Sanitizers used for treating post-harvest agricultural water on produce farms often come in 2.5, 5, or 10 gallon totes. These totes can be cumbersome to pour from resulting in splashing and spilling. These chemicals are also shipped in concentrations that can cause injury.
Here are some simple ways of increasing the safety and accuracy of sanitizer dispensing.
Remember that you are dealing with chemicals that can hurt you and your crew. Check the label and material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the product you are using and be sure to follow proper handling procedures and use proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Appropriate PPE is typically a minimum of gloves and safety glasses or goggles, but you may want to consider an apron and long sleeves. Also be sure you are working in a well-ventilated space.
Also keep in mind that most sanitizers off gas to some degree. When stored in their shipping containers and even in spray bottles or dispensing bottles, it is important to slowly vent the contents occasionally to prevent bursting the container and having a leak and spill. If you aren’t using the product regularly or if it is particularly hot, watch for bulging containers and take care to gently reduce the pressure.
Use Standardized Dosing Measures
If you’re regularly adding sanitizer to specific dunk tanks or sinks and know the volume of them, write down the correct dose of sanitizer once you calculate it. Make this part of a brief standard operating procedure (SOP) that anyone on your crew can follow once they know what is being washed and in what container.
Taking this a step further, consider getting a measuring scoop or cup that is used just for this purpose. Mark it with permanent marker or in some other permanent way at the level corresponding to specific amounts used regularly on your farm. You can also trip the scoop to measure just the right amount. If you have lots of different uses, consider using multiple measuring cups and label them or maybe even color coding them according to their specific use.
Install a Spigot on the Tote
The single easiest thing to do to improve your dispensing of sanitizers is to install a spigot (also called a “quarter-turn valve” or a “self venting tap”) on the tote. The totes come with a bung cap that has a threaded inset typically with 3/4″ FNPT thread. A spigot or quarter-turn valve can be threaded into that bung cap to allow for a simple way of dispensing the chemical without having to lift and pour from the tote. You will need to drill a hole in the solid base of the bung cap where the threaded inset ends to allow the air tube from the spigot through and to allow fluid out.
Aeroflow 3/4″ Self Venting Tap from US Plastics – $3
Use a Twin Neck Bottle
I was mixing up some fuel for my chainsaw one day when I thought, “Hmm. This could work for sanitizers also. I wonder where I can get an empty bottle like this.” You may have seen two-stroke oil sold in a twin-neck bottle (also called “double-neck” bottle). These bottles are designed to allow you to measure the right amount of fluid form a larger reservoir and then dispense only the measured amount. It is a great tool for lots of farm applications. In this case, you could fill the larger reservoir with a week’s worth of sanitizer from a tote with a spigot (see above) and then measure and dispense safely, quickly, and easily.
Twin Neck Bottles from US Plastic – 8, 16, and 32 oz. – $1-3
Twin Neck Bottles from The Cary Company – 8 oz to 2 liter – $1-4
A manual plunger pump (also called a “pail pump” or a “drum pump”) can be attached to a tote in place of the bung cap. These are similar to what you may have used for dispensing ketchup or mustard at a condiment station in a restaurant. As you push down on the spout plunger, fluid is forced out through the spout. These make it easier to dispense the fluid without lifting and pouring from the tote, but require some coordination and don’t provide direct measurement.
Flow Driven Injectors
A flow driven injector may be an efficient option for farms that use large tanks or frequently change water. These injectors are installed in-line with the water fill line (though typically have bypass circuits as well). As the water flows through the injector, it drives a pump inside that brings in a specific, but adjustable, ratio of chemical.
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