May 13, 2013 - Member of Parliament Ray Boughen (Palliser), on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, and Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart have announced a $10 million investment over five years for the Saskatchewan Lean Improvements in Manufacturing (SLIM) program.

“As our agriculture industry grows, there is a demand to provide safe, reliable products more efficiently and effectively than ever before,” Stewart said. “Increasing our value-added processing is a key component of our plan for growth and this new initiative will help to achieve that goal and grow the industry.”

The new SLIM program will provide funding to help value-added agribusiness processors adopt best practices, new technologies, and state-of-the-art processes that stimulate improvements in productivity and efficiency.

The program will provide funding for lean gap analysis to help applicants identify process improvements, associated equipment, facility modifications, and training requirements related to improvements in productivity and efficiency. Eligible expenditures under the gap analysis include consultant fees and expenses directly related to the cost of developing the assessment. Funding is available for up to 50 per cent of eligible and approved expenses to a maximum of $20,000 per applicant.

The program also includes an infrastructure component, which will provide funding for facility modifications, equipment and associated installation and training to improve productivity as identified in the gap analysis. This would include projects such as process automation, process improvements and technology adoption. Funding is available for up to 50 per cent of eligible and approved expenses. The maximum project allocation per applicant is $500,000.

The SLIM program is open to Saskatchewan agri-businesses involved in value added processing of agricultural products, such as food, feed and bio-products.

“Our goal is to produce top-quality products and if we can find a more efficient way to serve our clients’ needs, we will look at any and all opportunities,” Tony Martinez, President of Donald’s Fine Foods said. “This program will allow agribusinesses, like ours, with the extra incentive to improve our overall processes.”

Interested applicants can find more information on at
Published in Food Safety

April 11, 2013 – Versatile has unveiled a new line of front-wheel assist tractors that feature one of the largest cabs in the industry and a considerable increase in wheelbase and size.

The styling of the new tractor is a departure from the existing Versatile front-wheel assist. A sloped hood offers visibility and features cues from the new Versatile design first introduced on the line of four-wheel drives. An increased grille area allows for better airflow with reduced maintenance and cleaning requirements. Combined with a longer wheelbase, this new design allows for tight turns, even with 30-inch row spacing.

First introduced on the four-wheel drive, the new cab offers operator space and comfort. The door swings wide for easy entry and egress. The adjustable armrest features fingertip controls for ergonomic comfort and a seven-inch high-resolution display for electro-hydraulics and the tractor performance monitor. Multi-power sources are available including 110-volt AC and five volt USB ports.

The new Versatile tractor is available in 260, 290 and 310 horsepower, which is provided by a Cummins QSL 9.0L featuring interim Tier 4 technology. The QSL features the Cummins Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) for sharp response in the field and offers a torque rise of more than 40 per cent. A reversing fan system is available that works as needed, providing quiet operation and fuel savings. The fan reverses approximately every 20 minutes to blow out the grille, reducing maintenance.

The transmission is a 16F x 9R full powershift transmission with push-button controls. Designed to work with the power bulge and torque curves of the Cummins engine, this transmission offers durability and smooth shifts in the field.

Fuel capacity has been increased to 170 US gal.

Published in Planting

Feb. 12, 2013, Guelph, ON - The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), and exclusive corporate sponsor Farm Credit Canada (FCC) are pleased to announce a unique learning opportunity for farmers, students and other farm safety supporters.
On Monday, March 11, 2013, CASA, CFA, and FCC are teaming up with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) to host FarmSafe Forum, a free, one-day event featuring an on-farm inspection training workshop. Forum participants will also hear from local farmers and safety advocates on such topics as dealing with farm injuries or taking action on safety. The event takes place in conjunction with Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (March 10 to 16, 2013).
“Many farmers have told me that they don’t know where to start when developing a safety plan. Learning how to identify hazards and to prioritze them is one of the first steps, and that is the exercise we will be featuring at the FarmSafe Forum,” says Marcel Hacault, Executive Director of CASA.
Over a year ago, CASA and WSPS partnered to develop the Ontario FarmSafe Plan, a business-risk management tool that enables farmers to develop their own customized farm safety plans. That plan is based on CASA’s Canada FarmSafe Plan, and available but adapted for Ontario-specific requirements.
“The Ontario FarmSafe Plan responds to a very real customer need,” says Elizabeth Mills, President & CEO of Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS). “WSPS is happy to work with CASA to provide a plan and support these workshops in order to enable the agriculture and landscaping communities to prosper and stay safe.”
“The Forum will be a great opportunity to  meet with other farmers and learn about best practices that could benefit your farm. Across Ontario, I am continually inspired by the innovation and entrepreneurship farmers bring to their businesses, and on-farm safety is certainly part of that," says Mark Wales, OFA President.
“We have a lot to be proud about the agriculture industry in Ontario,” says Barry Smith, FCC Vice-President of Western Ontario Operations. “To keep this growth up, planning for safety is key, both off and on the farm. We’re committed to helping Canadian producers stay safe at work, and this year’s Canadian Ag Safety Week is a great way to raise awareness of just how important being committed to safety is.”
For more information on the Ontario FarmSafe Plan, or to access related training workshops, go to:

