With the help of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University, Arbuckle and his wife Maggie have spent the last five years researching and developing a native grass seed harvester. The Arbuckle Native Seedster will be manufactured in Billings, with the first one on the market in 2007.
"We're going to change the economics of the native grass seed industry," Arbuckle said. "The Seedster isn't a combine or a stripper, but a new-fangled plucker. This harvester isn't a better mousetrap; it's the first one."
Native grass seed is a growing market. Federal, state and local governments purchase large amounts of native seed, as do ranchers and landscapers. Such seed produces grasses that are prized for their drought and wildfire resistance, ability to stabilize eroding soil, desirability as forage and reseeding capacity. Much of the seed market is for the restoration of lands disturbed by mining, road construction and fires.
The Plant Materials Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that in 2001 more than 19 million pounds of PMP released varieties of native seed species sold for $94 million, representing only a fraction of the market.
Some native grass seed species can be harvested easily; others cannot and command prices in excess of $20 per pound. Arbuckle's invention can handle many species, but excels with difficult-to-harvest seed.
Modern combines harvest wheat by cutting the wheat stem with the grain head attached and then separating the two. That process isn't effective with many species of native grass.
"If you tried to harvest some native grass seed with a combine, it would plug in 30 seconds," Arbuckle said.
Nationally, more than 100 economically significant native grasses are difficult to harvest with conventional equipment. Lacking good commercial technology, producers have often "cobbled together" machines or even hand harvested, Arbuckle said.
Rather than cutting the grass with the seed head attached like a combine, Arbuckle's Native Seedster skips the separation process and just "plucks" the seed, Arbuckle said.
The plucking is accomplished with a simple spinning brush and combing drum. After harvest, the Seedster leaves the rest of the plant intact as forage and ground cover.
Arbuckle and his wife Maggie designed the Seedster to be easy to operate and quickly adaptable. In field tests, it has recovered a high percentage of seed and done well at controlling contamination from other seed.
The idea for a harvester came to Arbuckle five years ago when he got a particularly good crop of native grass seed on his third-generation family ranch near Alzada. The seed was valuable, but he didn't have an efficient way to harvest it.
At that point in their lives, the Arbuckles were in semi-retirement after having worked in Honduras with the United States Agency for International Development. Lee Arbuckle has a degree in agricultural economics and an MBA. He has spent years working in agricultural and rural development overseas.
The couple never planned to spend five years building a harvester, but like a barbed needle-and-thread grass seed, once the idea got in their heads they couldn't pull it out.
They've had help from the USDA in the form of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, as well as the SBIR support program in Montana. They assembled a team to fast track their research and development, getting key help from design engineer Wade Wolf and grass scientist Brian Sindelar.
With a grant from the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization, Arbuckle is also classifying native grass seeds by their harvest characteristics - something that has never been done. With oversight from Sindelar, a native grass seed expert, 153 species of Montana native grasses have been classified.
The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center provided critical advice on design and manufacturing through Dale Detrick, based in Billings.
"Dale and MMEC have been a spectacular resource for us. MMEC support made the Seedster design simpler and easier to manufacture," Arbuckle said. "The Seedster is a simple, inexpensive, durable, very-adjustable machine and the parts are replaceable."
Lee Arbuckle at (406) 294-2995 or email@example.com
Lee Arbuckle | EurekAlert!
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge
Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.
Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
27.07.2017 | Life Sciences
27.07.2017 | Life Sciences
27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine