The Bravo-1 by S&S Metal Fabrication provides a solution to lifting and carrying out bins of produce out of the field. Photo by David Castellon
Written by David Castellon
Inspiration can come from countless sources, from silt clogging irrigation systems to a farmer wishing there was a way to do his fieldwork from the cabin of an air-conditioned tractor rather working with a hand shovel on a brutally hot day.
Every year, organizers of the World Ag Expo in Tulare honor the businesses that have tapped into that inspiration to invent new products for farmers, ranchers and dairies.
The next World Ag Expo, scheduled for Feb. 11-13, is no exception, with organizers having already announced their picks for the top 10 new ag products among the hundreds of products from around the world that will be on display.
This year’s winners list is a slightly abnormal mix, as even though it represents winning products from across the country, along with one from Europe, three of the top 10 products came from the Central Valley — a device that removes silt from irrigation water, a machine that stands up cotton bushes so they don’t get trampled by tractors and a vehicle that quickly removes fruit bins from fields during harvest.
They, along with the other seven top 10 products, will receive special recognition during the expo.
Here is a look at the World Ag Expo’s Top 10 new products:
Cotton Folding Attachment
Berbereia Engineering and Manufacturing, Clovis
Exhibit space: SS7
Blake Berbereia never considered himself an inventor, just a farmer of row crops west of Tulare with a talent for fixing things, thanks in part to the welding skills he learned in high school.
That changed when about a year-and-a-half ago, he took the first steps to launch a new business, Berbereia Engineering and Manufacturing.
The company stemmed from his invention, the Row Crop Digger, which knocks down the dirt berms at the end of fields newly furrowed for planting, so water can flow into each row when it’s flooded during irrigation.
Berbereia, who said he came up with the idea for the digger during a long day or clearing berms with a hand shovel in 100-degree weather, said his next invention was inspired in much the same way, while he and his father were using shovels and pitchforks to push back branches from grown cotton plants that had spread onto the ground, in the paths between fields.
To keep those branches and the valuable cotton on them from being trampled by tractors or other large vehicles going out to spray or harvest the cotton, Berbereia said he and his father would have to go out into the fields to push the cotton up and away from the paths.
But now they don’t have to do that hard, tedious work by hand, after Berbereia invented and built his Cotton Folding Attachment, which essentially is a non-cutting, angled blade that attaches to his digger mounted behind a tractor. The newest device pushes up and back the low and on-the-ground cotton branches so they stand up and out of the way.
Berbereia said he hasn’t yet decided on a retail price for the attachment, as for now he plans to throw it in with the purchases of his Row Crop Digger.
CPH Silt & Sand Separators
Epiphene, Inc., Clovis
In recent years, new technology in irrigation has become increasingly important on farms in California and around the world, as these operations seek to make the most efficient use of water that has gotten scarcer.
But those systems can become useless if they get clogged up by sand and even finer silt, and that’s where Jim Phene comes in.
“With water supplies dwindling, then you have sand intrusion,” which is becoming a more common problem, gunking up pipes, water filters, pumps and spray nozzles, said Phene, founder and president of 18-month-old Epiphene, Inc. and the developer behind CPH Silt & Sand Separators.
The devices connect to irrigation systems, removing clay, sand, silt and some biological items from the water, some finer than bits of talcum powder that can build up and cause damage.
“It centrifugally separates the clay silt and sand from the water and drops it out into a collection chamber and delivers clean water to whatever system it protects,” ensuring that the flow of water isn’t impeded and preventing costly repairs from clogs and buildup, Phene said.
“It’s very similar in construction and approach to a Dyson vacuum cleaner,” he added.
It works with very little pressure loss while filtering fine particles, as small as a half micron, better than anything else on the market in the same product category, the company claims.
“This was invented to do the job at high efficiency and a low price point,“ Phene said.
S&S Metal Fabrication, Inc., Kingsburg
Exhibit s pace: P10
Like the Cotton Folding Attachment, the BRAVO-1 came as a result of a prior invention by S&S Metal Fabrication, which operates out of a small factory just south of Kingsburg.
The family-owned business started out about 15 years ago doing welding, mostly for farmers and then graduating to engineering and welding elements for buildings, including gates, stairs and catwalks.
But in the last couple of years the company took a new turn, developing and building the ALPHA-1, its own version of a self-propelled platform that travels along rows of fruit trees with workers standing on the elevated platform and picking fruit, rather than working from ladders.