About Canadian Agricultural Safety Week

Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) is a public education campaign focusing on the importance of practicing safe agriculture. This year, the theme for CASW is “Get with the Plan!” and encourages farmers to develop written health and safety plans. FarmSafe Forum events are being held in conjunction with CASW in Guelph, Ontario and Truro, Nova Scotia. For more information about CASW or FarmSafe Forum events, please visit

Published in Federal

Jan. 28, 2013 - Modern farming is a dangerous business. In 2011, it was ranked the second most dangerous industry, behind construction, mining and quarrying, according to the National Safety Council. One often overlooked strategy of improving farm safety is visual workplace communication—in other words, using labels and signs to show where hazards exist and how to deal with them.

Labels and signs are types of visual workplace communication. In general industry facilities, visual communication is used virtually everywhere. Safety labels and signs reduce the chances of a workplace injury by reminding workers of the hazards around them.

Most farms, though, have not implemented strong visual communication, despite having an arguably greater need for safety than industrial facilities. One reason for this is that many farms view the installation of signs and labels as a relatively unimportant goal and not worth the cost and effort. Another reason is that many smaller farms aren't required to meet OSHA standards, which is where a lot of the push for hazard communication comes from for larger organizations. And a third reason may be a lack of dedication to improving safety in general.

There are bright spots in farm safety among a few organic farms.

"We follow all OSHA regulations at JR Organics," said Joan Marrero from JR Organics.

"Most of our signage revolves around food safety and first aid situations. With so many visitors to the farm, we need to keep the areas where we process and clean our vegetables uncontaminated. These areas are 'Farmer only' areas. We also prominently display signs where we store our first aid kits," said Bryan Allen of Zenger Farms.

"We have signs along the border fences to alert road crews that we are an organic farm and no spraying is allowed on our property," added Leland Gibson of Gibson Farms.

Most workplace accidents happen due to workers not being aware of a hazard or underestimating the danger of a hazard. This is especially a concern with young farm workers, who are often insufficiently trained and insufficiently experienced to recognize the many workplace hazards around them. It is also a concern with ESL workers (English as second language), who may not understand the training they receive if it's not in their main language.

Farm machinery and vehicles are the source of most injuries on U.S. farms, accounting for approximately 60-70 per cent of farm fatalities. A good visual communication program should start with putting labels on the most obvious hazardous areas. Examples of common places for warning labels are PTO shafts, machine guards, augur entry points, moving blades and electrical components.

"Our tractors are the most dangerous vehicles on our farm. They are pretty stable but can roll over. Their high horsepower and low gearing can break implements without the driver even feeling it. The roto-tiller attachment for the tractor could kill a person quickly. It has a few safety labels on it from the manufacturer," said Wyatt Barnes from Red Wagon Organic Farm.

A lot of farm equipment is purchased second-hand, especially on smaller farms. These pieces of equipment may lack basic components, including labels. For used farm equipment, because it may have some strange operational quirks or malfunctioning components, it is especially important to make sure its hazards are easy to understand.

Besides directly marking the hazardous areas, labels can also be used to communicate important notes and instructions to your workers. Example: place a label on a PTO-driven grain augur that has a short set of instructions on how to safely attach and detach the tool. Or, place a note by a tractor's ignition to remind the operator to turn off the PTO drive or lower a grain augur before moving the vehicle.

"The chain saw is the most dangerous piece of equipment. A person with no experience and knowledge can cause serious injury or death to themselves or others. High up on the list are bush hogs, sickle blades, hay balers hay rakes. Safety guards and warning are all over these machines for a reason," said Gibson.

