Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20050060958 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/941,039
Publication dateMar 24, 2005
Filing dateSep 15, 2004
Priority dateAug 29, 2003
Publication number10941039, 941039, US 2005/0060958 A1, US 2005/060958 A1, US 20050060958 A1, US 20050060958A1, US 2005060958 A1, US 2005060958A1, US-A1-20050060958, US-A1-2005060958, US2005/0060958A1, US2005/060958A1, US20050060958 A1, US20050060958A1, US2005060958 A1, US2005060958A1
InventorsDestry Harmon, Tommy Goss, Charles Michell, Roane Logan
Original AssigneeDelta And Pine Land Company
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Seed handling systems and methods
US 20050060958 A1
Abstract
The preferred embodiments provide, among other advances over existing systems: a) a system and method that can count seeds; b) a novel counting apparatus; and/or c) a novel seed handling process (e.g., from cleaning to bagging) including an in-line seed counter.
Images(24)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(17)
1. A method for packaging seed based on seed count, comprising: counting seeds with an in-line counter.
2. The method of claim 1, further including counting said seeds with an in-line counter at a location between cleaning and bagging equipment.
3. The method of claim 1, further including the in-line counter continuously sampling and counting and returning seed to the flow.
4. The method of claim 1, further including using a controller to control the weight of the bags.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein said seeds include cotton seeds.
6. The method of claim 1, further including having harvested seed initially brought into and stored in bulk warehouses.
7. The method of claim 1, further including delinting the seed and storing the same in a delinted state.
8. The method of claim 7, further including on a demand basis treating and bagging the seed.
9. A method for packaging seed based on seed count, comprising: counting seed using an in-line seed counter that substantially continuously removes seeds from a flow of seeds to a bagger.
10. The method of claim 9, further including sampling the removed seeds to obtain a seeds-per-pound and/or bushel weight.
11. The method of claim 10, further including with the seeds-per-pound and/or bushel weight from a plurality of samples, using a controller to set a bag weight for a bagger.
12. The method of claim 10, further including based on a bushel weight, using a controller to establish a bag size to use.
13. The method of claim 9, wherein when significant deviations from a bagger set point are encountered, a controller prompts an operator to change a bagging lot number or sets a bagger with a new set weight.
14. The method of claim 9, wherein if the bag weight deviates from a set range, a bag is rejected.
15. A seed counting system, comprising: an in-line seed counter arranged to receive seed being delivered toward a bagger, said in-line seed counter including a plurality of detectors and a controller that determines a seed number based on output from said detectors.
16. The system of claim 15, wherein said controller is adapted to set a bag weight for a bagger.
17. The system of claim 15, wherein said controller is adapted to establish a bag size to use.
Description
BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The preferred embodiments of the present invention relate generally to, among other things, seed handling applications and, the more preferred embodiments pertain more particularly to seed counting systems and methods, such as, e.g., for cotton seed applications.

2. Discussion of the Background

In traditional seed cleaning, treating and/or packaging facilities, seed is obtained, then cleaned, then treated, and then bagged (e.g., in 50 pound bags or the like) in a generally continuous flow. For some types of seed (i.e., cotton and corn), an additional step is required before cleaning to remove additional material leftover from harvest, such as lint on cotton and husks on corn. While some counters exist in other contexts, counters have not hitherto been appropriate for use in, among other applications, in-line continuous counting after cleaning in cotton seed applications. The preferred embodiments can provide, among other advances over existing systems: a) a novel system and method that can count cotton seeds; b) an improved counting apparatus; and/or c) an improved seed handling process (e.g., from cleaning to bagging) including an in-line seed counter.

While a variety of systems and methods are known, there remains a need for new and improved systems and methods.

SUMMARY OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The preferred embodiments of the present invention can significantly improve upon existing systems and methods.

According to some embodiments, a method for packaging seed based on seed count, comprises: counting seeds with an in-line counter located between a treater and a bagger. In some embodiments, the method includes using a controller to control the weight of the bags. In preferred embodiments, the seed includes cotton seed. Preferably, the method includes having fuzzy seeds initially brought into and stored in bulk warehouses. Preferably, the method includes cleaning the seed and storing the same in a cleaned state.

