Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Unique fertiliser blending plant pushes boundaries


Twelve months after Ravensdown opened Australasia’s first Precision Blending Plant (PBP), the plant is exceeding expectations in terms of the quality of fertiliser mixes dispatched.

The $5.7 million plant at Hornby is the only New Zealand site where this technology is being used. It offers precise blends and coatings of fertiliser, made to order, with exceptional blend integrity.

The unique mixing system, which was developed in the United States, is very similar to a cake-mixer with two counter rotating paddles that gently and thoroughly mix all ingredients, both dry and liquid trace elements, says Blair Cotching, Project Manager – Precision Blending 

The plant, part of Ravensdown’s investment to ensure delivery of high quality products and leading technology to enable smarter farming, allows an accurate and efficient dispatch of fertiliser blends on demand.

Blair says this means the application of trace elements to macro nutrients, such as Super Phosphate, using liquid polymers, increases the evenness of distribution of trace elements within the mix.

“The options are endless as to what we can achieve with the technology,” he says.

“Trace elements are applied at very small quantities per hectare – for example Sodium Molybdate (40% molybdenum) is typically applied at 62.5g per hectare – so getting that quantity evenly spread over 10,000m2 is difficult. The PBP makes this much easier and the outcome more reliable.”

The trace element polymers currently being used, and in development, are world leading in terms of the trace element concentrations.

“We are spending a lot of time researching what we can and can’t do with trace elements on a full range of fertilisers. Testing has shown the Molybdenum is spread extremely evenly over all of the Superphosphate granules, which in turn means the potential for all clover plants to access similar amounts of molybdenum is extremely high.”

Currently superphosphate based product coatings produced are Molybdenum and Copper, with Cobalt to be the next cab off the rank.

Since the plant’s arrival a year ago, the PBP project team has been exploring its possibilities and experimenting with its capabilities, the priority being to ensure the plant was operating properly. Farmer demand is growing with a positive uptake nationally this spring.

“We had our issues last year, but a lot of hard work went in over the winter to ensure this season was different. There were a range of improvements made which are now resulting in benefits in terms of customer service,” says Blair.

“The technology is another step forward for precision agriculture. It works in conjunction with Ravensdown’s soil testing laboratory, Analytical Research Laboratories (ARL), that diagnoses what nutrients the farmers’ soils need, and the precision spreading technology that allows the right amount to be applied in the right place.”