Some farm safety issues aren't as easy as others to label, although a few cautionary signs might help alert workers to a concentrated methane zone resulting from manure. Excessive methane inhalation is not just unpleasant -- it can be a health hazard.

Fortunately, university agricultural extension programs offers suggestions about using covers to minimize odor and gas emissions from manure storage, the impact of wind speeds, prevailing wind direction and topography (hills, valleys, trees) on odor dispersion.

These are just a few examples of label uses that could improve a farm safety program. There are no real limits to visual workplace communication. Every farm is different, with unique procedures and unique workforces. To optimize a farm safety program, it's necessary for farm managers to brainstorm the safety issues that are most important at that specific location.

For more information about farm safety and visual communications, visit, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 800-788-5572.

Published in Safety

Jan. 18, 2013, Victoria, BC - Projects introducing new technology to the province’s tree fruit industry are receiving support from the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country, the Honourable Ron Cannan, on behalf of federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, and B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick.

“B.C. has a strong reputation around the world for producing top-quality tree fruits, such as apples and cherries,” said MP Cannan. “These projects and leading-edge technologies will increase profitability and ensure that the region’s producers remain industry leaders on the domestic and international stage.”

“The B.C. government has been working with industry to focus on innovation and technology as we look at ways to expand their product line and markets,” said Letnick. “The investment of more than $200,000 for these six projects will enhance both our province’s tree fruit operations and ensure the agrifoods industry continues to be an integral part of British Columbia’s economy.”

Cawston Cold Storage is receiving more than $106,000 to assist with new storage technology. The investment will enable greater efficiencies in the movement of product in and out of cold storage. The goal of the facility is to extend the B.C. organic apple marketing season by maximizing the post-harvest product storage quality.

“With this funding we are able to secure much needed long term storage for our products and this innovative facility will help the B.C. organic agriculture industry remain strong for future generations,” said Dan Taylor, Operations Manager, Cawston Cold Storage.

Coral Beach Farms in Lake Country is receiving more than $35,000 in funding for an innovative software program that will automate the sorting of stemless cherries. The overall purpose of the project is to add value and reduce labour costs by introducing new technologies not currently in use in the B.C. tree fruit industry. The automatic sorting of cherries with and without stems will help the sector take advantage of higher-value export markets that pay a premium for stemmed cherries, leading to increased profitability for farmers.

“This new technology enables us to target specific packs of cherries to specific markets in a very cost effective manner. We are appreciative of the support provided through the Agriflex program, which allows us to better serve our customers and compete in global markets,” said Coral Beach Farms President David Geen.

Four other projects are also receiving funding totalling more than $66,000. The Jind Fruit Company is receiving just over $26,000 for a project to improve cold storage air quality and conditions at a packing house in Osoyoos. The Okanagan Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association is receiving over $21,000 for two Spotted Wing Drosophila larvae management projects. The BC Fruit Growers Association Research and Development Test Orchard is receiving $19,200 for the creation of quality standards that all cherry packing organizations can use for their domestic and export markets.

In 2010, the Governments of Canada and B.C. together contributed $5 million to the Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Initiative. The federal portion of this investment is made through the Agricultural Flexibility Fund (AgriFlex), part of the Economic Action Plan, a five-year (2009-14) program created to help reduce production costs, improve environmental sustainability, promote innovation, and respond to emerging opportunities and market challenges for the sector.

For more information on the B.C. Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Innovation Initiative, please visit the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture’s website or contact them at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Please visit the Agricultural Flexibility Fund for more information.

Published in Spraying

Jan. 18, 2013 - East Point Potato has taken steps to expand and modernize its processing facility in South Lake, Prince Edward Island.

Funding was recently announced for the facility from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, and the province.

The investment, for new bagger and baler equipment, and conveying equipment and project-specific infrastructure, will allow for a more efficient transition between the packing of different potato varieties and packaging requirements. READ MORE

Published in Companies

January 10, 2013, Holland, MI – Siegers Seed Company recently announced the appointment of Jammie Underhill as its new seed consultant for Ontario.

Underhill will provide his processing industry expertise to the company’s customers and service a market segment for Siegers as its processing sales representative.

Underhill has worked in the vegetable industry as a grower for more than two decades and has worked with the majority of the vegetable processors in the United States and Canada. He has worked closely with the research and development team at Siegers over the years to keep up to date on all new trail varieties and how they perform in different geographical areas.

