28 August 1998

WATERY ANSWER

SOLVES A FARMS

DUSTY DILEMMA

A grain cleaner dust

extraction system that makes

life much more pleasant was

one of last years Barclays/FW

farm inventions competition

winners. David Cousins reports

LIKE it or not, harvest is all about dust. Dusty combines, dusty grainstores, dusty bins and dusty workers. But at least grain-cleaning on one Shropshire farm is now a blissfully dust-free process, thanks to a simple water-bath dust removal system.

Richard Cotham and his father John farm 151ha (375 acres) at Sutton Mill Farm, Claverley near Wolverhampton. Crops consist of roughly equal areas of sugar beet, spring malting barley and winter malting barley and 400 breeding ewes are kept on permanent pasture.

Five years ago they bought a new grain cleaner. It was an ex-demo machine, originally intended for export but which had become available when the order fell through. The price was good but one drawback was that the machine was set up to clean millet, which produces much less tailings than wheat or barley.

While the parts of the machine designed to separate off small grains, whole heads, husks etc worked fine, it didnt take long for the Cothams to realise that the three bags designed to collect dust and other small particles werent very happy in UK conditions. In fact the three bags filled up in about 10 minutes, remembers Richard, meaning that the messy business of replacing them had to take place several times a day.

The manufacturers suggested fitting a 1.5mm mesh in front of the bags, but the Cothams figured that would block up quickly too. So they took a rather different tack. Richard remembered the old oil-bath filters on combines that trapped dust particles by blowing them into a spray of oil and wondered if a version of the same principle could work on the grain cleaner.

His design proved impressively simple. The centre bag on the grain cleaner was removed and replaced with enough 30cm (1ft) diameter industrial tubing bought from a local firm to take the end outside the barn. This then turns downward and exits just on top of a 2.4m long x 1.2m wide x 60cm deep (8ft x 4ft x 2ft) steel tank built by local fabricator Mick Seedhouse.

The tank is filled with water to a depth of about 33cm (13in), giving a distance between the end of the tube and the water surface of about 15cm (6in). When the cleaner is switched on, the air and dust blasts out of the end of the tube and hits the water with some force. This turns the surface of the water into a spray that clings on to the grains of dust and stops them escaping.

Barley awns, husks and other lighter material floats on the surface of the water and is blown to the sides of the tank by the air blast. This is then scooped out every so often with a potato fork, a job that needs doing 4-5 times per trailer load. Since someone has to be there to oversee the grain cleaner itself, its no great hardship to check on the water bath now and then.

&#42 Like brewers grains

For more automated grain cleaners theres no reason why electrically powered scrapers couldnt be fitted to simply draw off the floating material every so often, points out Richard Cotham. Heavier material at the bottom of the tank is removed every morning and provides a tasty morsel for the sheep – "just like Brewers grains really," says Richard.

A certain amount of water is blown out as a fine spray either side of the tank, so it is topped up each morning. But this too could be automated by fitting a small tank with a ball valve on the front of the main tank, lining them up so the levels in each are the same and then making the whole thing self topping-up.

Several years grain have now been over the water bath cleaner and both Richard and John report that its worked without fuss. Its certainly a lot better than the alternative, they add, which would be to pipe the dust straight out into the open (as many farmers do) where it then blows around and makes the farmyard messy.

Above: John Cotham with Sutton Mill Farms grain cleaner. The outer two dust bags stay unemptied while the centre one was replaced with 12in diameter tube.

Above: Downward blast of air causes water spray that clings to dust particles.

Right: Richard Cotham shows what is scraped from the water surface.

Lighter tailings material – like

awns and husks – is blown to the side of the water tank by the air-blast.

WATERY ANSWER

SOLVES A FARMS

DUSTY DILEMMA

WATERY ANSWER

SOLVES A FARMS

DUSTY DILEMMA

A grain cleaner dust

extraction system that makes

life much more pleasant was

one of last years Barclays/FW

farm inventions competition

winners. David Cousins reports

LIKE it or not, harvest is all about dust. Dusty combines, dusty grainstores, dusty bins and dusty workers. But at least grain-cleaning on one Shropshire farm is now a blissfully dust-free process, thanks to a simple water-bath dust removal system.

Richard Cotham and his father John farm 151ha (375 acres) at Sutton Mill Farm, Claverley near Wolverhampton. Crops consist of roughly equal areas of sugar beet, spring malting barley and winter malting barley and 400 breeding ewes are kept on permanent pasture.

Five years ago they bought a new grain cleaner. It was an ex-demo machine, originally intended for export but which had become available when the order fell through. The price was good but one drawback was that the machine was set up to clean millet, which produces much less tailings than wheat or barley.

While the parts of the machine designed to separate off small grains, whole heads, husks etc worked fine, it didnt take long for the Cothams to realise that the three bags designed to collect dust and other small particles werent very happy in UK conditions. In fact the three bags filled up in about 10 minutes, remembers Richard, meaning that the messy business of replacing them had to take place several times a day.

The manufacturers suggested fitting a 1.5mm mesh in front of the bags, but the Cothams figured that would block up quickly too. So they took a rather different tack. Richard remembered the old oil-bath filters on combines that trapped dust particles by blowing them into a spray of oil and wondered if a version of the same principle could work on the grain cleaner.

His design proved impressively simple. The centre bag on the grain cleaner was removed and replaced with enough 30cm (1ft) diameter industrial tubing bought from a local firm to take the end outside the barn. This then turns downward and exits just on top of a 2.4m long x 1.2m wide x 60cm deep (8ft x 4ft x 2ft) steel tank built by local fabricator Mick Seedhouse.

The tank is filled with water to a depth of about 33cm (13in), giving a distance between the end of the tube and the water surface of about 15cm (6in). When the cleaner is switched on, the air and dust blasts out of the end of the tube and hits the water with some force. This turns the surface of the water into a spray that clings on to the grains of dust and stops them escaping.

Barley awns, husks and other lighter material floats on the surface of the water and is blown to the sides of the tank by the air blast. This is then scooped out every so often with a potato fork, a job that needs doing 4-5 times per trailer load. Since someone has to be there to oversee the grain cleaner itself, its no great hardship to check on the water bath now and then.

&#42 Like brewers grains

For more automated grain cleaners theres no reason why electrically powered scrapers couldnt be fitted to simply draw off the floating material every so often, points out Richard Cotham. Heavier material at the bottom of the tank is removed every morning and provides a tasty morsel for the sheep – "just like Brewers grains really," says Richard.

A certain amount of water is blown out as a fine spray either side of the tank, so it is topped up each morning. But this too could be automated by fitting a small tank with a ball valve on the front of the main tank, lining them up so the levels in each are the same and then making the whole thing self topping-up.

Several years grain have now been over the water bath cleaner and both Richard and John report that its worked without fuss. Its certainly a lot better than the alternative, they add, which would be to pipe the dust straight out into the open (as many farmers do) where it then blows around and makes the farmyard messy.

Above: John Cotham with Sutton Mill Farms grain cleaner. The outer two dust bags stay unemptied while the centre one was replaced with 12in diameter tube.

Above: Downward blast of air causes water spray that clings to dust particles.

Right: Richard Cotham shows what is scraped from the water surface.

Lighter tailings material – like

awns and husks – is blown to the side of the water tank by the air-blast.