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       Chris Callahan
       310 Main St, Po Box 559
       Bennington, VT 05201
       802-447-7582 x256
       chris.callahan@uvm.edu

       Andrew Chamberlin
       140 Kennedy Rd, Suite 201
       S. Burlington, VT 05403
       802-651-8343 x512
       andrew.chamberlin@uvm.edu

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UVM Extension AgEngineering Blog

Innovation in Small Scale Vegetable Washing Equipment

Posted: February 17th, 2018 by Andy

What’s new in Ag tech? Well, one thing that we’ve recently discovered is a rinse conveyor. Specifically designed for the small-scale farm who wants to graduate from hand washing to something a little more automated that can really crank up the pounds of washed vegetables for market.

The AZS Rinse Conveyor

This machine is made by AZS who is an equipment manufacturing company in Ephrata PA. Available in full stainless steel, with adjustable water pressure and belt speed,  available for under $7,000.

The rinse conveyor is a versatile machine and can wash everything from greens to root crops. I watched it effectively clean sweet potatoes and carrots but this machine is capable of washing loose spinach and even bunched vegetables or your harvest bins!

A few examples of crops that can be washed on it:

  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter radish
  • Turnips
  • Beets
  • Jerusalem Artichoke

Here is how it works:

  1. Products get loaded, single layer deep onto the stainless conveyor belt and enter the washer

    Loading the front end of the line

  2. LOW Pressure, HIGH Volume presoaking rinse – much like a shower, soaking everything on the line loosening dried on debris

    High volume presoak

  3. Next a HIGH Pressure, LOW Volume spray. There are spray bars both above and below the products to blast the grime from both sides. The angle of the nozzles can be adjusted changing how fast the spray bars spin. The pressure can also be adjusted depending on your crop’s needs. A sweet potato can take a lot more pressure than spinach leaves.

    Looking inside at the spinning spray bar

  4. Finally, the veggies pass through a final rinse from some stationary nozzles mounted above.

The product then gets to the end of the line and dumps on or in whatever you wish, commonly a sorting table.

End of the line sorting

This machine is pretty easy to clean, smooth stainless finish and minimal nooks and crannies. There is one brush at the end of the line to roll the cleaned vegetables gently off the line. I suspect this brush and the belt will remain pretty clean due to the fact that the belt is constantly being sprayed with water and the brush only touches cleaned crops. With smooth surfaces, and easy access this pieces of equipment looks like a good improvement in the eye of food safety and wash line equipment. 

Hinged and lifted via gas shocks to make cleaning access easy!

The basin that collects the wash water does get recirculated. The wash water passes through a series of screens and baffles to settle out the mud and debris before it goes back through the pump that supplies the pre-soaking, high volume/ low-pressure step. The high pressure and the final rinse steps are supplied with fresh incoming water.

The 1st collection screen

The type of debris that collects on the screen

These pictures are from visiting David Paulk from Sassafras Creek Farm in Leonardtown Maryland who just got this machine at the beginning of the year. So far he likes it a lot and is looking forward to really dialing in the optimum settings for the fastest production on a variety of crops. If you missed it, check out the blog post from that visit here. David did a whole walkthrough of how the machine runs and shares his opinions on it in a series of videos I put together linked below.

We also reached out to Will Reed from Native Son Farm in Tupelo Mississippi who received the same unit in December, I got his thoughts on the unit and share that in this blog post.

We’ve been talking with growers about this machine, as we are learning about it and expect to see a few farms with one here in the North East as well and we look forward to sharing further pros and cons of this machine as the growing season ramps up.

The first couple of videos in this playlist explains how it works, then you get to see it in action, and at the end how easy it is to clean it up once you’re done for the day. Do you know of any other similar pieces of equipment? Know of any other farms who have one of these as well? We’d love to get more input from other users. Thanks!

AZS Brusher Equipment
821 Crooked Ln
Ephrata, PA 17522
Phone: (717) 733-2584

The AZS Rinse Conveyor at Native Son Farm

Posted: February 7th, 2018 by Andy

Native Son farm is a small diversified vegetable farm in Tupelo Mississippi, who had been washing vegetables by hand and started looking at automated wash lines. With zero experience on automated washing, he began first researching the common barrel washer, reading reviews, and watching videos online. Will Reed reached out to Deerfield Supply out Kentucky who distributed AZS equipment. Upon meeting Harvey from AZS, he learned about the rinse conveyor, which is less aggressive on the crops than a barrel washer. It is also designed with cleaning in mind which has a high level of food safety appeal.

