Chem handlers cut refill time.

Remember the days of climbing up on a sprayer to manually pour crop protection products into the tank and then triple rinsing the containers? If you’re still doing things this way maybe it’s time to consider letting technology take over the job.

Efficiency is now a primary objective when it comes to farm field work. And all the downtime involved in manually tank mixing products and rinsing containers doesn’t fit that scenario very well.

Chemical handling systems make the job of tank mixing much easier, safer and faster. Chem handlers — as they’re often called — mount on a nurse truck and can meter product directly into water flow as a sprayer is being filled. This direct induction method relies on a low pressure system that draws product into the line as water flows to the sprayer. It works the same way a carburetor draws gas into an engine’s intake manifold.

"It’s all about speed and convenience," says Brian Bateman, general manager of Focus Industries Inc., manufacturer of the Handler brand of chem handlers. The chem handler also takes care of puncturing and rinsing containers. "That’s always been the big bottleneck," says Bateman. In the past, emptying and rinsing containers was a time consuming operation. Using a chem handler, that function now takes considerably less time so sprayers can cover more acres in a day.

And chem handlers rinse containers more thoroughly than an operator can when doing it by hand. "Because you’re putting the knife in (to the container) from the bottom, it’s a lot safer for the loaders, and jugs are a lot cleaner," says Mark Kinniburgh of Fox Coulee Aviation, a custom applicator in Drumheller, AB. He now uses a chem handler when filling his aircraft sprayer tanks.

"We can load a 500 gallon aircraft tank in one minute and forty seconds," he adds. Doing the job manually required six or seven minutes. "Over the course of a day, that adds up."

"Eventually everybody will have one," says John Young, sales manager for Pattison Liquid Systems Inc. of Lemberg, SK. His company has seen its retail sales of chem handlers steadily increase as more and more producers and custom operators adopt them. "There is no loss of any product, there’s limited exposure (to products) and you don’t have to climb up on the tank."

Marked graduations on the chem handler tank allow operators to easily see how much product is being drawn into the flow. That way there’s no guess work involved in ensuring the mix ratio is correct. Several chem handler models also allow product to be metered directly from a large-capacity tote.

As sprayer capacities have grown, so have chem handlers, allowing them to pump higher volumes of product during refills. "We’re seeing some trends toward three-inch plumbing systems," says Bateman. "That’s part and parcel of speeding things up."

Chem handlers also have a recirculating function, allowing for batch mixing of powders and dry flowables. And they come in a variety of sizes. The majority of models range from 15 to 70 gallons (68 to 318 litres). Young says prices start at around $1,000 and go up from there, depending on capacity and features.