According to other embodiments, a method for packaging seed based on seed count, comprises: counting seed using an in-line seed counter that substantially continuously removes seed from a flow of seeds to a bagger. Preferably, the method includes sampling the removed seed to obtain a seeds-per-pound and/or bushel weight. Preferably, the method further includes with the seeds-per-pound and/or bushel weight from a plurality of samples, using a controller to set a bag weight for a bagger. Preferably, the method includes based on a bushel weight, using a controller to establish a bag size to use. Preferably, the method includes that when significant deviations from a bagger set point are encountered, a controller prompts an operator to change a bagging lot number or sets a bagger with a new set weight and/or that if the bag weight deviates from a set range, a bag is rejected.

According to some other embodiments, a seed counting system is provided that includes: an in-line seed counter arranged to receive seed being delivered toward a bagger; the in-line seed counter including a plurality of detectors and a controller that determines a seed number based on output from the detectors. Preferably, the controller is adapted to set a bag weight for a bagger. Preferably, the controller is adapted to establish a bag size to use.

The above and/or other aspects, features and/or advantages of various embodiments will be further appreciated in view of the following description in conjunction with the accompanying figures. Various embodiments can include and/or exclude different aspects, features and/or advantages where applicable. In addition, various embodiments can combine one or more aspect or feature of other embodiments where applicable. The descriptions of aspects, features and/or advantages of particular embodiments should not be construed as limiting other embodiments or the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying figures are provided by way of example, without limiting the broad scope of the invention or various other embodiments.

FIGS. 1-2 are schematic diagrams showing two illustrative systems in which some embodiments of the present invention may be implemented.

FIG. 3(A) is an illustrative schematic diagram showing some electrical and other communication paths between some components according to some preferred embodiments. In the figure, the ICE Station shown can include, e.g., a central computer system, controller or the like (shown in the illustrative embodiment as connected to a network hub). As shown in this illustrative embodiment, a seed counter is preferably adapted to communicate with baggers, a weight checker, a reject conveyor (e.g., for rejecting based on improper count or the like) and/or a marsh printer (e.g., for printing labels or the like). In some embodiments, the communication can be alternatively, partially and/or entirely via a central controller (e.g., a central computer, processor or the like).

FIGS. 3(A), 3(B), 3(C) and 4 show some illustrative system layouts and/or system components that can be employed in some illustrative embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 5(A) is a side view of a seed counter according to some illustrative and non-limiting embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 5(B) is a top view of a seed counter according to some illustrative and non-limiting embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 5(C) is a front view of a vibrated platform having channels for conveying seeds according to some illustrative embodiments and a side view of the vibrated platform.

FIG. 5(D) is an upper bin front view according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(E) is an upper bin top view according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(F) is an upper bin end view according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(G) is a collection bin side view according to some illustrative embodiments (shown in closed [i.e., at the left side] and open [i.e., at the right side] positions).

FIG. 5(H) is a collection bin top view according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(I) is a lower bin top view according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(J) is a lower bin side view according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(K) is a lower bin front view according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(L) is a top view of a vibrator pan according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(M) is a front view of a vibrator pan according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(N) is a top view of a frame for supporting the seed counter components according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(O) is a front view of a frame for supporting the seed counter components according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(P) is a side view of a frame for supporting the seed counter components according to some illustrative embodiments.

FIG. 5(Q) is a schematic diagram illustrating pneumatic components according to some illustrative embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

While the present invention may be embodied in many different forms, a number of illustrative embodiments are described herein with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as providing examples of the principles of the invention and such examples are not intended to limit the invention to preferred embodiments described herein and/or illustrated herein.

In traditional seed cleaning, treating and/or packaging facilities, harvested seed in its bulk form is obtained, and then is cleaned, treated, and bagged (such as, e.g., in 50 pound bags or the like) in a continuous flow. In some preferred embodiments of the invention, inefficiencies in these traditional processes can be overcome using a novel seed count system.

In the more preferred embodiments, rather than merely bagging by seed count with the seed sorted and sized prior to bagging or bagging based on a single sample counted off-line, the preferred embodiments employ an in-line counter and a plurality of continuous samples. Preferably, the in-line counter is located, e.g., between a treater and a bagger and can use a controller (such as, e.g., a Programmable Logic Controller [PLC] to control and record the weight of the bags and determine the correct bag size to use based on seed count and bushel weight)).