With the desire to put it to use before the end of the season Will ordered one up, and had it delivered in just a few weeks. His cost, including freight, was ~$6,800 and took delivery in early December. Native Son Farm, being a small, organic, diversified farm is the minority in their area and didn’t have many collogues to reach out to for advice, so reaching across the states and finding other farms similar to them via Instagram was the best way for research and collaboration.

Will hasn’t had the machine very long and still is experimenting with settings, and crop conditions but some early data he shared is as follows:
Crops washed: Carrots, Kale, winter radish, spinach, turnips
Throughput achieved: ~150lbs/hr per person on the line. With a 4 person crew, ~600lbs/hr can be achieved.

Comments: It’s fairly large for small wash areas (approximately 3’ wide by 12’ long) and you need space on either end for loading and sorting of produce
It’s fairly loud to work around and takes 3-4 people to have an efficient production run.With pretty muddy clay soil conditions cleaning it has to be done regularly. Cleaning out the valves and nozzles to keep it from clogging can be needed as often as every 15 minutes and a deeper cleaning including removing the mud from the bottom of the unit needs to be done after a run time of about 2 hours. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because a break is needed after a 2 hour run time and having a quiet moment is appreciated.

Will is hoping to use it on a weekly basis during large batch runs, as opposed to a daily small number of crops but does point out that the machine is very versatile and will be able to clean a large variety of crops. Will is looking forward to integrating this rinse conveyor into farming practices this upcoming season and seeing the value it provides over washing vegetables by hand. We look forward to following up after a season of use and hearing how it works for his highly diverse farm after it gets used for regular weekly production.

    

The AZS Rinse Conveyor at Sassafras Creek Farm

Posted: February 5th, 2018 by Andy

The AZS Rinse Conveyor

I had the opportunity to see an innovative piece of equipment designed for washing vegetables, and I think it might be a look into the future of improved food safety on many small-scale vegetable farms.

Dave sorting cleaned carrots

This wash line I got to check out is made by AZS who is an equipment manufacturing company in Emphrata PA. We had heard of this machine first from Jean-Paul Courtens (Roxbury Farm,) and saw via Instagram that Dave Paulk also recently got one at Sassafras Creek Farm.  I happened to be down in Maryland attending the NECAFS Annual Meeting so I reached out to Dave while I was in the area to see if I could go take a look!

Clean sweet potatoes coming off the line

Dave welcomed us to his farm and graciously gave us a complete demo of the AZS Rinse Conveyor. Knowing that other farmers in the small-scale vegetable operations are interested in this type of equipment, we took the opportunity to capture his review of the machine to share with others. Dave also walked through the in’s, out’s and details of how this thing works. He’s only had it for a few weeks at the time of our visit and fully understands how it all works, now he’s just dialing in the optimum settings of pressures, speeds, and water flow to provide the best performance and efficiencies on individual types of crops.

Here is a link to the playlist of videos, the first couple explains how it works, then you get to see it in action, and at the end how easy it is to clean it up once you’re done for the day. Enjoy!

AZS Brusher Equipment
821 Crooked Ln
Ephrata, PA 17522
Phone: (717) 733-2584

NOFA-NY Winter Greens Workshop – Postharvest, Wash and Pack, Produce Safety

Posted: January 29th, 2018 by Chris Callahan

Chris partnered with Robert Hadad (Cornell), Judd Reid (Cornell), Paul and Sandy Arnold (Pleasant Valley Farm, Argyle, NY) to deliver a workshop hosted by NOFA-NY at the Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY on January 18, 2018.

Slides: Winter GreensWash/Pack Shed Efficiency & Food Safety Considerations. (PDF)

Handouts:

 

Introducing UVM Extension’s New Ag Engineering Technician!

Posted: December 11th, 2017 by Andy

Hey there! I thought I should introduce my self now that I’ve been a part of the UVM Extension community for a few months now, met many of you (farmers, colleagues) and look forward to getting to know many more impactful individuals in the agricultural and food system space with-in (primarily) Vermont communities.