Once the fruit is picked, the workers place their fruit into a bin at the center of the platform, As the vehicle moves on from one tree, it gently places the full bin onto the ground and picks up an empty bin set out ahead of it in the grove.
After inventing and using the ALPHA-1, it quickly became apparent a better way was needed to get the full bins out of the field other than the normal, slower method of a forklift picking them up one at a time and driving them to areas where they could be loaded onto trucks, said Blake Dodd, the designer for S&S who also is a co-owner with his brother-in-law, Denver Silva, the company president, and his father-in-law, Scott Silva.
The solution was the BRAVO-1, which Dodd said he designed with input from his partners.
In a way, the 11,000-pound machine is like a forklift, with very long forks that can pick up five bins at once. But unlike the forklift, the forks on the BRAVO-1 tip down and a chain device pulls the bins up the forks, similar to the way roller coaster cars are pulled up tracks at the start of a ride.
Rather than the tractor driver having to back up out of a narrow grove, twisting around and looking back to drive backwards, or driving forward with a bin blocking a full view of what’s ahead, the driver’s seat on the BRAVO-1 has a hydraulic motor that turns the seat around to the opposite direction.
“So the rear end becomes the front,” and as an added feature, both the back and front wheels turn, so the Bravo Farms drives more like a car or truck or tractor no matter what direction it goes, said Scott Silva, the company’s secretary and a mechanical designer.
In addition, BRAVO-1 has an air suspension system intended to make for a steadier drive through groves that causes less bruising of fruit.
The company officials said they’ve sold six BRAVO-1s so far, each at a price of about $100,000.
Since last month’s announcement of the top 10 new products at the World Ag Expo, traffic to S&S’s website has gone up.
Being at the expo with the added prestige and attention that comes with being named one of the best new products could hugely elevate interest in the Bravo-1, Scott Silva noted.
“The main thing is to get exposure outside our immediate area — not just the Central Valley but California as a whole, and possibly even out of state.”
Here are the other products named on the World Ag Expo’s top 10 new products list:
Cainthus, Dublin, Ireland
Exhibit space: 6315
Using a combination of digital cameras and artificial intelligence, ALUS can monitor dairy herds round the clock and individually chart the habits of individual cows to analyze if they’re getting sufficient access to food and water, so dairies can initiate changes to make them healthier and more productive.
COJALI USA, Inc., Doral, Fla.
Exhibit spaces 5008, 5009
SLJaltest AGV is an all-makes, all-systems diagnostics tool for ag machinery — tractors, telehandlers, etc. — developed to digitally diagnose problem machines and get them back in fields in the shortest period of time, saving money and becoming an essential tool to have in the shop and on the farm.
It allows users to connect, read and clear fault codes of different electronic control modules in vehicles, as well as to perform advanced bi-directional controls, including parts calibrations.
GP90 Joiner for Support Wires Gripple, Inc.,
Exhibit space: 1207
The Gripple GP90 easily and quickly joins and tensions line wires to perpendicular boundary cables, creating overhead wires to support protective materials, including shade cloth, hail net and rain covers, direct support for fruit, and overhead grids.
John Deere, Olathe, Kan.
John Deere exhibit space
The 8RX represents the next leap forward in tractor innovation with the all-new four-track machine form that delivers unmatched flotation, traction and ride quality. It’s the only fixed-frame four-track configuration tractor on the market.
The Hutch Latch
MJE, LLC, Montezuma, Kan.
Exhibit spaces 6021, 6022
The Hutch Latch offers an innovative safety feature to secure calf hutches, reduce stress and ensure the safety of calves. The latch is securely attached to the top of each hutch with a backing plate, two carriage bolts and flange nuts. A steel wire rope runs the length of the row of hutches and is locked in place by The Hutch Latch. A simple release lever allows easy removal of the cable, but this lever also securely locks in position so that the cable will not be released during inclement weather.
Monarch Tractor, Fremont
Exhibit space U38
The is the world’s most powerful compact tractor. A fully electric smart tractor platform, it has best-in-class plow, till, and hauling capabilities, with driver optional and data analytics functions. The Monarch tractor platform combines mechanization, automation, and data analysis to enhance farmers’ existing operations, alleviate labor shortages, and maximize yields.
Intelligent Spray Control SystemSmart Guided Systems LLC
Exhibit space 3321
The light detection and ranging based Intelligent Spray Control System adapts to any air blast sprayer. The system identifies canopy and foliage density with precision, and then controls each spray nozzle individually.