March 9, 2016

New Packaging and Fertilizer Handling Equipment that make Wolf Trax Innovative Nutrients a Fit for Any Fertilizer Blending System

By Wolf Trax

A trend in the industry of consolidating smaller dealer blend plants into large, central fertilizer blend facilities opens opportunities and challenges for dealers and input companies.

“There’s a need for speed, accuracy and automation,” explains Mike McIlrath, application technology manager for Compass Minerals, makers of Wolf Trax DDP® Nutrients. “As blend capacity increases, say from 50 tons per hour to 300 tons per hour on less manpower, the industry has needed to re-evaluate how value-added products are incorporated.”

Shortly after acquiring Wolf Trax Inc. in 2014, Compass Minerals stepped up to the plate and established a new team of equipment specialists, including McIlrath, for the micronutrient business. The team has three roles:

  • Work with major fertilizer blending equipment manufacturers to help develop better application solutions
  • Develop its own equipment and packaging innovations
  • Provide personalized support to help integrate DDP Nutrients into each retailer’s unique facility

“Until recently we had challenges applying Wolf Trax DDP Nutrients in tower blenders or large-volume batch operations without slowing them down,” says McIlrath. “We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time and now have reliable application solutions for all types of blending systems.”

McIlrath says he is confident that dealers can apply the fertilizer-coating nutrients to their blends quickly, accurately and without dust issues.

An automated powder feeder from AJ Sackett is used to dispense Wolf Trax DDP Nutrients at an in-line blending facility in North Dakota.

An automated powder feeder from AJ Sackett is used to dispense Wolf Trax DDP Nutrients at an in-line blending facility in North Dakota.

Featuring patented EvenCoat Technology, DDP (Dry Dispersible Powder) Nutrients are coated onto dry fertilizer granules during the blending process via electrostatic adhesion. Scientific formulants ensure the DDP Nutrients stay on the granules throughout the handling process.

Work with Fertilizer Blending Equipment Manufacturers

One fertilizer blending equipment manufacturer that has made a noticeable commitment to R&D in blending with value-added products is Yargus Manufacturing.

“High-speed blending is where the retailer industry is heading,” says Drew Taylor, vice president of North American sales at Yargus. “At the same time, we recognize the need for fertilizer retailers to have value-added products for agronomic and financial reasons. But you have to make it efficient, fast, accurate and economical.”

This past year, in collaboration with Compass Minerals, Yargus launched a new automated powder coating system and powder feeders.

Compass Minerals has worked with a number of other major fertilizer blending equipment manufacturers – including Ranco, Rancan and Sackett – to improve their powder fertilizer feeders, too.

All of the powder feeders are designed to dispense precise amounts of DDP Nutrients, as required by each blend, as part of a fully automated system. Sensors detect and alert plant staff when feeders are low.

Compass Minerals’ Own Fertilizer Handling Equipment

Compass Minerals has also developed its own fertilizer handling equipment innovations:

  • The company continues to improve its microcharger technology. The newest model features a funnel and valve system to help deliver DDP Nutrients into tower blenders and some vertical systems.
  • After introducing the HeftyPak 55-gallon drum packaging option for large customers in 2014, Compass Minerals developed a frame on which the drum stands. Using a hand-operated crank, plant staff can meter out pounds of product in seconds. Used in conjunction with a scale, the HeftyPak dispenser can weigh DDP Nutrients with high accuracy while eliminating bridging issues with minimal dust.
  • Compass Minerals has recently worked with an equipment manufacturer to develop a similar but more sophisticated HeftyPak dispenser for automated systems.

    The automated HeftyPak dispenser contains dust and avoids bridging in the 55-gallon drum of Wolf Trax DDP Nutrients.

  • Compass Minerals now has an electric motor with a remote control starter and timer for HeftyPak dispensers. This feature will allow plant staff to accurately dispense the target weight of product without leaving their front end loader or blend control room.

Compass Minerals specialists are committed to work with retailers to determine which solution – a microcharger, HeftyPak dispenser or a fully automated system – is the best tool for them.

Proven Handling Solutions That are New for Fertilizer Blending

Wolf Trax Inc. had a history of introducing new approaches to the fertilizer industry. Its 20-pound box packaging of powder micronutrients was novel and made transporting and storing DDP Nutrients easy.

When challenged with how to add the powder products to high-speed blenders, McIlrath’s team had to get innovative again.

“In some instances, we had to look outside our industry for the solutions that modern fertilizer blending facilities need,” he says.

One such example is the conveyance technology Compass Minerals helped discover for its DDP products.

“Companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical and baking industries have been using aeromechanical and vacuum conveyance to move powder products quickly, accurately and with minimal dust for years. We’re just applying them to fertilizer,” says McIlrath.

Integration Support for Fertilizer Blending Plants

“Our job isn’t just to provide the micronutrient product and a list of equipment options,” says McIlrath. “We’re committed to assisting retailers through this process, putting the right pieces together, so adding DDP Nutrients is accurate and won’t slow you down.”

The equipment specialist team works with retailers’ staff, manufacturers, technology specialists and more to provide what might be sophisticated systems but yet are always easy to operate.

The team considers factors such as the size and type of blender, environmental conditions such as humidity, and the number of and volume of DDP Nutrients applied.

A platform holding 12 LAYCOTE automated powder feeders will ensure that the right amount and mix of DDP Nutrients will be added to each batch blended by Wedgworth's Fertilizer in Florida.

A platform holding 12 LAYCOTE automated powder feeders will ensure that the right amount and mix of DDP Nutrients will be added to each batch blended by Wedgworth’s Fertilizer in Florida.

Recently Compass Minerals worked as part of a team to integrate Wolf Trax micronutrients into a blending facility using a high-intensity mixer in a tower blender. With Florida-based Wedgworth’s Fertilizer, they designed a custom handling system that can accurately measure six different DDP Nutrients simultaneously. The DDP Nutrients are then conveyed through a vacuum system and dispersed into the high-intensity mixer at the precise time required during the blend – roughly a 10-second window – entirely through automation.

In this video, Joey Miller, operations manager for Wedgworth’s Fertilizer, shares how Compass Minerals helped them “think outside of the box” to incorporate DDP Nutrients into their facility, increase their efficiency and not slow down their operations.

“Our plant nutrition products have always been on the leading edge of innovation,” McIlrath adds. “Now our fertilizer handling equipment and application solutions are, too.”

For more information on fertilizer blending and handling equipment options, watch the video “Handling Solutions for Wolf Trax DDP Nutrients” on YouTube.

Tweet us your questions at @WolfTraxInc or comment on this blog.


About the Author Wolf Trax