AT PAMI, RESEARCH AND TESTING IS JUST THE START
Located a short drive east of Saskatoon, Humboldt isn’t just the hometown of Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall, former CFL guard Kelly Bates, and Olympians Lyndon Rush (bobsleigh), Jeremy Wotherspoon and William Dutton (speed skating), and Brianne Theisen (heptathlon). It’s also head office for the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI). Morris INNOVATE talked with Kevin Dow, Vice President of Business Development, to find out how PAMI is helping producers today.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT PAMI’S MISSION?
PAMI’s mission is to enhance sustainability and profitability in agriculture and other sectors through research, innovation, adaptation and knowledge transfer. We provide strategies for planning and achieving profitable farming operations, and support value-added initiatives for developing sustainable crop production practices. PAMI also provides innovative equipment design and testing to both the farming community and the agribusiness sector.
WHAT INDUSTRIES DOES PAMI SUPPORT?
We partner with and serve a broad range of clients to achieve our mission. When we were originally founded in 1975, we were mostly government and largely focused on supporting agriculture, particularly machinery systems required to improve the productivity of agricultural producers in western Canada. At the end of the eighties when it became necessary to fund PAMI more from fee-for-service work, we looked outside of the agricultural sector. For the last twenty years we’ve expanded into other sectors including energy, transportation and the defence industries.
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO TRANSFER THAT DEFENCE KNOWLEDGE TO AGRICULTURE?
What’s interesting about our legacy, and in particular our involvement with the military industry, is that we’ve been able to expand our capabilities in terms of project management. The military requires very robust product development and project management processes. That provided us with a skill-set that really enhanced our ability to provide design and project management support to the agriculture industry. From a design perspective they really pushed the envelope with regard to our knowledge of 3-D modeling, analysis and simulation particularly with regards to ballistics and blast armament.
SO, SOME BALLISTICS KNOWLEDGE HAS FOUND ITS WAY INTO FARM EQUIPMENT?
Yes, the ballistics modeling provided knowledge of 3-D design engineering and computer modeling which we’re now leveraging into analyzing soil flow around drill openers and other ground-engagement tools. Or determining air disturbance around a spray boom. Or even airflow and air capacity in air seeders. Knowledge learned and developed in one industry can be leveraged back into the agricultural industry.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE NEW PROJECTS THAT PAMI IS WORKING ON?
One interesting project we’re working on with the Canola Council and several manufacturers is direct cut canola. It’s a collaborative field scale research evaluation of a variety of different methods of harvesting canola. To analyze shatter loss from the different methods, extending to grain quality and harvest quality of the different methods.
DIRECT SEEDING IS AN AREA OF INTEREST FOR PAMI. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?
PAMI has been involved in many multi-year direct-seeding research projects that investigated seed and fertilizer placement, packing, row spacing, and fertilizer application rates. The data we’ve collected from these multi-year sites has been used to determine crop response under different soil types, application methods, moisture levels, and weather conditions. This data is proving useful in developing new technologies or improving systems already in use to assist farmers in making their operations more profitable.
We have a direct seeding drill that was manufactured by PAMI to closely mimic the larger direct seeding tools, like the Morris air drills. Through the years we’ve done a lot of testing of various openers and seed tool designs.
We’ve also been collaborating with a number of manufacturers on hydraulic cylinder testing. A lot of the new seeding tools use hydraulic cylinders to maintain the down pressure on the openers.
ANY NEW EQUIPMENT YOU’RE TESTING?
It’s difficult to speak about some new equipment projects because of their proprietary nature, but we continue to do a number of tests for manufacturers. We’re evaluating the performance characteristics of a tender cart compared to the industry norm. That’s the type of comparative work we very often do for many different manufacturers with many different types of machines. Where the product stands in its current design compared to the industry.
COMBINE PERFORMANCE IS A BIG AREA OF RESEARCH FOR PAMI.
Yes, a lot of our specialty is in harvest quality. Things like grain loss, productivity of combines, and we will regularly support specific studies by specific manufacturers in various conditions and various cropping systems. It’s not just crops like canola, but others in the US and Australia like rice and corn and winter wheat.
BIOMASS IS A GROWING AREA OF INTEREST FOR FARMERS
That’s right, we’re doing a lot of work looking for value-added opportunities in the biomass sector. Lots of research and development support in harvesting flax fibre and hemp fibre. In bioenergy we’ve been looking at anaerobic digestion of a number of different materials including livestock manure, cull potatoes and animal carcasses.
There’s also interest from farmers in bale burning projects. In some situations flax is a nuisance that farmers quite often end up burning in the field. We’ve undertaken studies to explore how energy that’s created from burning bales can be used to heat green houses and farm buildings.
ARE THERE EVER GOOD IDEAS THAT DON’T TEST WELL?
Yes, in fact some of our greatest successes are where we fail the product quickly. In the failure caused during accelerated testing, we can identify ways to improve the product. So when the product actually does make it to market, it’s much more reliable, more durable, and has a much higher level of satisfaction with the farmer in the end.
For example, in order to meet new regulations, one manufacturer had to make some product modifications that resulted in on-farm failure of the product during use. We’ve been assisting that manufacturer with a number of design iterations so that the product will now meet the current regulations from an environmental safety and operator safety standpoint, while still meeting the durability and product use expectation of the farmer.
One of our challenges is identifying where a manufacturers’ product has shortcomings. But ultimately, it’s for the betterment of the consumer.