In some preferred embodiments, at least some, and preferably all, of the following is performed:

    • First, bulk harvested cotton seeds are preferably brought into and stored in bulk warehouses if the seeds are of standard quality. This can be carried out using known techniques.
    • Second, the bulk seed is preferably delinted and cleaned (cotton seed specifically requires delinting prior to cleaning) and stored in its cleaned, non-treated seed (e:g., delinted) state. Preferably, quality assessments are performed on cleaned, non-treated seed using known techniques. Preferably, the cleaned, non-treated seed is stored in boxes or the like.
    • Third, on a demand basis (e.g., upon determining a particular need for bagged seed), the cleaned, untreated seed that meets standard quality can be treated and bagged.
    • Fourth, during this process, lots of cleaned, untreated seed that have compatible seed counts are preferably grouped together.
    • Fifth, as the cleaned, untreated seed is treated, an in-line seed counter preferably substantially continuously removes seed from the flow (e.g., between a treater and a bagger).
    • Sixth, this removed seed is preferably sampled to obtain a seeds-per-pound and bushel weight.
    • Seventh, using the seeds-per-pound from a number of samples (such as, e.g., the last 10 samples), a controller (such as, e.g., a computer, processor, PLC and/or any other electronic processing device) preferably sets the bag weight for the baggers.
    • Eighth, the controller also preferably uses the bushel weight to recommend the bag size to use.
    • Ninth, during the entire bagging process, the counter can preferably substantially continuously count seeds. When significant deviations from a bagger set point are encountered, the controller (e.g., PLC) preferably a) prompts an operator to change a bagging lot number, b) sets the baggers with the new set weight and c) prompts an operator to change the bag size as needed.
    • Tenth, as the bags come off the bagger, they are preferably weighed by a check weight scale. If the bag weight deviates from a set range (e.g., higher and/or lower), the bag is preferably rejected (for example, the operator can pour the bag back into the seed flow in some embodiments or otherwise handle rejections).

While some counters exist in other contexts, in-line continuous flow counters have not hitherto been appropriate for use in, among other environments, seed cleaning, treating and packaging environments. The preferred embodiments can provide, among other advances over existing systems: a) a novel system and method that can count seeds; b) a novel counting apparatus; and/or c) a novel seed handling process (e.g., from cleaning to bagging) including an in-line seed counter.

Illustrative Embodiments

In some illustrative embodiments, seed counting can be used to facilitate, among other things: a) shipping products (e.g., bags or the like) having seed within a certain seed count range; b) shipping strategically based on seed count (e.g., adjusting shipping procedures and methods strategically based on seed count); c) bagging by seed count; and/or d) other handling or the like processes.

A. Shipping By Seed Count Range

In some preferred embodiments, shipping by seed count ranges can help to ensure that early on in the season, a farmer would not see a wide range of seed counts at a dealer location. For example, one illustrative goal may be that the spread between a minimum lot seed count and a maximum would not exceed about 500-1500 seeds per pound or, more preferably, about 1000 seeds per pound.

With respect to cotton seeds, spread ranges of certain varieties have been determined as being advantageous for implementation of processes described herein, such as, e.g.: DP 420 RR; SURE-GROW 585R; DP 409 B/RR; 00V06BR; DP 429 RR; SURE-GROW 521R; DELTAPINE ACALA 90; DP 436 RR; DELTAOPAL; SURE-GROW 747; DP 493; SURE-GROW 501; SURE-GROW 501 BR.

In some preferred embodiments, to implement a cotton seed count strategy, for example, black auto-release and treated auto-release programs are employed. In some preferred embodiments, these programs could check a variety table with label count ranges. If a lot met all other quality assurances (QA) standards and the label count was within range, it could be released. Any seed that did not meet this check, but met all other QA requirements could receive a special hold status that would keep the seed in supply, but unavailable to be treated. At a later date, this check could be removed and/or the ranges could be increased to allow this seed to be treated.