Underhill can be reached by cell phone at 519-617-3429 or office phone at 519-773-3250.

Siegers Seed Company is a family owned Michigan based business and is a distributor of a full line of vegetable seeds and plants in the U.S. and Canada.

For more information visit or call 1-800-962-4999.

Published in Marketing

December 19, 2012 – Diseases such as purple spot can have major economic impacts for asparagus growers, and the best line of defence is spraying.

The good news is that asparagus growers know this and take steps to protect against it. The bad news is that there are few things harder to spray than asparagus in fern. READ MORE

Published in Spraying

November 8, 2012 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have released two mobile phone applications to make things easier for anyone who needs to adjust insecticide spray equipment.

The apps were developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Bradley Fritz and Wesley "Clint" Hoffmann at the agency's Areawide Pest Management Research Unit in College Station, TX. The apps are designed to ensure that aerial and ground-based crews can hit targets and minimize pesticide drift by keying in specifics on the type of equipment and pesticide they are using.

With dozens of manufacturers producing dozens of different types of spray technology – each with its own nozzle type, flow rate, and pressure setting range – the equipment setup can get pretty complicated. Aerial sprayers also must factor in wind speed, air temperature, flight speed and humidity.

The apps incorporate the latest science of spray technology, including spray nozzle atomization models developed by ARS at College Station. They can be used with a smartphone and accessed right from a field or the cabin of a small aircraft. More than half of all aerial applicators responding to a survey by the National Agricultural Aviation Association reported using smartphones. Data also can be saved for later use and e-mailed to colleagues.

One app is designed for ground-based spraying for mosquitoes and other threats to public health. It covers 60 different sprayers made by 19 manufacturers and was developed jointly with the Department of Defense’s Navy Entomology Center of Excellence in Jacksonville, Fla. The user selects the appropriate sprayer and is guided through the process of selecting specific operational settings, such as the nozzle type, flow rate and spray pressure setting.

The other app, for aerial spraying, walks users through the process of adjusting nozzles and settings so pesticides are delivered at optimal droplet sizes. Droplet size is critical in aerial operations to ensure on-target deposition and minimize pesticide drift. The user specifies the nozzle manufacturer from a menu and is steered through a series of screens and prompts that, based on the specific operating conditions, helps him or her select the right size of the nozzle opening, spray pressure, nozzle orientation and airspeed.

The apps are available online through the Apple iTunes App Store and the Google Play Android Marketplace by searching for “Aerial Sprays” for the aerial application app and “Vector Sprays” for the ground-based sprayer app.

Read more about this research in the November/December 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Published in Spraying

October 29, 2012, East Lansing, MI – The DBR Vacuum Apple Harvest Machine was demonstrated in five Michigan orchard locations during the October harvest with the assistance of DBR, the Michigan Apple Committee and Michigan State University Extension.

The most telling results of viewing and operating this harvesting aid machine was the need to have orchards of high densities; that is, this machine will work most efficiently with row spacings of 10 to 12 feet. While it can work in 14-foot row spacing, the efficiency drops due to difficulty of workers reaching the center of these wider rows, and the presence of larger limbs sticking out into the row in the path of the machine and workers.

Growers need to carefully consider the spacing of new plantings for the future. Once an orchard is planted, the grower will live with the system for many years – perhaps up to 30 years. Matching the row spacing to the potential machine that will be used for harvest or other horticultural tasks is key to gaining the most efficiency and, therefore, lower costs. A wide spacing will not allow a grower to capture the lower harvest costs of using the harvester in 12-foot spacing or less. Also, the platform portion of this new machine can be used to capture lower costs of pruning, hand thinning and training trees. Growers are encouraged to plant no wider than 12-foot row spacings to allow best use of platforms and harvest machines in the future.

Published in Harvesting

October 23, 2012 – The fewer times a potato is handled, the better its chances of remaining free from bruising, says Will Gribbon, manager of Heygate Farms’ Snailpit Farm, near Swaffham, Norfolk, UK.

And one of the best ways to achieve this at harvest time is to windrow them, place harvested potatoes on top of a bed that has yet to be lifted and, in effect, lift two beds in one pass with the harvester, he says. READ MORE

Published in Harvesting

October 15, 2012 – Siegers Seed Company has acquired two new dealerships to represent in Canada. Siegers will be selling for Abbott & Cobb, who offer seed choices in sweet corn, pumpkins and peppers. Siegers Seed Company’s most recent addition is a Seminis dealership, offering a variety of products including Performance Series sweet corn and downy mildew resistant cucumbers.

