Sunday 5th Jul, 2020

Fertile ground for fertiliser infrastructure

Ag Growth International (AGI) has developed next generation fertiliser plants to provide the infrastructure needed for a booming population.

Ag Growth International (AGI) has developed next generation fertiliser plants to provide the infrastructure needed for a booming population.

The United Nations (UN) expects the world’s population to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. In order to feed all these new people, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation projects that world food demand may increase by 70 per cent over the same period.

Much of this demand is expected to come from rising consumer incomes in regions such as Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Fertiliser applications to increase yields and quality will be a major factor in achieving the higher efficiency required to increase food production, according to Jeff Ivan, Ag Growth International (AGI)’s Director of International Sales.

“In addition to the higher population, the developing middle class is increasing requirements for protein-based diets,” he says.

“Many regions, such as Africa, are developing quickly with the focus on fertiliser and the balanced application of fertilisers based on soil testing results.”

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As a result, AGI has identified fertiliser as a key component of its 5/6/7 strategy. AGI created the strategy to lead in the planning, engineering and manufacturing of systems across five platforms: grain, food, feed, seed and fertiliser.

These systems are then taken internationally across six continents and brought together and delivered through seven components: storage, handling, structural, processing and controls, engineering and project management.

This focus has seen AGI invest heavily into its fertiliser supply chain infrastructure, whether that be a port facility or blending plant.

Mr Ivan says AGI partners with its customers to provide the solutions and infrastructure necessary to meet the growing demand for fertiliser.

“In addition, AGI Fertiliser Systems provides advanced automation technology that not only encompasses ease of operation but provides advanced data collection and reporting.”

Automating agriculture

This has culminated in what AGI calls a next generation plant. These are plants that operate with high levels of automation and data reporting, usually with incorporated hazard monitoring systems and predictive maintenance.

Automated machinery helps standardise the blending process and removes human error while improving the receiving and loadout processes.

Mr Ivan says AGI works closely with manufacturers to ensure automated systems can apply the coating materials accurately onto the fertilisers.

“We have several systems for applying coatings for both powders and liquids to fertilisers,” he says.

“To ensure coating accuracy is maintained, batch or continuous flow systems are incorporated. AGI Automation systems play a critical role dispensing liquids or powders as required for the coating process and can control the flow of the dry fertiliser and liquids or powders to ensure the rate of applications are maintained.”

AGI Automation systems continuously adjust the rates required to meet the target volumes. This is important, as specialty fertiliser coatings are typically expensive and, if overapplied, can cost an operation significant amounts of money.

Accuracy is key when applying coatings to provide maximum efficacy, according to Mr Ivan.

“For example, a uniform coating of a liquid urease inhibitor is required to ensure the product works effectively,” he says

“Improving coverage leads to a better performing product, which is why we focus on developing enhancements to our current systems. The Laycote Powder Gen 4 system is one example of its research being used to improve the dispensing of powders.”

The power of data

Data can be collected in these next generation plants and then used to generate reports for management and operational groups. This can be displayed in a daily, weekly or monthly blending history, or used to show historical operational data to reveal long term trends or assist forecasting.

Fertiliser businesses can connect to all of their plants and access real-time reporting across each facility through AGI’s Cloud Data Centre service. This enables businesses to handle inventory reporting, access daily production reports or even provide truck traffic control, which records the time of arrival and departure, informs the driver where to load and records the time taken to load the truck. Through the AGI data centre, operators can also keep track of fertiliser deliveries and monitor the location and arrival times to the plant.

Inventory monitoring systems record all incoming shipments of fertilisers through the AGI Software Suite. Loads of fertiliser are automatically documented and deducted from the inventory, creating a report that reaches up to 99.5 per cent accuracy. It also provides real-time reporting to help determine optimal fertiliser delivery.

ARMS lends a hand

Making life simpler for operators is a key part of
AGI’s next generation plants, which is why it
launched the AGI Automated & Recorded Maintenance System (ARMS).

ARMS has been designed to keep the maintenance of a plant easy for operators to handle, especially during the busy blending season.

Mr Ivan says operators have a lot on the go,
and system maintenance is another area for them to focus on.

“We developed AGI ARMS to provide maintenance operators with real-time notifications,” he says.

“Just like your car tells you when to change your oil and to do certain services, our notification system will inform the operators when maintenance is required to improve the operation and overall life of the system.”

One of the reasons why AGI has been able to provide these technological solutions is its network of global companies. Operating around the world, the company can draw on expertise from a variety of markets to solve problems.

AGI Fertiliser itself has a dedicated full-time automation department that provides custom automation and integration of AGI systems to customer  agronomy and enterprise resource
planning software.

“The network of AGI companies can provide solutions from engineering to project management for fertiliser projects,” Mr Ivan says.

“AGI provides complete solutions for our customers and provides the infrastructure required to meet growing demand of the agricultural industry.”