Among other things, the preferred embodiments can be used to, e.g., help ensure consistent label counts in the market place. In some instances, the preferred embodiments could be implemented at certain times of the season, such as, e.g., to have an impact only early in a season or the like.

B. Shipping Strategically Based On Seed Count

In some preferred embodiments, a strategy can be developed to maximize sales and technology fee revenues. For example, one illustrative strategy could include, e.g., the shipment of lots with lower label counts into the regions with the higher technology fees. For example, based on historical lot data, inventory can be divided in a number of seed count range buckets (such as, e.g., 2-100 buckets, or, in some illustrative embodiments about 5-10 seed count range buckets). This could, of course, be any number. If, e.g., a seed drop region with a highest tech fee had 230 bags sold of seed X in 2002, a weighted average for seed X was about 4471 seeds per pound, and a corresponding bucket 1 had 4981 bags at a seed count of 4060 seeds per pound, to plant the same acres that were planted with 230 bags, 253 bags would now be required.

C. Bagging By Seed Count

In some embodiments, this strategy could include bagging a substantially set seed count for each bag. In some embodiments, this seed count would be somewhere between about 150,000 to 250,000 seeds per bag, or, in other embodiments, about 200,000 to 300,000 seeds per bag, or in other embodiments about 250,000 seeds per bag. In some preferred embodiments, seeds-per-bag identifications could replace weight identifications (e.g., particular weight bags would no longer be required, such as, e.g., 50-pound bags—e.g., the bags would preferably not be sold by weight). For example, bags corresponding to former 50-pound bags could vary from, e.g., about 35-60 pounds.

In the corn industry, in some instances, it has been the standard to sell bags with about 60,000 to 80,000 kernels per bag. With corn, bulk corn seed may be brought in, shucked, dried, shelled (e.g., the cleaning process for corn includes shucking, drying and shelling), sorted (sized) and stored in bulk, uncleaned. The cleaned, untreated seed may then be treated and bagged (or boxed). During the bagging operations, it is believed that they do not count the seed. During the bagging operations, the seeds are actually bagged by weight, using knowledge gained from the previously obtained seed samples and historical knowledge of that variety to determine a weight to place in a bag for an 80,000 kernel count.

In such corn applications, complex methods of sorting and sizing is needed. The quality assurance personnel have to work closely with operations to ensure that certain screen sizes are in place on sorters. As truck loads of corn seed arrive, quality assurance takes samples and determines the screen sizes that are to be used to sort the seed. The plants use a tower concept for plant design. Cleaned, untreated seed starts near the top and is sorted into a flats and rounds. As the seed is separated and sent to the next floors, they are again separated, this time by size and dropped to the next floor. The smallest seed is diverted and sent to an appropriate cleaned, non-treated seed storage bin and the larger (overflow) seed is sent to the next sorter. This would continue until the seed is properly sorted into the appropriate cleaned, non-treated seed storage bins.

Rather than requiring a complex system as in the corn seed environments, in some preferred embodiments, to most accurately bag by seed count, seeds are sized in a novel process. Preferably, this sizing is done after delinting, but prior to boxing the black seed in corrugated boxes. Preferably, this sizing includes a plurality of seed sizes per variety, and most preferably, 3 or more seed sizes.

In preferred embodiments, quality assurance will take a load sample (e.g., a large truck load sample). Then, this sample would be cleaned using known techniques. Then, after cleaning, the seed would be run through a sorting device. Preferably, the seed would be run through the device several times to determine an appropriate set of screens to properly sort an entire load (e.g., an entire truck load). Preferably, a computer system or the like is provided having digital storage (e.g., databases) that would store the determined screen size results. In some embodiments, loads (e.g., truck loads) are preferably combined in the same warehouse bins, such that quality assurance would preferably monitor the screen size results to ensure that they are consistent.

In some preferred embodiments, the cleaning process could involve known techniques. However, prior to boxing the cleaned seed in the corrugated boxes or the like, the seed would preferably be sized. After the seed was sorted, it would preferably be stored by size in the corrugated boxes (e.g., with each box having a particular size). Preferably, each sorter would deliver seed to its own box filler. Preferably, each size would also receive its own lot number.

