Written by The Business Journal Staff
These may not seem to have a lot in common, but they all share the distinction of being among the top 10 new agricultural products being featured at the 2017 World Ag Expo in Tulare.
The three-day event — which marks the Ag Expo’s 50th year — began on Tuesday as the world’s largest agricultural trade show, and is often the place where manufacturers and sellers try to get their first big exposure of new ag-related products ranging from heavy equipment to chemicals to packaging materials to the latest high-tech gear.
But being voted by a committee to be designated among the top 10 new products gives that exposure an added bump.
J.J. Dagorret, owner of Automated Ag Systems in Washington, knows that well.
His company’s “Bandit Express” rolling platform to allow farm crews to pick apples and other tree fruits faster and without ladders is a past top 10 new product at the Ag Expo, and this year his “Melon Wrangler” has made the cut.
The device essentially is a pair of conveyor belts extending from the bed of a flatbed truck. Workers walk behind the moving conveyors, pick up melons or pumpkins in the field and placing them onto the conveyor.
The device then moves the large fruit up to the truck where workers place them into bins.
Watch a YouTube video of the Melon Wrangler in action at http://bit.ly/2kTMP5G.
More commonly, melons and pumpkins are picked and tossed to two or three additional workers on the ground before being tossed up to the people on the truck, said Dagorret, noting that his machine eliminates some of the heavy work and allows workers to harvest faster.
In addition, he said, the Melon Wrangler has speakers to play music for the workers and flood lights that allow them to start work in the pre-dawn hours, so they can avoid working in the hottest hours of the day.
“It’s a rock star,” he said of the invention, adding that the top-10 designation at the Ag Expo reinforces that.
“Does it help us sell? Absolutely,” Dagorret said, noting that he’s already heard from people who saw his product on the Expo’s website and want to see it at next week’s event.
In addition, the Expo’s website includes a feature that allows visitors to use their computers or smart phones to see the top-10 products list and add the booths where they’ll be shown to their itineraries. As of last week, Dagorret said at least 100 people had placed Automated Ag Systems on their itineraries.
Last year, the Expo drew more than 106,300 people from 47 states and 79 countries. And before his first top-10 product win in 2014, Dagorret said he didn’t have any foreign sales. Now he ships to Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Chile, Brazil and Argentina, to name a few.
Ted Friend, a professor emeritus of animal science at Texas A&M University, is hoping for similar success next week for the top 10 product he invented, “Cool Calf Covers.”
The device is a polyethylene blanket with a highly reflective aluminum coating that’s draped over wood or plastic calf hutches to reflect away excess heat. They also can be used to keep heat in the hutches during cold periods.
Friend, who retired from the university last year, said he began working on the covers after being asked to consult 10 or 15 years ago on the problem of calves dying from the Texas heat building up in their hutches, where they are placed keep them separate from their mothers and to avoid contact with other cattle that may carry disease.
“It’s a huge deal,” Friend said of the recognition that comes with having a top-10 product at the Expo. “People will be aware of it, and when hot weather comes, and when their calves and animals start overheating, they’ll think of it.”
Not all the inventions are coming from the U.S.
The “Scorpion,” a self-propelled, automatic farmland weed remover and the “Ortomec Cleaner 2,” which cuts down the stubble left from newly-harvested row crops and simultaneously vacuums up the harvest debris, both were developed by Italian companies and are being distributed by separate Salinas-based equipment dealers who will be showing them at next week’s event.
Israeli tech company Afimilk, which makes sensors for dairy cows and other cattle, will have representatives in Tulare hawking its new, top-10 product, the “AfiAct II Calving Alert Service.”
The system begins with a small monitor strapped onto the leg of a pregnant cow that records its movements, how long it rests and how long it lies down. That data is transmitted to a computer loaded with software that determines if the animal is acting in such a way that it’s preparing to go into labor.
The system then sends a text message to a dairy operator that the birthing — or “calving” — process has begun, rather than having to assign workers to watch cows to see when they go into labor so a veterinarian can be called to deal with labor issues that could injure or kill the cow and calf, said Amir Ben-Yehoshua, a spokesman for Afimilk.
Besides the leg monitors, the system includes antennas to transmit the data from the cow and software.
The company’s other products already sell in 50 countries, but having a top-10 product at the World Ag Expo could help tremendously in getting word out about AfiAct II, Ben-Yehoshua said.
“Standing out of the crowd, standing on top of everybody, that’s one of the benefits of winnings this award,” he said in a telephone call from Israel. “We are in the Super Bowl.
Here are the other top 10 new products that will be featured at the World Ag Expo:
– Torque Drive Mega Storm II Fan
An industrial exhaust fan for livestock pens made without belts, pulleys or tensioners that can cause maintenance issues.
A multiple pump drive system for diesel, diesel-electric and hybrid engines used in agricultural production equipment. This multiple pump drive system enables you to connect and disconnect hydraulic pumps on demand.
A feed additive to prevent clinical and subclinical hypocalcemia in dairy cows by helping to ensure cows don’t go severely low on the calcium in their bodies after giving birth.
This is a new type of barrier film laid over stored cattle silage (feed corn) that provides oxygen and ultraviolet light protection.
The UV protections prevent the silage from overheating, causing the feed to lose nutrients.
The system automates flood irrigation on farms by retrofitting existing delivery gates with linear actuators that open and close the gates based on data from water sensors.
Developers of the product say the system reduces water consumption by 5-10 percent, as well as reducing standing water on crops due to over-flooding.