible with fertilizer usage, because it eliminates over-application in areas, such as headlands. It also helps optimize return on investment for inputs. Micronutrients typically only need to be applied in certain areas, Rosengren says, and the CX-6 can apply them at the right rate and in the right spots.

He describes the CX-6 as a new class of seeder not because of its precision, but its capacity to deliver multiple products. “We have up to six product capabilities, versus a planter that can only do one product,” he says.

The federal government is supporting the CX-6 with an investment of $1.8 million to Clean Seed Agricultural Technologies. The funding, which comes from the AgriInnovation Program, will help build more production models of the CX-6, as well as upgrade the production line.

“This technology represents a new step forward in precision, no-till farming,” says Terry Beech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science.

The CX-6 Smart Seeder is at the forefront of innovation in seeding technology. Photo: Clean Seed Capital Group.

The CX-6 Smart Seeder is at the forefront of innovation in seeding technology.
Photo: Clean Seed Capital Group.

Optical Sorting Catches Hold

Another sector that’s experiencing rapid technological change is optical sorting equipment. Optical sorters have been used in food processing and other industries for quite some time, but Mark Metcalfe, president of Nexeed Inc., notes adoption within the seed sector has taken off in the past few years.

Nexeed distributes cleaners and sorters made by Italian manufacturer Cimbria.

“We’re seeing a fairly significant uptake and a lot of interest from people in the seed processing industry today,” Metcalfe says. More and more, optical sorters are seen as a necessary counterpart to the traditional mechanical methods of screening seeds that make separations based on length, width and density.

“It’s just a new tool in the toolbox,” says Metcalfe, adding that optical sorters enable users to more easily or efficiently make separations “that they would have struggled with or perhaps just couldn’t do with those other parameters.”

A high production capacity RGB tri-chromatic sorter, the SEA-Chrome is equipped with full-color RGB cameras and an LED lighting system. Its enhanced optical system can determine even the smallest colour or shade differences, enabling it to detect and reject seeds that are similar in colour but have slightly different shades. Machine adjustments can be carried out easily due to the real image setting on the SEA-Chrome, and it has Internet connectivity that enables remote control.

The result, according to Metcalfe, is a system that’s “more intuitive and interactive.” He says it’s important that users of optical sorting equipment in seed applications have the capability to change programming frequently and quickly because they’re always dealing with different types of seeds.

Another innovative line of optical sorting equipment is offered by Buhler Sortex. Don Uglow, North American seed accounts manager at Buhler Sortex Inc., says “the optical sorting part of the seed market is constantly changing and improving.”

There are many reasons why sorters have enjoyed a successful entry into the Canadian seed market. Uglow says: “Better germination, less spread of weed seeds, safer planting, less good seed thrown away (when depending strictly on mechanical cleaning) and a better-looking product to the grower.”

He adds that the company’s A-Series line of optical sorters is best suited for most Canadian seed uses. “The A-Series has approximately 164 different permutations available, for any seed usage,” he says. “These range from full colour, to colour with either one or two different wavelengths of infrared, to a strictly black-and-white sort, depending on the needs of the customer and the quality of the sort. It also sorts by shape simultaneously, and is available in five different capacity sizes.”

“Basically, if the commodity being sorted is dry and flowable and if the human eye can see a difference in what needs to be separated, the A-Series will provide the sorting answers to a high degree of accuracy,” he says.

Optical sorters like those offered by Nexeed and Buhler are at the cutting edge of innovation. The possibilities for future advances within optical sorting are even more intriguing.

“If we can … somehow determine which kernels are more likely to grow with better results, whether that be germination or vigour, that’s a really exciting thing,” Metcalfe says. “It will only continue to help overall seed performance.”

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