When the cleaned seed is being bagged or boxed or the like, the operations personnel can, in some embodiments, manually set a dump weight for the bagger and/or the box filler. Preferably, this weight could be determined by the seed size and the seeds per pound of the seed lot. In some embodiments, this determination could be automatically set. Preferably, an adjustment for treatment is made in this determination.

In some embodiments, at least between about 3-15 bag sizes may be needed per genetic type of seed. For example, in some embodiments, at least about 5-10, or preferably, at least about 7 bag sizes would be needed per genetic type in some embodiments. In preferred embodiments, before bagging, operations would take the seed size and seeds per pound to determine an appropriate bag.

Among other potential advantages, some embodiments of the present invention can avoid “wasting” of seeds and/or unnecessary “giving away” of seeds that occurs in existing systems. For example, a customer could always receive a substantially fixed number of seeds (e.g., within a narrow range) or can always receive at least a fixed number of seeds without the need to substantially overfill bags to ensure a desired seed count.

Preferred embodiments of the invention may be particularly advantageous with respect to smaller seed varieties. Among other things, preferred embodiments could potentially result in an increased number of units sold (e.g., it would preferably take more bags to plant the same acreage that a weight-based bag—such as, e.g., a 50-pound bag-once planted). While increased fees may be realized by the seed producers, the use of seed counting can provide costs savings benefits that could be realized by farmers and/or seed producers, preferably both. For example, the ability to avoid overfill and seed wastage could result in better seed usage efficiencies and, hence, increased savings that can result in lower overall seed costs seen by farmers and greater profits seen by seed producers.

In some preferred embodiments, while new equipment may be required (e.g., seed sizers, etc.), a plurality of different sized bags may be needed for each genetic group, procedures for choosing sorter screen sizes, bag weights, bag size and/or truck staging may be needed, substantial advantages can still be realized.

In some preferred embodiments, the products packaged for shipment to farmers or other consumers can be shipped by “seed count ranges” (such as, e.g., to ensure that a bag weight does not go below a particular limit and/or remains closer to existing bag weights than if done strictly by a fixed seed count number). In this manner, a softer transition can be realized when changing from shipment by weight to shipment by seed count.

Other Illustrative Embodiments

While in some embodiments, seed sizing can be performed as discussed above, in other embodiments, sizing of seed can be substantially and/or entirely eliminated.

In some preferred embodiments, packaging by fixed counts can be performed using some or all of the following components or equipment.

    • A computer or server and software;
    • A multi-channel seed counter;
    • Upgraded control of baggers.

In preferred embodiments, based on the cleaned, non-treated seed's actual seed count, a beginning bag size and bag weight can be chosen for the bagger (e.g., this can be automatically determined via computer software or the like). Preferably, a multi-channel counter continuously counts samples of seed (such as, e.g., a particular weight sample—for example, about 1-pound of seeds as an illustrative sample amount). These counts are preferably recorded to digital data storage (e.g., in a database) and monitored for deviations (e.g., this can be automatically monitored via computer software or the like).

In preferred embodiments, each bag size will have a range of acceptable volumes that it can hold. The bags themselves will preferably have the same pallet footprint. Preferably, the different sizes will expand to hold more seed. Preferably, a statistical analyzer (e.g., including a software module or the like) can monitor the deviations and determine if and/or when the bag sizes and/or bag weights need to be changed.

In preferred embodiments, bagging can be substantially the same as existing systems, with the (exception that the bag weights may vary more significantly. However, within a lot (e.g., a lot is a set of bags grouped together for inventory management purposes) of bagged seed, the weight will be the same. For example, bag weights can vary based on the initial seeds per pound of the cleaned, non-treated seed lots. When the bag weight needs to change, a new lot of seed is created.

In some illustrative embodiments, a seed counter can include, e.g., a holding bin, a collection bin, a lower bin, a control panel (e.g., a user interface control panel), a conveyor (e.g., a vibrated platform), a plurality of detectors (e.g., photo-eyes or the like), a weight measuring device (e.g., a load cell) and other components (such as, e.g., solenoids, valves, cylinders, etc.) for effecting operation.

