Mobile seed grader grows quality service to farmers
More and more cereal growers are turning to mobile seed cleaning, grading and treatment services and Townrow Quality Seed Grading Service has expanded its services to meet their needs.
Located in Moama, in southern New South Wales, Clay Townrow said dad (Jeff Townrow) purchased the business back in 1997 from Fred Bridgewater in Eucha. Originally Jeff was grading into 70 to 90 kilograms bags, before moving to bulk-to-bulk grading, into trucks and field bins.
A big milestone was the 2001 investment in a large-scale truck, built by Edmonds Engineering of Ballarat, followed by a second truck in 2005 when Clay returned home to work with Jeff, and most recently a third in 2010. The business also has a grain screener for harvest work that can separate grains and foreign objects as well as reduce screenings in grain and achieve a more marketable product for growers.
“Two years ago, we got a third truck and hired an employee and that's added a lot of flexibility,” Mr Townrow said.
“All of our graders, since 2001, have been built by Edmonds Engineering. We know from experience what sort of grader we're going to get, and we add additional capability to make our lives easier.
“These include adding variable speed drives so we can control motor speed, flow meters on our chemicals and level sensors on our tanks, to cross check that the correct rate of seed treatment is going on through our treaters."
Early on the family operation used 10 litre drums of seed treatment fungicides and insecticides but a sign of their expansion has been their recent move into 100L and 1000L bulk containers.
“Mum (Deb Townrow) was doing the run around,” Mr Townrow said.
“She'd be in charge of bringing out chemicals to jobs and just keeping everyday things running [when] it was the three of us.
“Moving to bulk containers resulted in substantial logistical benefits and made mum’s life a lot easier!
“We could be carrying 50 of the 10L containers whereas now we can just pump straight from a thousand,” Mr Townrow said.
“The best thing about it is the thousand litre and the hundred litre is the time saving. Previously, we would have to pour 10L containers into our bulk tanks which could take up to ten minutes per tank whereas now we can empty a 100L in 3-4 minutes.”
Air-assisted aspirators are used to agitate the 100L and 1000L containers. This switch to the larger containers reduces the risk of spills and splashes, taking safety to a new level.
“After we agitate, we put the micromatic fitting into the top and pump it into the tanks,” Mr Townrow said.
The trucks vary in size with the smaller option able to process between 18 to 20 tonnes an hour of wheat and the larger one between 30 and 32 tonnes of wheat per hour.
One of the key aspects of seed grading is being able to apply fungicides and insecticides to the grain to help the farmers maximise the performance of the crop in the field.
Mr Townrow said there was sometimes a balance between the agronomic benefits of a product and the ability to dress it onto grain.
He said over the years there had been a steady improvement in different products and formulations with some of the latest options proving very good.
“Some of the formulations of the early products were challenging to deal with. There’s been a lot of formulation re-works and then VIBRANCE® from Syngenta came along. The VIBRANCE® formulation is very good to deal with.”
Mr Townrow adopted the seed applied insecticide CRUISER® 350FS three years ago and ‘hasn’t looked back’.
“The formulation is great,” he said. “It stores well, I have some CRUISER® 350FS stored here from last season [but] give it a stir every now and then and the formulation is still good and that's what we want."
What has also impressed Mr Townrow is the ongoing research and development Syngenta conducts, not just in the discovery of new molecules for the control of particular pests and diseases but also the expertise in formulating these products.
“There's a fine balance with all of it and I understand all the challenges they go through to get the loading right.
“It has to be user friendly [because] there's no point having something that is a fantastic product if it is very difficult to deal with both when treating and for growers to handle."
He said Syngenta had been good to deal with over many years and were always on the end of the phone with good advice on their products. This was not only apparent on-farm, he said, but when attending the Australian opening of The Seedcare™ Institute at Wagga Wagga in 2018.
The Seedcare Institute is a global network of Syngenta facilities for the research and development of new Seedcare™ products, and just as importantly, a resource for ongoing assessment of formulation quality and other treatment characteristics. The aim is not only to ensure that the products go onto the seed efficiently but stay on the seed, while helping farmers avoid challenges with augers and air seeders at planting.
“It’s definitely a benefit for guys in our industry,” Mr Townrow said.
Clay Townrow said formulation quality is vital to achieve good grain coverage and product performance.
As President of The Independent Associated Seed Graders Association Mr Townrow said members enjoyed the support of seed treatment companies, including Syngenta. Mr Townrow said it was important to work closely with seed treatments companies, farmers and agronomists for the best seed treatment solution for their situation.
“We like to remain neutral. We can tell them what products do generally referring to the label, but we don't say - this will be best for your area. Ultimately, growers should seek consultation with their agronomist to determine which seed treatments will be best for their cropping plan and paddock history.”
Townrow Quality Seed Grading Service supports farmers on both sides of the border, with the trucks travelling from Hay in the north to the Goulburn Valley and central Victoria.
Mr Townrow said he treated the seed as if it was his own and was very pleased for his customers when they had a good year.
“In seasons like this when there's been plenty of rainfall it’s promising that farmers are going to get some sort of return. There is so much that goes into it and my hat goes off to them all."
Having the capacity to now service these growers with enhanced efficiency, through growth in the business and hiring new employees, Mr Townrow said the business has been very reliable when servicing regular clients.
“Our machines are stripped back each season, bearings, chains and major wear points in the machine are all replaced to ensure we minimise breakdowns on the job,” he said.
“We aren’t working as many weekends anymore. We've got that family-life balance right and things are working really well. Where we were working seven days a week with two graders, we are now averaging about 5 ¼ days per week with three. It is perfect for catching up on days lost due to rain such as earlier this year. Whilst we aren’t gaining much more work, we are more refreshed during the working week!”
Clay Townrow is a member of the Independent Associated Seed Graders (IASG). Speak to Clay or your local IASG member for advice on your seed grading needs.
Interested to know more about VIBRANCE® and CRUISER® 350FS? Contact your local Syngenta representative.
About Syngenta Australia
Syngenta is a leading agriculture company helping to improve global food security by enabling millions of farmers to make better use of available resources. Through world class science and innovative crop solutions, our 28,000 people in over 90 countries are working to transform how crops are grown. We are committed to rescuing land from degradation, enhancing biodiversity and revitalizing rural communities. To learn more visit www.syngenta.com.au and www.goodgrowthplan.com