”Once up on a time” a man called Jim Elsworth took the principle from a little demonstration unit, about 150mm dia, to the full size working machine. That little demo unit was brought to ICI Agrochemicals around 1970 by two men. One was the actual inventor, Ray Milik. He had come across that principle while consulting for a metal stamping company who wanted to find a quicker way of deburring the pressings. (Little sharp corners that can be dangerous during handling.) The old way was to put a few bucket fulls of them into a cement mixer with some carborundum paste and churn them for – I think it was a few days. Ray’s machine did it in a matter of minutes. The metal pressing company gave Ray the rights to any other use he could find for the principle and he (Ray) teamed up with a commercially minded guy called Trevor Evans. They came to ICI with their little demo machine and Jim Elsworth tried to apply a liquid treatment to a small quantity of seed but the distribution was hopeless. Never-the-less it did put on powder treatments effectively. Jim and his team decided to take an option on the principle so they could do further testing. In that time they developed the spinning disc idea for gradual application of liquid to the seed as it falls in the inside of the torus. Jim remembers their test bed and they did the first test. After treatment they stopped the rotor and the seed settled on the rotor – looking perfectly evenly treated. When they moved the surface seeds away and found a layer of completely untreated seed underneath – then towards the rotor surface, again perfectly treated seed. So they realized that the seed on the outside of the torus was circulating nicely but the seed in the core was staying in the core and not getting any treatment. That gave rise to the spoilers that disrupt that even flow and keep pulling the core seed to the inside. Another challenge was to make a seal between rotor and rotor housing. The peripheral speed of the rotor is quite high – too high for normal shaft seals. The only successful experiment was to blow air through the gap and to keep the gap as small as practicable. Again, that technology has served us all well ever since.
Control systems were another challenge. There were no p.l.c.s or other electronic systems in those days. Jim built the first control systems using pneumatic valves as logic gates. That worked OK for a while but the air quality was a problem. Most seed plants did not have a compressed air system in those days and they supplied ‘Rotostat’ machines complete with a rotary compressor and a large cooling tube with fins on it, then a water separator, and then fed the air into the machine via another filter, regulator and lubricator – the valves needed lubrication at that time. Finally p.l.c.s started coming and Jim jumped on them as the real answer to the problems we had wrestled with for more than a decade.
It was Jim´s privilege to announce the ‘Rotostat’ to the world of agrochemicals at the annual Brighton Conference hosted by BCPC. (British Crop Protection Council). It would have been early/mid 70s.
When Jim took early retirement from ICI in 1992, he set up his own company making seed treaters, including one sold via NoroGard to Dalgety in Poland. It was sometimes difficult being such a small company when pitted against bigger companies like Heid, Jim says. Customers don’t feel secure with a one man band. Jim was given the position of Chief Technical Advisor for a UN project on seed treatment in E Africa which introduced him to the region and also to the bureaucratic systems of the UN which mitigate strongly against success in any project. Jim saw opportunities in E Africa to do something in the way of technological innovation for poverty alleviation (provided the UN bureaucracy could be avoided) and was increasingly drawn to stay there and try to do something useful. Hence Jim Elsworth made the deal and sold his company to NoroGard, which was a great success from both sides. As things have turned out, the NGO Jim Elsworth registered has become a part of a global network of innovators – “I could not have dreamed of that development” Jim says. “The network continues to grow, although it is still hard to point the finger at anything that any of us have developed that has made a big contribution to the people at the bottom of the pyramid, we keep trying” Jim says.
Taking over the development of the “Rotostats” from Jim has been a great development for NoroGard and we are still making progress. Contact us to learn more about the special features of NoroGard Batch Seed Treaters 0f today!