Illustrative Operation In Some Preferred Embodiments

In some illustrative embodiments, to begin the process, a seed counter is first “reset” via a user interface at a workstation (e.g., by a user pressing a reset seed counter button or the like). Then, the seed counter can preferably be placed in an automatic and/or hand-operated mode. Preferably, if a hand-operated mode is selected, an operator can depress a start button or the like in order to start the sequence. Preferably, an automatic mode will not require such an operator action.

In some embodiments, an initial stage includes transferring seeds from an aspirator and/or from another delivery and/or conveyance system to a holding bin. This transfer can be done in some embodiments, e.g., by energizing a solenoid that controls the application of pneumatic power to a venturi valve at the same time activates a cylinder to open a ball valve that allows seed flow. Preferably, when a seed level is adequate, a detector (e.g., photo-eye) inside the holding bin will cause seed flow to be de-activated. Simultaneously, vibrators can be activated that cause seed to travel along a vibrated platform or panel. The seeds are preferably conveyed, e.g., using the vibrated platform. However, in other embodiments, other forms of conveyance can be used (such as, e.g., inclined plates, conveyor belts, pneumatic blowers and/or other conveyance means). Preferably, detectors, such as, e.g., photo-detectors (e.g., photo-eyes) and/or the like, are situated in a linear array over channels through which the seeds are vibrationally conveyed. Preferably, seeds are spread out on the conveying surface (e.g., within the channels) and conveyed past the detectors. With the vibrators and detectors initiated, counters (using, e.g., a controller such as, e.g., a PLC) preferably keep track of each individual seed count per channel. Preferably, the sequence is stopped, however, by a weight amount determined (e.g., via a load cell). Preferably, a proper weight amount is determined by a user input from a user workstation. In preferred embodiments, once a weight amount is achieved, the vibrators are de-activated along with the detectors. The seeds conveyed past the detectors are preferably delivered into a collection bin (preferably, a weight determination is conducted based upon seeds in the collection bin—such as, e.g., having a load cell connected to the collection bin for weight determination). Preferably, upon a correct weight amount being present within the collection bin, the PLC will calculate the seed per pound and/or the total seed count (preferably both). Preferably, upon obtaining a correct weight, the collection bin will be activated so as to discharge the weighed contents. For example, a collection bin solenoid can be activated in some embodiments to activate a dump cylinder that opens the collection bin so as to dump or place the seed into a lower bin. This sequence can then be repeated.

Preferably, the lower bin returns the seed to an elevator and/or to another delivery and/or conveyance system (such as, e.g., by energizing a solenoid that initiates the application of pneumatic power to a venturi valve that generates seed flow).

Discussion of the Illustrated Embodiments

FIGS. 1 to 5(Q) show exemplary components and features that can be used in some embodiments to carry out various aspects and methods of the preferred embodiments, such as, e.g., various aspects and methods as described above. In the figures, illustrative component sizes are numerically labeled (with such sizes being in designated as shown in inches ″). While the various embodiments are not limited to any sizes and/or proportions as shown, the figures show some general sizes and proportions of components according to some illustrative and non-limiting embodiments of the invention.

In this regard, FIGS. 1-2 are schematic diagrams showing two illustrative systems in which some embodiments of the present invention may be implemented. With reference to the illustrative system shown in FIG. 1, seeds can be conveyed laterally via a vibratory conveyor (VIBRATORY CONVEYOR), then elevated via an elevator (ELEVATOR-02), then aspirated via an aspirator (ASPIRATOR), then elevated via another elevator (ELEVATOR-02), then conveyed to at least one box filler (BOX FILLER) and/or to at least one bagger (BAGGERS), as schematically shown.

With reference to the illustrative system shown in FIG. 2, seeds can be delivered from a holding bin (HOLDING BIN) to a vibratory conveyor (VIBRATORY CONVEYOR), then elevated via an elevator (ELEVATOR), then laterally conveyed to a diverting bin from which seeds can be diverted to either at least one bagger (BAGGERS) and/or at least one box filler (e.g., with a conveyor belt depicted as being adapted to convey to the box filler. FIG. 2 also shows an illustrative printer (MARSH PRINTER) and conveyor (BELT CONVEYOR) that can be employed in some embodiments.