For more information visit or call 1-800-962-4999.

Published in Companies

September 11, 2012 – Nunhems, the vegetable seed business of Bayer CropScience, is expanding its efforts in the Canadian market for cucumber, lettuce and tomato seeds.

Effective Oct. 1, 2012, the sales structure of Nunhems will change.

Nunhems has been represented in Canada for many years by Growers Consulting, Inc. This business agreement will come to an end on Sept. 30, 2012. After that date, Nunhems will begin selling cucumber seeds directly to growers in all areas of Canada.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , a Nunhems employee who specializes in cucumbers, will be the new sales specialist. He will be the contact for cucumber seed orders and follow-up. Ali and his family live in Windsor, Ont., and he is part of the international cucumber crop team of Nunhems, with direct colleagues in the Netherlands and Spain.

Nunhems is also introducing a new cucumber variety, Cyrus (NUN 13077 CUL). Cyrus has already been tested in Canada by several growers for two years. They were very satisfied with the nice fruit quality and the good production.

In addition to cucumber, Nunhems also has a full line of lettuce varieties. Since Growers Consulting was not a lettuce distributor, there are no changes in the distribution. Lettuce is already sold mostly direct to key customers. If you should have any questions regarding lettuce, please contact Nunhems’ specialist, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Nunhems has also started trials of a new tomato program for greenhouse production. Trials include several varieties of tomatoes on the vine (TOV) with an average fruit weight of 150 gram, and also cherry on the vine varieties. The cherry tomatoes weigh around 12 gram and have a deep red colour. With a Brix level of 10, they score very well on taste. For more information on the Nunhems tomato assortment and variety recommendations, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Published in Research

September 10, 2012 – Cover crops are fast becoming a common practice for many farms. According to a survey the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) sent to subscribers of Corn and Soybean Digest, 63.7 per cent of respondents said they did not have enough time to get cover crop established with harvest challenges. A solution to this dilemma is to apply cover crops before crops are harvested. One of the ways to do this is aerial seeding.

Aerial application is an economical way that farmers can apply cover crops to fields. Cost of aerial application is around $15 to $20 an acre plus seed costs. This may seem costly to farmers but when labour, time, equipment and fuel is added together along with the option to use more cover crop species, the cost is comparable.

A challenge to aerial application is proper seeding time prior to crop harvest. Michigan State University Extension – in cooperation with the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, the Corn Marketing Program and Al’s Aerial Spraying, LLC – has established two soybean and two corn demonstration plots on two farms. Four cover crop species: annual ryegrass, cereal rye, oilseed radish plus oats mix and annual ryegrass plus crimson clover mix were planted on four different days with the final application during the demonstration. Cover crop seed counts were taken to measure how many seeds made it through the canopy and reached the soil.

A demonstration of aerial application as well as plot tours will be held on Sept. 13, 2012 at Phillips Orchards & Cider Mill 1174 W. Gratiot County Line Rd. St. Johns, MI. Registration will start at 9 a.m. A hog roast luncheon will be provided.

For more information about cover crops or the aerial demonstration contact Christina Curell, 231-745-2732.

Published in Food Safety

September 7, 2012 – John Deere Water recently announced the availability of the John Deere F Series Metal Filters to North American customers.

The F Series Metal Filters include the F1000, F3200, F3300 and F3400 models. Each model has features to meet the irrigation needs of grower customers in diverse crop production and green industry markets.

All John Deere Metal Filters with hydraulic parallel automatic suction type screens use a continuous linear movement (CLM) mechanism, which eliminates the need for pistons to change cleaning direction. The metal filters have large sintered screens that provide a larger filtration area and four layers of screen strength. Self-adjusting nozzles and brushes are standard on all John Deere automatic electric suction screen and brush filters for maximum cleaning effectiveness.

For more information on John Deere F Series Metal Filters, visit

Published in Irrigating

August 30, 2012, St. Catharines, Ont – The grapes of Niagara’s 2012 vintage will be ready for harvest sooner than those of previous vintages say researchers at Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

Tracking the maturation of grapes in the Niagara region is the focus of a popular preharvest monitoring program that CCOVI launched again this August. The program, now in its third year, has a new look thanks to a website that allows growers and winemakers to track the progress of grapes while being able to compare this year’s data to that of previous harvests.

