Home > News > Tailoring RFID Technology for Managing Cotton Modules

Sid Brough was destined to be a ginner. He grew up around a gin and has been in the ginning business in one capacity or another for a half century in San Patricio County, Texas. Brough is the gin manager for EdCot Coop Gin, located about 25 miles from Corpus Christi. Ninety-five percent of the modules they receive are dropped from John Deere on-board module harvester pickers or strippers.

He has seen the hurricane damage Mother Nature’s wrath can deliver during harvest and ginning season and understands the importance of accuracy when it comes to managing modules.

“Everyone on our staff shifts into high gear when harvest begins, and we’re always looking for a way to speed up, improve, or add value to any aspect of what we do for our grower customers,” says Brough. “We operate 25 module trucks and move modules from the fields in short order to get them to a location with good drainage just in case Mother Nature gets angry.”

In 2016, Brough and his staff heard about a way to streamline their management of round modules through Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. They purchased an RFID scanner bridge that had been built for some early round module testing by John Deere, and installed it over their module truck scales.

They also worked with Bob Hoelsher, a John Deere representative, to shorten their learning curve. “It was our first year to ‘read the rounds’ and marry those rounds to load numbers,” adds Brough.

As precision farming technologies continue to be adopted by farmers across the Cotton Belt, data-use and exchange possibilities generated through the RFID tags in John Deere round module wrap is the next rung in the ladder of farming and ginning technology advancements.

“This technology will carry our farming and ginning segments to an electronic system of module management,” states Dr. Ed Barnes, senior director, Agricultural and Environmental Research at Cotton Incorporated. “It will lead to improved information flow and data sharing between the various stops across cotton’s supply chain.”

Ramping Up Technology

EdCot Coop Gin is assimilating RFID technology into its operation with assistance from Rene Garcia and Jim Graham, two resourceful information technology staff members. The 2018 ginning season will be my fifth year at EdCot,” says Garcia. “I can see the many benefits this technology will bring our gin, but I also know we have to continue tailoring it to our operation. It isn’t a plug and chug process.”

RFID tags were added to module trucks and drivers are identified the same way. Once they started capturing data, Garcia and Graham began working with warehouse receipt provider EWR, whose “eCotton” software provides a conduit to transfer data into the gin’s information management software.

By 2017, GPS systems were installed on all module trucks so EdCot could began “Geofencing” their customer’s fields. “Geofencing involves creating a virtual boundary that enables software to trigger a response when a device enters or leaves a particular area,” add Barnes. “When a module truck enters a geofenced boundary, the truck is identified at the gin point and all of the farmer’s information from farm number to field number is automatically populated to the software.”

During last year’s ginning season, EdCot ran into a problem when chromed accessories (horns, visors, and antennas) on module trucks started interfering with RFID signals. They changed from 800 band readers to 900 band readers to obtain more reliable readings of RFID tags.

“This season we’ll have side-mounted readers to pick up module truck tags to marry to the load entry,” explains Brough. “With this step, we’ll have farmer and field information provided by the module truck’s GPS, module tag and round module RFID from the truck scale scanner bridge, truck and driver information from a side-mounted antenna, along with weight and date information being sent from the scale.”

The antenna installed along the side of module trucks will now be line-of-sight to scan driver tags.

Planning for the 2018 Season

The base gin plant has been at its present location in Odem since the 1950s, but after merging with Edroy Coop Gin 20 years ago, O-Cot Coop Gin became EdCot Coop Gin. They operate a Lummus gin, and maintain around a 70-bale-an-hour capacity.

“We pressed 108,000 bales in 2016 and 175,000 last year,” says Brough. “Cotton acres in our area jumped last year when milo got cheap and our growers saw they could make more money growing cotton.”

EdCot uses a JRB cotton handler capable of rotating round modules clockwise or counterclockwise. “Our module feeder guys locate the tail visually and rotate the round over a saw that cuts the wrap,” adds Brough.

RFID scanners located at the scale and at the module feeder allow the gin to double-check each module as it rides through the feeder. EdCot gins round modules from entire farms at once. The two RFID scanners help insure all rounds from the farming entity are ginned together.

A few of the producers around Odem are benefitting from another option afforded by John Deere round module — classing data. Once classed, a bale’s quality-related data is transmitted back to the gin and tied back to the module from the field where it was dropped.

“Growers can then access that data and use it to support precision farming efforts on each field — basically completing the information loop from module to bale,” concludes Barnes.

Harvesters should start rolling by the middle or latter part of July in the Corpus Christi area. Sid Brough just hopes the hurricanes do not.

“Harvey passed 20 miles north of us, so we were fortunate to have very little damage,” says Daniel Luehrs, field representative, EdCot Coop Gin. “I just hope the staff and I can dedicate time this season to further refining our RFID module management system, instead of worrying about post-hurricane planning efforts.”

Source: Brad Robb, Delta Farm Press


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