I’m Andy Chamberlin and work with Chris Callahan on agricultural engineering types of projects. The main focus of the work I do is to help fruit and vegetable farmers with their post-harvest processes to increase efficiencies to drive success and increase profitability all with food safety in mind.

Some background info on me: I grew up on my grandparents vegetable farm and quickly learned that I enjoyed working outside, particularly with the tractors and equipment, not hand weeding strawberries with a hoe. Snacking on berries or cucumbers right out of the field though is always rewarding, but I think this audience knows that! I graduated from Vermont Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering, then worked in the consumer packaged goods industry which provided me with a lot of lean manufacturing, and food safety knowledge from my roll in research and development. When the opportunity came up for this position in Extension I was excited for it sounded like a good fit for me from the experience I have acquired.

Since joining UVM Extension I have helped with new barn/produce wash and pack area consultation which is exciting to help dream up new spaces and how to best utilize them. It’s a fun challenge trying to find the optimal layout of equipment and infrastructure to best suit the individual’s needs. This summer I got trained from the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) to help guide farmers in implementing food safety practices on their farms. This is a major topic that I will be contributing my time to as well.

In short – produce safety on farms means implementing practices to reduce microbial risks that can cause food born illness. This covers areas of proper training, cleanliness, health, hygiene and sanitation, record keeping, creating a Farm Food Safety Plan and linking these practices to the requirements of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. 

Additionally, I’m working with Chris on a precooling/curing project which we’ll be doing experiments to see if we can effectively drive down field-temperature of harvested products to storage temperatures quicker than just placing products into a cooler, increasing shelf life and product quality. So far our prototypes are looking promising, stay tuned for updates as things develop over the next few months!

Other work I will be doing is on the publication side of things. Keeping a little more regular blog post activity providing tips, tricks, and guidance for farmers. I have already published a great post and factsheet on dealing with Rats (and other rodents) as well as finish surfaces for Food and Produce areas.

I also help manage our social profiles, so please go ahead and like, follow, subscribe and share our pages! We can be found at:

FacebookFacebook UVM Extension Ag Engineering

Instagram uvmextageng

YouTubeYouTube UVM Extension Agricultural Engineering

Twitter @uvmextageng

 

Video is a passion I’d like to embark on, so stay tuned for video media content to come as well! If you are interested, here is some content I posted this summer.

If you think I could be of assistance to you shoot me an e-mail, and if you have a really cool piece of post-harvest equipment that changed your life and want to share it with other farmers let me know, and I just might come shoot a video about it.

See you around!

-Andy

Upcoming Produce Safety Training (November 6-7, 2017)

Posted: October 30th, 2017 by Andy

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture and UVM Extension are co-sponsoring a VT-Style Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training on Tue-Wed, November 7 & 8, 2017 (8:30am – 5:00pm) at the VYCC Monitor Barn in Richmond, VT. This is the official required training for FSMA covered farms (Click here to determine whether your farm may be covered or exempt).


The $30 heavily subsidized training fee includes the massive training manual, multiple meals, ample coffee, and the Association of Food and Drug Official (AFDO) certificate (a $130 value—not including space rental or instructor fees!). The AFDO training certificate satisfies FSMA Produce Safety Rule training requirement.

EVERYONE is invited: Regardless of scale, annual sales, or market outlets, all produce growers can benefit from learning about integrating practical produce safety practices on a working produce operation. Technical assistance providers, educators, and regulators are also invited and will benefit from this training. Whether you are a covered farm fully subject to Produce Safety Rule (PSR) regulations, or an exempt farm required to keep certain records related to your exemption, all aspects rule compliance will also be covered during this training.

The Training Schedule at a glance:
Day One (November 7, 8:30am–5:00pm) will provide an introduction to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, employee health, hygiene and training requirements, and information about management of soil amendments as well as domesticated animals and wildlife. Includes on-farm exploration to apply concepts in the field.
Day Two (November 8, 8:30am–5:00pm) will cover agricultural water, postharvest handling and sanitation, and writing produce safety plans. Includes on-farm exploration to apply post-harvest concepts.

View more details and registration visit:  PSA Training Registration via Regonline

Building a Hoop House in One Day!

Posted: October 26th, 2017 by Andy

A fun day of learning during a hoop house install during one single day by Nifty Hoops at Bread & Butter Farm in Shelburne VT.

