Operators give thumbs up to closed transfer system – Summer ’20 edition
An industry-wide initiative has made a lot of progress into developing a closed transfer system in a relatively short time, with adoption of a universal cap and the production of a practical coupler.
Extensive testing of a closed transfer system (CTS) by some of the UK’s leading sprayer operators shows it’s not only considerably safer and easier than pouring, but in most cases it’s also faster.
Key to its success is not just its design, but also thanks to an unprecedented joint effort among five leading chemical manufacturers, they have agreed to work on piloting a universal cap design, which they will fit to all of their containers, and this is fundamental to the success of CTS.
The standardised closure is a 63mm easyconnect cap, which ensures containers from different manufacturers will all connect into the same closed transfer system.
What is closed transfer?
A CTS system is designed to dispense liquids while completely isolating the process from the operator and environment. Once connected the closed system prevents any liquid leakage during transfer and then rinses all the contaminated surfaces before the container is released.
How does it work?
Trials are currently being carried out in the UK and across Europe with a prototype coupler for use with easyconnect caps. The coupler on test will be called the Cleanload Nexus, and it being developed by Pentair Hypro in conjunction with BASF in co-operation with a consortium of others in the industry.
This is designed to accept the new standardised easyconnect cap. “Having a universal cap is the key element in the system and importantly, it will be available to all the chemical manufacturers,” explains Roger James, from Pentair Hypro.
The cap remains on the container throughout the process – it does not need to be removed. The opening is covered by a tamper/dust-proof cap, which is taken off to reveal an inner plug – which retains the product. This is held tightly in place by series of tabs on its outer edge – allowing it to be removed and, crucially, locked back into place.
To connect to the Cleanload Nexus coupler operators simply remove the dust cap, invert the container and place it onto the dock on the top of the coupler. It is then locked and sealed in place by rotating the main handle. As the handle is moved further, a probe engages the cap’s inner plug and raises it into the container so that product can be drawn out by suction from the induction hopper’s venturi. A separate hose allows air to enter the container, ensuring rapid emptying.
To dispense part of a container the operator uses the lever to control the flow and read off the scale on the side of the container, or on an external calibrated tube into which the product is measured before being dispensed into the sprayer tank.
When the can is empty a small lever activates the rinse water and it’s possible to rotate the container by hand to improve cleaning. After rinsing, the main lever is pulled back towards its closed position, the probe is withdrawn from the can and the plug clips back in place.
Turning on the rinse water again cleans the outer surface of the plug and cap, which is also important to do with partially empty cans. After releasing a safety lock, the handle can be rotated further to release the container. Interlocks prevent accidental rotation during rinsing operations.
Like all things, it’s harder to explain than it is to actually carry out. Most operators in the trial say the whole procedure takes less than one minute from picking up the can to placing it on a draining rack.
Safe, fast and easy
Iain Robertson has been testing the system since the first prototypes and has been using CTS at David Foot Ltd in Dorset ever since.
“As an operator I am concerned about my health; I always wear the appropriate PPE and have a separate washing machine for my work clothes – I do it properly – there is no point taking chances,” says the ex-FSOOTY champion. “What is more important than your health – why would you take any risks?
“I was, like others, bit sceptical at first. But having used the CTS for two seasons I feel it’s a huge step forward in operator safety. As far as I can see the risk of contamination from concentrated plant protection products is now negligible and it’s better for the environment as well, because it virtually eliminates the risk of point source pollution when filling.”
His initial scepticism, he says, comes from thinking there couldn’t be anything quicker than pouring and, unless it was as fast, if not faster and easier than pouring it simply wouldn’t be used. “I was wrong. I quickly found it is faster and easier than pouring into an induction hopper,” he adds.
Game changing cap
John Martin, who farms Deverel Farm, Milborne St. Andrew, Dorset has also been testing the CTS system for the past couple of seasons, when spraying his 320ha of arable crops.
John says the universal easyconnect and interface is a ‘game changer’, and while the switch to using the CTS hasn’t been without its difficulties, he adds it is as fast as pouring and considerably safer for the operator and environment.
“Previously I was struggling to measure and dispense part cans, because it took only a small movement of the lever to open the flow. But it is now much better on the latest on the latest version, although the container manufacturers do need to ensure the scales can be read when they are also inverted,” he explains.
As to the operation, he says, it is ‘fantastic’ and works well. “I appreciate the system is still in an experimental stage and I need to accept I would encounter some teething problems. But as a concept there is no doubt it is better than pouring and I am much happier using the CTS than not,” he says.
Clean, fast filling
Andrew Myatt has been using and testing the CTS since 2017 at Stowell Park Estate, near Northleach in the Cotswolds. Like his fellow FSOOTY winners, he too has installed the system in his undercover filling area.
“Overall I have been impressed. It really is faster than pouring and it is it’s speed that will make it a success,” he says. “It’s cleaner, faster and safer – why would you not want to use it? While we are all careful when measuring and pouring into an induction hopper there is always a chance of spillages and splashes – it happens and CTS massively reduces the risks.”
Andrew is using the CTS for almost every product and, like other trial users, he has to fit the new universal caps to all of the containers. He does also favour certain containers, especially ones that are more transparent, because it helps when measuring.