FIGS. 3(A), 3(B), 3(C) and 4 show some illustrative system layouts and/or system components that can be employed in some illustrative embodiments of the invention. For example, FIG. 3(A) is one illustrative schematic diagram showing some electrical and other communication paths between some components according to some preferred embodiments. In the figures, the ICE Station shown can include, e.g., a central computer system, controller or the like (shown in the illustrative embodiment as connected to a network hub). As shown in these illustrative embodiments, a seed counter is preferably adapted to communicate with baggers, a weight checker, a reject conveyor (e.g., for rejecting based on improper count or the like) and/or a marsh printer (e.g., for printing labels or the like). In some embodiments, the communication can be alternatively, partially and/or entirely via a central controller (e.g., a central computer, processor or the like). In some illustrative and non-limiting embodiments, as illustrated, communications and control can be effected via pneumatic supply lines PnS, 120VAC supply lines S, network lines N, cables C (such as, e.g., an 18 gauge 4 pair shielded cable), Belden 9463 cables B (e.g., Belden's standard Blue Hose Standard Data Highway Cables typically made for Allen-Bradley PLC Systems), Category 5 network cables CAT 5 that have four twisted pairs of copper wire terminated by RJ45 connectors), and control wires CW (such as, e.g., 18 gauge), and/or other communication or data transport means, whether wired or wireless.

As shown in FIG. 4, in some embodiments, a seed counter programmable logic controller (PLC) can be used for controlling the operation, such as, e.g., for controlling the seed counter apparatus. In some embodiments, the PLC can be controlled via and/or communicate with the ICE Station, such as, e.g., via the human machine interface (HMI) and/or another interface. In some embodiments, as shown, the PLC can also communicate with and/or control one or more, preferably all, of the baggers, the scale for the weight checkers, and the reject conveyor, as shown. In some embodiments, the ICE Station can be connected to a network, such as, e.g., a LAN or other network for access via other client computers, work stations or the like. In other embodiments, the ICE Station can also be connected to a marsh printer, such as, e.g., to control the printer via the HMI.

FIG. 5(A) is a side view of a seed counter according to some illustrative and non-limiting embodiments of the invention. As shown, the seed counter can include a frame (FRAME), upon which is supported an upper bin (UPPER BIN) that is located over a vibratory panel (VIBRATOR PANEL) from which seed can be directed to a collection bin (COLLECTION BIN) located over a lower bin (LOWER BIN).

FIG. 5(B) is a top view of such a seed counter according to some illustrative and non-limiting embodiments of the invention. As shown, the upper bin (UPPER BIN) includes a tapered interior with at least one elongated opening (two shown) at a base thereof. Seeds can, thus, fall through the opening(s) upon the vibratory panel or pan. Preferably, as shown in FIG. 5(B), the vibratory pan includes channels for directing seeds beneath an array of detectors (DETECTORS), such as, e.g. photo-eyes or the like. FIG. 5(C) is a front view of a vibrated platform or panel having channels (as shown) for conveying seeds according to some illustrative embodiments and a side view of the vibrated platform.

Next, FIG. 5(D) is a front view of the upper bin shown in FIG. 5(A) (such as, e.g., taken from a left side view in FIG. 5(A)) according to some illustrative embodiments, FIG. 5(E) is a top view of the upper bin according to some illustrative embodiments, and FIG. 5(F) is an end view of the upper bin according to some illustrative embodiments.

Next, FIG. 5(G) shows two side views of the collection bin according to some illustrative embodiments (shown in closed [i.e., at the left side] and open [i.e., at the right side] positions). In the illustrated embodiment, the bin can be opened and/or closed via a cylinder member having an extendable cylinder rod. In some embodiments, any mechanical moving mechanisms can be employed, such as, e.g., electronically actuated members, hydraulically actuated members and/or pneumatically actuated members. As shown in, e.g., FIG. 5(Q), in the preferred embodiments pneumatically actuated members are employed. Further, FIG. 5(H) shows a top view of an illustrative collection bin according to some illustrative embodiments. In this regard, in some embodiments, the volume within the collection bin is adapted to be a known quantity, such as, e.g., used to measure the weight per a linear amount (such as, e.g., per linear foot as shown).

Next, FIG. 5(I) is a top view of the lower bin according to some illustrative embodiments, FIG. 5(J) is a side view of the lower bin according to some illustrative embodiments, and FIG. 5(K) is a front view of the lower bin according to some illustrative embodiments.