See photos from the day on our flickr page here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4yUQUL

Like Nifty Hoops on facebook! https://www.facebook.com/NiftyHoops/

Visit Nifty Hoops website: http://niftyhoops.com/

Nifty Hoops has their own YouTube Channel! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj0g…

Check Out Bread & Butter Farm! https://www.facebook.com/breadandbutt… http://www.breadandbutterfarm.com/

 

 

Local Ingredients for Local Brewers

Posted: October 3rd, 2017 by Andy

The University of Vermont Extension’s Northwest Crops & Soils Team along with Andrew Peterson of Peterson Quality Malt, on August 22, 2017 took a visit to the nearby barley fields at the Van De Weert Farm in Ferrisburgh and discussed barley harvesting and processing for malt production.We also toured the facility to learn about malting small grains and grain quality requirements necessary for producing high-quality malt at Peterson Quality Malt in Monkton, VT.

See the NW Crops & Soils Team on Facebook and their web page https://www.facebook.com/uvmcropsoil/

http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/

Check out Peterson Quality Malt on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PetersonQual…

See pictures from the field day:  https://www.flickr.com/gp/uvmextageng/8FB1Ef

 

Spring Cleaning – Farm Cooler Checklist

Posted: April 21st, 2017 by Chris Callahan

Whether your winter storage rooms are getting bare or you are making the transition from sweet corn to potatoes, what better time to give your cooler a once over than right now? Download the Farm Cooler Checklist to help guide your walk-through.

Highlights include:

  • Cleaning, sanitizing and inspection of surfaces
  • Checking the envelope
  • Inspecting refrigeration equipment inside and out
  • Checking over a CoolBotTM
  • Checking thermostats
  • Confirming drainage
  • Reviewing and possibly upgrading lighting
  • Considering energy efficiency upgrades

Improved Ventilation for High Tunnels

Posted: March 24th, 2017 by Chris Callahan

I have received many inquiries about how to improve ventilation of high tunnels from growers with tunnels that have only roll-up sides. The issues they are facing tend to be either high temp, high humidity or both, leading to plant stress or disease. These situations tend to be in less than ideal sites for ventilation and/or temperature control. For example, crowded lots with trees or other significant wind breaks close to the tunnel, high southern exposure (which can be good of course), and/or simply calm sites that provide little ventilation.

Keenan Meier Shutters with flanged seal highlighted.

Roll-up sides alone tend to work for tunnels on sites with generally good air flow. Diffusion between inside and outside does happen, of course, but is slow and unlikely to achieve good ventilation along the center of the tunnel, especially with dense vegetation later in plant maturity. But, I think of a tunnel in this instance a bit like a wood stove. Without a chimney-effect natural draft, you’re really only getting ventilation from the sides and only then if there is a decent breeze. Warmer air and, therefore, humidity will tend to collect in the canopy and peak.

Passive wax cylinder louver actuator. [Photo Credit: http://www.littlegreenhouse.com/accessory/vent2.shtml]

This probably is OK in many sites for most crops. But not always. In many cases gable vents will improve ventilation by acting as outlets for warm humid air in warmer seasons and by allowing for low volume ventilation in colder weather. I recommend a simple 24″x24″ gable vent (for a 30’x96′ tunnel) on each end wall, with a thermostatic wax cylinder actuator like the ones made by J. Orbesen Teknik APS available from LittleGreenhouse.com., FarmTek, and Agricultural Solutions among others  The actuators require no electricity, are relatively inexpensive and are passively controlled by the wax cylinder based on temperature.

At the very least, when building end-walls consider framing in a rough opening to accept a 24″x24″ in the end wall so that a future install is easier. If you want to skip the expense of a louvered, wax cylinder system, you can use a manually-controlled sheet of plywood to open and close the vent. If you go with a louvered vent, seek one that has a flanged seal it closes against. Keenan Meier, and Munters-Euroemme has such flanged, louvered dampers.

Munters Euroemme fan with flanged seal being pointed out.

These have zero daylight when closed which results in a solid seal. Most others on the market that I have seen have no such closure seal.

Remember that HAF fans work to mix the space (circulate the air) but don’t significantly improve ventilation. HAF combined with roll up sides can do the trick, but the site is the key. There needs to be a steady cross breeze for any significant air exchange to occur.

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