“Fruit maturity levels at this point in time are close to that of 2010, which some say was the best vintage in Ontario history,” says Jim Willwerth, CCOVI viticulturalist, who oversees the project.

From now to the end of harvest, Willwerth will sample at four sites across the Niagara Peninsula each week tracking key indicators of fruit ripeness for the four most popular Niagara varieties – Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The data measuring sugar levels, titratable acidity, pH and volatile acidity is posted to the website every Tuesday.

The 2012 growing season didn’t start unusually early, but has progressed quickly from bud-break on. Grapes are generally one of the last major fruit crops to bud, which allowed most grapes to miss the frost damage many other tree fruit experienced this year. Bloom dates across Ontario were 10 to 14 days ahead based on a 10-year normal. This earliness has continued through to beginning of fruit ripening.

“I have never seen a year like this where we come out of the start so quickly and have not slowed down a single step, even at sites with record low rainfall and extreme heat in the season,” says Kevin Ker, CCOVI professional affiliate. “We now move into the critical period where the vines begin to mature the fruit and develop the wonderful complexities we find in top flight wines.”

Local grape growers appreciate the data the program provides.

“It is great that Brock wants to be at the forefront of what is going on in this industry,” said grape grower Bill Schenck. “As we go forward, the more information we have with past history, we can pretty much judge the quality of the crop for the upcoming year.”

To find out more about the pre-harvest monitoring system and to view the data, visit

Published in Harvesting

Jul. 25, 2012, Salt Lake City, UT - EcoScraps, a leading provider of organic, chemical- and manure-free lawn and garden products, today announced it received $1.5 million in series A venture financing. The round's lead investor was Utah-based KickStart. Other institutional investors included California-based DBL Investors and Utah-based Peterson Ventures.

"This represents a significant round of financing for EcoScraps and will be used to expand our products into new markets, continue developing our line of products, and attract new talent to our growing team," said EcoScraps CEO and co-founder Dan Blake. "Americans generate more than 30 million tons of food waste each year. Our company offers a sustainable solution to repurposing leftover fruits and vegetables."

EcoScraps diverts produce waste taken from local grocery stores and restaurants away from landfills, and turns it into compost and other lawn and garden products. The company's no-chemical, no-poop products are not only sustainable and contain twice the amount of essential soil nutrients than typical manure- and chemical-based soil products on the market, but are safe for kids and pets too.

"The strong support and adoption of EcoScraps is not surprising," said Clarke Miyasaki, managing director at KickStart. "Their business model is truly unique and profitable. By repurposing organic waste that would ordinarily sit in landfills, they have zero cost raw materials that keep costs down while creating an extremely high quality product. We see EcoScraps leading a new generation of environmentally-friendly and highly profitable companies in America."

"EcoScraps is perfectly positioned to become an industry leader," said Ben Capell, principal at Peterson Ventures. "The company's business model is unique and goes beyond anything we've seen. EcoScraps has gained an incredible amount of traction over the past year. The company's growing retail base already includes some of the nation's largest home improvement stores."

Founded just two years ago, EcoScraps is now manufacturing its products in Utah, Arizona and California. Currently, the company sells its sustainable manure- and chemical-free organic compost throughout Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and California.

"EcoScraps is led by a strong management team and is addressing the fast-growing market for green lawn and gardening products. Today's consumers want beautiful gardens that are also good for the planet, and EcoScraps is poised to become the leader in answering this important need," said Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Investors. "We are pleased to support the mission of EcoScraps and are confident in its future growth."

About EcoScraps

EcoScraps is an organic lawn and garden products manufacturer that was established in 2010. Its process recycles food waste into nutrient-rich products that help plants grow healthier in the most environmentally friendly way possible. EcoScraps has received several awards in its short history, including the 2010 Sparkseed Innovator honor, 2010 SOCAP Scholar and was named as one of the "Top 25 Most Promising Social Ventures in America" by Businessweek. To learn more about EcoScraps, visit:

Published in Spraying

July 9, 2012 – The key thing for growers to remember with regards to sprayer maintenance is to ensure the sprayer is mechanically sound and liquid tight. It should also be safe to run down the road and the boom must allow for easy shutoff, says Helmut Spieser, agriculture engineer with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

Sprayers need to be calibrated at the start of every season, and while farmers do not like to do this, they cannot rely on a rate controller to do a proper job. Rate controllers maintain precise sprayer output (GPA) but they do not calibrate your sprayer.

