New drip tape collection technology promises faster and cheaper outcomes
Irrigation is an essential component for many growers, but placing and collecting the drip tape can be an arduous and time consuming task.
One engineering firm in California is aiming to make that process easier, quicker and more cost-effective. Andros Engineering has developed a drip tape recycling program whereby they can collect the drip tape, after which the material is sent away for reprocessing. To support this program, the company has introduced a new drip tape collection machine to gather the drip tape significantly faster and with fewer people.
"We build machines that place the drip tape on the surface, at shallow depths (1-6 inches) and deep depths (6-18 inches)," said Matt Andros, of Andros Engineering. "We also build machines to remove the drip tape from the field that is installed to any of these depths. Depending on the type of system used, the grower can reuse his drip tape over and over, or the retrieved tape can be recycled. We have been providing these systems to growers all over the world for over 30 years."
"Andros Engineering recently introduced the latest technology for collecting Drip-Tape and Mulch plastics for recycling, the MegaBinder LRV," he continued. "The MegaBinder platform was created to minimize the handling labor for transportation of recyclable materials and can be customized for your operation. The MegaBinder base platform is outfitted with a Cat II tractor adapter. The MegaBinder DTR includes a self-contained power supply and specially designed trailer that allows the user to stage rolls at the end of the row for pick up after the operation is complete. The MegaBinder LRV, which is the Deluxe version, includes a self-contained power supply and hydraulic tilt dump bed that allows the user to carry up to 60 acres of drip tape, as well as the capability to transport the material to a collection location to be recycled."
How the system works
The MegaBinder machines work hand in hand with Andros' drip tape recycling program which the company says is a cost effective way to minimize the overall cost of drip tape, both in the materials used as well as installation and removal. "Our drip tape recycling program provides direct access to plastic re-processors by helping the grower retrieve and densify his used drip tape into clean, dense rolls that dramatically reduces labor costs associated with tape retrieval and is very cost effective to transport to the re-processor," said Andros.
Andros Engineering said that growers can either purchase the equipment and subsequently earn money by selling the used drip tape back once they participate in the program, rather than pay for disposal. Alternatively, Andros will loan the equipment on a no or low-cost basis. The best outcome would be determined by the farmer's discernment, based on the required frequency of applying and collecting the tape.
"If a grower wants to own his own retrieval equipment, they can purchase from us and participate in the recycle program," continued Andros. "Typically, these users utilize our machines and then notify our recycle group when they have a load of tape ready to pick up (20 tons or more). We then dispatch our recycle logistics personnel and equipment to their location and load their drip tape into ocean freight containers and dispatch them directly to the port of departure. The grower receives payment from us for his recycled tape, so instead of a disposal expense, the grower now has a recycle income stream. We also offer the retrieval equipment to growers on a low, or no cost basis. This is well suited for growers who only retrieve tape once per year for crops such as onions, garlic and processing tomatoes."
Fast, cost-effective collection
Andros Engineering claims the technology significantly reduces the time to collect the tape, as well as the labor involved in this process. By using the system, they reported that farmers are able to turn over fields much quicker and reduce the collection to a fraction of the time.
"Fields that were requiring 2-4 days to remove and retrieve their drip tape irrigation systems are being completed in a couple of hours with our MegaBinder DTR retrieval machines and supported by our drip tape recycle program," continued Andros. "In the past, a grower could retrieve 10-15 acres a day with 4 workers, including the purchase of reusable spools that cost up to 22 dollars each (.75 an acre avg.). Now, with the ANDROS MegaBinder machine it only takes 1 person to collect 60 acres in a day. The speed and efficiency associated with our equipment reduces overall crop-cycle intervals, thus increasing the growers' annual potential yield because they can turn fields over quicker as they prepare to plant their next crop."
The recycling program has now been running for about a year, with a number of growers in California already using it. Andros noted that farmers are using the program and moving to 'single-use' drip tape and away from reusing. He sees the technology revolutionizing the way growers use their drip tape.
'Our program and the associated equipment has been in operation since last year," he said. "It has growers participating in all of the California vegetable growing regions from the California/Mexico border to the Salinas Valley and San Joaquin Valley. Drip tape users that are embracing the concept of single use drip tape, (e.g. Coastal California vegetable growers), and crops that may see several crop cycles per year, (lettuces, spinach, baby greens, etc) are the prime candidates for this program."
"We believe that the latest technology of 'Single use Dripline' and our MegaBinder collection platform, has contributed to a shift in irrigation practices on the Central Coast," Andros observed. "For decades coastal growers have been reusing drip tape for their vegetable crops (Oxnard to Watsonville), but recently with the introduction of better technology for collecting the material, and a 'Single use Dripline', growers have shifted to a recycling model. This model improves crop uniformity while effectively reducing high labor cost."
Customer sees benefits from the product
Roger Hernandez, from Brigantino Irrigation in Holister, California, said the product has saved significant amounts of time, as well as reduced costs when they have used the system.
"With the introduction of 7/8” 5mil. 'Single Use Drip-Tape' by Netafim 1 year ago, and combined with the Andros MegaBinder, there has been a progression in irrigation practices for vegetable crops in the California Salinas Valley," Hernandez said. "Benefits have included labor cost reduction for installing and retrieving irrigation systems, better crop uniformity, reduction of crop turnaround time, from days to hours. Previously, reusing used drip-tape included additional water flushing steps, leaks and runoff, possible risk of disease transfer, input cost, including labor.
"Brigantino Irrigation Inc. working with Brett Waterman from Netafim, Matt Andros, and Gene Rhinehart from ANDROS have made these irrigation practice improvements a reality in a short period of time," he continued. "I would also like to mention that Andros was quick to respond to growers needs in the design of the MegaBinder and UltraBinder DTR. It has been instantly accepted as the standard for retrieval and recycling of drip-tape and is in use in the Salinas Valley today."