Next, FIG. 5(L) is a top view of a vibrator pan according to some illustrative embodiments, and FIG. 5(M) is a front view of a vibrator pan according to some illustrative embodiments.

Next, FIG. 5(N) is a top view of a frame for supporting the seed counter components according to some illustrative embodiments, depicting, inter alia, the platform for supporting vibrators (e.g., vibrating pan) and a collection bin, FIG. 5(O) is a front view of, inter alia, the frame for supporting the seed counter components according to some illustrative embodiments, and FIG. 5(P) is an end view of the frame for supporting the seed counter components according to some illustrative embodiments, including, inter alia, side support regions for mounting a load cell display and/or the like.

Last, FIG. 5(Q) is an illustrative schematic diagram illustrating pneumatic components according to some illustrative embodiments. In this regard, as demonstrated, in some embodiments, various operations may be carried out and effected using pneumatic control, such as, e.g., to control opening and/or closing of gates and/or the like, such as, e.g., to effect movement of seeds between different stages of the process. By way of example, the system can be controlled so as to control pneumatic flow via valves (as shown) to and/or from fore-and-aft sides of pneumatic cylinders (as shown) to effect desired movements of the system components.

Broad Scope of the Invention:

While illustrative embodiments of the invention have been described herein, the present invention is not limited to the various preferred embodiments described herein, but includes any and all embodiments having equivalent elements, modifications, omissions, combinations (e.g., of aspects across various embodiments), adaptations and/or alterations as would be appreciated by those in the art based on the present disclosure. The limitations in the claims are to be interpreted broadly based on the language employed in the claims and not limited to examples described in the present specification or during the prosecution of the application, which examples are to be construed as non-exclusive. For example, in the present disclosure, the term “preferably” is non-exclusive and means “preferably, but not limited to.” Means-plus-function or step-plus-function limitations will only be employed where for a specific claim limitation all of the following conditions are present in that limitation: a) “means for” or “step for” is expressly recited; b) a corresponding function is expressly recited; and c) structure, material or acts that support that structure are not recited.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7869902Nov 13, 2007Jan 11, 2011Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.Intelligent seed treatment system and method
US8175327Feb 16, 2010May 8, 2012Satake Usa, Inc.System to determine in near real-time product density in a continuous dispensing product flow
US8682027Apr 16, 2012Mar 25, 2014Satake Usa, Inc.System to determine product density
US20080009962 *Jul 6, 2007Jan 10, 2008Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.System, method, and computer program product for automated high-throughput seed sample aliquot preparation, treatment and dispersal
US20110047042 *Aug 20, 2009Feb 24, 2011Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.Automated high-throughput seed processing apparatus and method
CN101922961A *Sep 30, 2010Dec 22, 2010上海大和衡器有限公司Seed weighting system having functions of on-line counting and weight compensating and weighting method
WO2007093899A1 *Feb 15, 2007Aug 23, 2007Ddm S A S Di Da Ronch FabrizioEquipment suitable for subdividing and packaging all types of small mechanical and plastic components in equal parts
WO2008006063A2 *Jul 6, 2007Jan 10, 2008Pioneer Hi Bred IntSystem, method, and computer program product for automated high-throughput seed sample aliquot preparation, treatment, and dispersal
WO2009064508A1 *Jan 23, 2008May 22, 2009Pioneer Hi Bred IntIntelligent seed treatment system and method
Classifications
U.S. Classification53/428, 53/247, 53/502, 53/473, 53/111.00R, 53/500
International ClassificationB65B57/20, B65B1/46
Cooperative ClassificationB65B1/46, B65B57/20
European ClassificationB65B1/46, B65B57/20
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jan 10, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: DELTA AND PINE LAND COMPANY, MISSISSIPPI
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HARMON, DESTRY;GOSS, TOMMY;MICHELL, CHARLES;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015572/0141;SIGNING DATES FROM 20041123 TO 20041124
Dec 2, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: DELTA AND PINE LAND COMPANY, MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HARMON, DESTRY;GOSS, TOMMY;MICHELL, CHARLES;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015422/0309;SIGNING DATES FROM 20041123 TO 20041124