Always check nozzles for wear and spray pattern. Carry a couple of spare nozzles on the sprayer in case of a plug up. “A plugged nozzle should never come in contact with your lips,” he stressed. Use compressed air back at the shop for a thorough cleaning.

Growers should consider purchasing a wind meter to accurately measure wind speed and a compass to determine wind direction. These parameters should be recorded in your spray record every time you spray just in case someone challenges you. If there is a drift concern, and you end up in court, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) will want a (wind speed and direction) number, he advised.

Always maintain proper spray records, and have on hand the product label of what you sprayed, the MSDS sheet and the PCP number for that product. These contain the vital information needed by the Ontario Poison Centre (800 268-9017). Should some person be splashed, the Ontario Poison Centre will need that product number so they know how to treat injuries.

You should also have a spills kit on hand and display the phone number for the Spills Action Centre (800-268-6060).

When should you call the Spills Action Centre? Spieser said, for example, if a sprayer wheel spindle breaks while on the road and the leakage could fill your five-gallon pail in one hour, call the spills action centre. It is a minor spill but on a public road so call them promptly.

“Don’t worry about how much material has to spill before calling, just phone. That way the MOE knows your situation and what to expect when they get to the scene. You have to remember that MOE could get five or more calls from good Samaritans that could make the situation sound huge. But if you already called them then they aren’t going to get too worried,” he added.

For sprayer cleanup and clean out, rinse the sprayer daily after use so the product does not have time to adhere to the hoses, inner tank surfaces or nozzles. This recommendation is based on research conducted in the US 25 years ago that states daily rinsing removes 95 per cent of the product residue.

Always use fresh water and agitate for 10 minutes with the tank agitation system and tank rinse nozzles. “It should look like a dishwasher working in there,” he said. Spray the rinsate through the boom in the field you just sprayed. Be sure to remove and clean all screens and strainers. Thoroughly wash out the chemical inductor and any measuring containers. Pressure wash the outside of the sprayer, spray boom, tractor and tires to remove herbicides so, “you’re not a big wick weeder going into the next crop,” he said. If going into a sensitive crop, ensure you follow the label instructions for the proper rinsing regimen and use a cleaning agent.

Also consider removing the boom end caps to flush out product residue. A full wet boom does not slosh water around so residue will always be in the dead end of the pipe at the end cap, he warned. He then showed slides of a damaged tomato crop sprayed with what they thought was a ‘clean sprayer.’ The first 40 feet into the row were burned by the previous herbicide, and Spieser suspects it was due to the residue left in the end caps. This was a sprayer the researchers were using and thought clean.

On a self-propelled machine, with a 90-foot five section boom, there are up to 11 pipe sections with 22 end caps. To save time when flushing these pipe sections, Spieser suggests replacing the end caps with quarter turn ball valves. “Open them up while flushing individual boom sections with water and in a few seconds, it’s clean,” he said. These flushing valves may not come standard from manufacturers. He suggests growers buy the best machine for their operation and then modify it themselves with these clean-out valves.

To determine the wear of your spray nozzles, it is best to test the flow rate and spray pattern. “Manufacturers suggest replacing nozzles at 110 per cent of their rated flow,’” says Spieser. But if all nozzles have a consistent flow rate and the pattern is good, calibrate your sprayer and keep spraying, he advises.

If you have to change nozzles then you have to ask yourself what are your application priorities, namely; coverage, penetration, drift, and whether you are doing broadcast, directed or band spraying.

“You must also ask yourself what is the pressure capability of your sprayer, what are the crops to be sprayed, what are the pests, and what are the product modes of action,” he asked. Other concerns include carrier volume, the sprayer speed range and the type of boom you are operating, whether air-assist, electrostatic or conventional.

Such factors lead to determining the proper nozzle for your sprayer. Many growers have hollow cone, solid cone and flat fan nozzles readily available at home but there are also low pressure air induction and high pressure air induction tips available.

“All nozzles have three functions: they meter flow, make droplets and distribute droplets in a predetermined pattern, he said.” And the proper nozzle is needed to match your machine with the product and target to be sprayed.

“Depending on what you spray, droplet size matters,” he said, and there are now eight droplet size classification categories ranging from extremely fine to ultra coarse.

Fungicides and insecticides require a narrower droplet spectrum of fine-medium to medium for an effective spray. Herbicides, however, can be applied with anything from a medium spray or larger.

