With harvest season fast approaching, farmers need to ensure that they have all the necessary equipment ready for quick product turnaround and distribution. Whilst industrial farming machines such as ploughs and combine harvesters simplify the act of harvesting, how do you accurately measure, count and evaluate the quality of your harvested crop before it is distributed for sale? Weighing scales are often used within farming for measuring anything from grain to cattle; these devices come a range of shapes and sizes, and are packed full of useful weighing functions that help simplify the harvesting to distribution process. This blog post will examine the many ways in which farmers can make the most out of a weighing scale this harvesting season.
Harvest season in Australia
Australia is a major exporter and producer of certified organic produce around the globe. Harvest season is commonly accepted as between the months of March and May, in which a wide variety of crops are grown specific to climate and region ranging from cereals, wheat and barley to more specialist products such as sorghum, cottonseed and canola.
Australia has a large wine making industry with several designated regions including South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Vineyards require fertile soils and adequate conditions to ensure the quality and consistency of grapes are maintained.
During the harvest season, large amounts of grapes are picked, stored and distributed to winemaking distilleries for producing wine to be sold commercially. It is important for wine makers to adequately measure the amount of wine in barrels or units prior to distribution; as part of the process, weighing scales are often used to check the weight of such containers to ensure they meet the required weight limit.
Vintners that bottle wines for sale directly, need to ensure that the amount of wine in each bottle meets the regulated amount specified on the bottle's label. Trade approved scales are required by law to certify that each bottle meets the amount stated on the label.
‘Of the 1000s species of seaweed found in southern Australian waters, over 60% do not occur anywhere else in the world.'– agrifutures.com.au
Australia's shores are abundant with large amounts of seaweeds and kelp which are fast becoming a major natural resource for cultivation. Seaweed is considered to be the fastest growing ‘plant' on earth with many health products and alcoholic drinks starting to use alginates derived from seaweeds. Additionally, the nutrients found in seaweeds are often used by farmers when making fertilisers.
The process of measuring seaweed to be sold by weight is particularly difficult using standard digital weighing scales since water, and especially salt water, ingress can potentially damage the internal components of the scale. IP-rated weighing scales are designed with durable, water-protective housing to allow the scales to be used in wet packing and processing environments. In addition, Australian traders selling seaweed by weight also need to ensure that their scale is NMI trade approved to comply with regional legislation.
Our WBW trade approved washdown scale is the perfect solution to the seaweed cultivation process with IP-66 rated plastic housing, NMI trade approvals and compact, portable design that allows the scale to be used with ease on workbench surfaces.
How weighing scales are used throughout the harvest cycle:
Planting new crops
Farmer's need to monitor soil quality throughout the year to determine whether this is suitable for crop growth. Dry or overly wet soils make difficult areas for planting and may increase the risk of bacteria growth. Moisture analysers are highly-effective devices that heat and dry samples in order to determine moisture content. The amount of moisture given off a sample can then be weighed and placed alongside other charts and moisture scales to determine the components of the soil and whether this is adequate for crop growth.
Whilst soil analysis is required prior to the planting process, grain/ crop analysis is an ongoing procedure. Grain scales have been developed specifically for agricultural use as a way to calculate the potential yields and quality of the grain crop and its development. Moisture analysers can also be used to accurately measure the consistency of grain to ensure that this of optimum standard prior to distribution. Too little moisture may cause crops to disintegrate more easily, whilst too much moisture may increase the risk of disease brought by insects and bacteria within the crop.
Packing and distribution
After harvesting, produce needs to be prepared, packed, stored and distributed carefully to prevent damage. Produce is packed into units, crates and boxes with a standardised total weight or amount being assigned to each type of product. With this in mind, it is important to ensure that each container weighs exactly the same to prevent mishaps within the supply chain. Checkweighing scales are regularly used during this part of the process since a predefined weight limit can be set to ensure a consistent weight of each individual container is maintained. Most checkweighers contain audible checkweighing alarms and LED high, low and ok checklights for rigorous stock taking and inventory control procedures.
Chemicals used to prevent insects will need to be washed away to ensure food is fit for consumption prior to being distributed. Therefore scales that can withstand washing and wet environments may also be required.
Leftover fresh fruit and vegetables are often sold at farmer's markets as an additional source of income. Due to irregularities in the size of produce, market stalls prefer to sell products by weight. Specialist price computing scales come complete with a display for weight, unit price and total price that can be seen by both the customer and the operator in order to verify quantity and pricing, boosting customer satisfaction. Scales with NMI trade approvals are required when buying or selling goods by weight in Australia.
Choosing the best harvest weighing scale for your needs
- Cost - When buying the best agricultural scale for your needs, it is always important to consider pricing. There are a wide range of harvest weighing scales on the market that come with a variety of features, functions and prices. The price of a product should always be considered against the features you need.
- Intention - Why do you need your weighing scale? To weigh grain? Check the weight of boxes? Scales and balances come with a variety of features that make them more or less suitable for performing specific weighing tasks. How you intend to use the scale should always be a crucial part of the decision making process.
- Features - Did you need a scale that is waterproof, trade approved, or that can count items? You will need to ensure that your scale has all the features need for your daily weighing needs.
- Capacity - It is always crucial to know the maximum amount you are looking to weigh. If you a looking to weigh multiple pallets of produce at once then you will need to make sure that you have chosen a scale with the appropriate weight limit in order to handle this.
- Readability - How precise do you need your scale or balance to be? Standard weighing scales are less precise when compared with high precision and analytical balances. If you are looking to weigh small produce samples then a precision balance or scale with anything between 0.001g readabilities to 1g are suitable. If you intend to bulk weigh produce then a larger platform scale with 50g readabilities will probably suffice.
Looking for an agricultural scale? Visit our new agricultural industry page for a tailored list of some of the best weighing scales and balances we have to offer.