After seeing a great mobile seed cleaning trailer at the Organic Seed Growers Conference in 2016 I thought it would be great to have a similar set up in BC. Such a unit would be great to help growers scale up and process their seeds more efficiently. It would also be a great outreach tool to take to events and talk about seed cleaning.
Yesterday I took a trip down to the Organic Farm School on Whidbey Island to take a closer look at the trailer I saw in 2016 to better understand what works and what doesn’t about how they are using the trailer so we can take this into consideration with our own design. The Farm School offers the trailer to rent for a nominal fee and it comes with a Clipper AGM 224 fanning mill, an Amaco belt thresher, several hand screen, a few scales, and an air compressor. It can be used on site or taken to another site for use.
There are basically XXX areas of inquiry I am trying to answer about how to put a similar unit to use here:
- What is the best/most important seed cleaning equipment to include in the unit?
- How do we promote it and make sure it gets used by the community?
- Do we charge for its use and how , exactly, would we do that?
- Where and how to store the trailer and how best to transport it
- How best to maintain the equipment
After my visit yesterday, here are some thing I came up with:
In terms of equipment:
Clipper and Screens
- The Clipper seed cleaner is a well-known machine that is reliable and trusted. It is also suitable for both small and large lots of seed, making it very versatile
- It is well priced and American made so easier to get parts for than European imports
- They also do a small “table top” version which we could add to the collection and could be taken on independent of the trailer if needed
- Like the Organic Farm School we would also purchase a selection of screens most suited for vegetable seed processing
- We would also get a set of hand screen which can be used for smaller lots and used to determine which screens to use on the Clipper for a particular crop
- The belt thresher is a very expensive piece of equipment which can only handle low volumes; we would likely leave this out of pour purchase and opt for a manually powered pedal thresher which can do the same work just as quickly and for 1/20th of the cost
Compressor and Scales
- We already have 2 Compressors which can be added to the trailer
- We will likely purchase 1-2 scales for weighing small- to medium-sized seed lots
Other Equipment and Considerations
Other things I would consider adding to the unit include:
- An air column separator
- Seed counter, if we can find a good one at a reasonable price
- Tent to create some outdoor working space if needed
- Another question is around the size of the trailer, which leads me to another exploration:
Trailer or Cube Van?
During this exploration I have been wondering if a cube van maybe a more suitable means to house the equipment and make it mobile. There are two driving factors behind this:
- For a trailer of this size, you need a good quality truck to pull it, which a lot of smaller-scale growers may not have
- We also do not have truck at FarmFolk CityFolk
- Not everyone is comfortable pulling a trailer – so this may put off some potential users
- Where would we park it?!
A cube van, on the other hand would likely provide more space and would be mobile on its own. Smaller cube vans are relatively easy to drive. But cube vans also present a challenge:
- They need to be insured as a vehicle, which is expensive in Vancouver
- It has the added maintenance of an engine and other vehicle components
- It also needs a parking spot
So this needs some considering still.
Renting and Promoting
Renting the unit and making it available to others isn’t necessarily but it is an ongoing logistical thing to manage. Further, many people would likely need the unit at the same time so this could be a challenge. There is also insurance and damage by users to consider.
Once it is operational it is important that it gets used. We can direct market to seed growers as well as build field days into farm visits with the unit. The unit will also be useful for events like the Pacific Agriculture Show and the COABC Conference as a display.
One of the reasons behind the rentals is that they provide revenue to help maintain the equipment. Its value will quickly diminish if it is not well maintained and will last a long time if it is maintained. Regular as well as seasonal maintenance will be important.
So this was great visit and gave me some really good insights into what we need to do to make this project a success. There will still be some challenges, but hopefully we can have bit of fun along the way as well!