A major factor in nozzle selection is not only the product, and the capacity of the sprayer but the possibility of spray drift. The latest trend is toward the air induction nozzles simply because their significant drift reduction achieved by the production of larger droplets. Growers may need to adjust sprayer pressure to ensure drift reduction and/or effective crop coverage, says Spieser.

He recommends the following suggestions in nozzle selection:

  • calculate the size of nozzle required (GPA, nozzle spacing & travel speed)
  • determine the droplet size spectrum for the job at hand
  • choose a nozzle type that will deliver the spray quality at a reasonable pressure
  • evaluate the drift potential of your choice
  • select a different nozzle if necessary
  • conduct an evaluation of the coverage and penetration of the spray to the areas of concern in the crop
  • consider a nozzle that has a multipurpose capability
Published in Spraying

June 4, 2012, El Cajon, CA – Toro recently announced the launch of AquaFlow 3.0, the company’s newest drip irrigation system design software.

Now available for user registration and download, AquaFlow 3.0 provides designers with a new tool to configure drip irrigation systems for optimum performance using Toro’s Aqua-Traxx and Aqua-Traxx PC drip tape, as well as BlueLine Classic and BlueLine PC drip line.

Some of the features of the new software include:

  • Dashboard format with tiled graphs
  • Comparison of two different lateral selections
  • Pull-down menus for easy viewing
  • Multiple slopes in both the lateral and mainline programs
  • Choice of multiple sub-main and mainline pipe types and sizes
  • Lateral and sub-main flushing calculations

“The dashboard approach is a unique innovation that has been well received during beta-trials,” says Claude Corcos, senior marketing manager for Toro’s micro-irrigation business. “It enables designers to dynamically view any changes they make associated with the selection and sizing of laterals, sub-mains and mainlines. This helps save time and leads to better design selections.

“The ability to properly flush a drip irrigation system is often just as important as high system irrigation uniformity. Aqua-Flow 3.0 allows designers to view multiple aspects of flushing and irrigation at the same time, easing the decision making process.”

To help bring the numbers and data to life, the software generates colour-coded block maps that depict system uniformity, and are included in reports that may be customized and saved in multiple formats.

AquaFlow 3.0 is currently available in English and Spanish.

To become a registered user and receive download and update information, please click here.

Published in Irrigating

British Columbia blueberry growers have long relied on machines to pick their berries for the processing market. With labour becoming more scarce and more costly, many hope they can also use machines to pick for the fresh market.

The jury is still out on that.

B.C. Ministry of Agriculture berry specialist Mark Sweeney, Oregon State University professor Bernadine Strik and B.C. grower/packers Sukh Kahlon and Harvey Krause offered their insights into the topic at a panel discussion during the Pacific Agriculture Show in late January.

While she believes it is inevitable, Strik says “machines will have to change” before it becomes commonplace.

Sweeney agrees, noting current machines still cause a lot of bruising. Even non-obvious damage reduces shelf life so getting the berries to market quickly is “essential.”

That limits them to the local market, Krause says. “Over 80 per cent of fresh-market B.C. blueberries are shipped out and you can’t use machine-picked berries for that.”

Both he and Kahlon believe Duke is now the only variety suitable for machine harvesting for the fresh market. Duke blueberries “have a concentrated ripening window and their fruit tends to hold well,” Kahlon states.

They hold out some hope for the new Draper variety although it is so new to B.C. that “we won’t really know for another three to five years.”

Growers need to wait for more of the crop to ripen to make efficient use of machine picking. This simple fact works against use of machines for the fresh market.

“You can start to hand pick when only 30 per cent of the crop is ready but you need at least 70 per cent for machine picking,” Kahlon says. “Every day you wait exposes you to risk and may cause you to miss the higher-priced early season. If we had a variety which ripened in a two-week window, it would be better.”

That should reduce bruising because there would be less overripe fruit but could be self-defeating. The price premium growers count on early in the season could disappear if machines bring more volume onto the market than it can absorb.

All panelists stressed the need to prepare plants for machine harvest through severe, careful pruning. Machine picking requires straight rows, a narrow crown, trellised plants with no low branches and drip irrigation.

Even with better machines, “only the best growers with the best management will be able to do it,” Strik says.
Krause says growers need to be extra careful with a machine.

“The weather has to be just right, you need to be very gentle with the beaters and you must drive slow,” he cautions.
That’s a tough combination.

Published in Harvesting
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