Capital Equipment News

A quality air compressor is an essential tool for any working farm, with applications far beyond simply inflating tyres. At its core, an air compressor is a power tool that creates and focuses pressurised air, which can in turn be used to power a variety of tools – from sanders to grinders and chisels, awls, pumps, and shears.

Ten ways air compressors can improve farming efficiencySelecting the right compressor for your farm depends on the application, according to Probe Group CEO Frank Rovelli. “While a model like the Stanley Fatmax Futura is an excellent entry-level compressor, something like the Fatmax direct driven lubricate twin ‘v’ cylinder compressor is a better, more rugged fit for farming applications. The ‘v’ is a heavy-duty compressor that comes with an aluminium pump and cast-iron cylinder for large air reserve and high performance motor, offering incredible power and low noise output, in a compact size – perfect for operating pneumatic tools.”

Another critical aspect to consider for farming, says Rovelli, is the pumping unit of the compressor. “This is the heart of the compressor, so its performance and efficiency over time must be faultless. The Fini compressors have state-of-the art pump technology that have been developed using innovative materials at a low friction coefficient and great resistance to usage.” 

With such versatility offered by powerful compressors, we decided to investigate ten ways in which the right machine can offer everyday time and costs savings in the farming environment.

1. Inflating vehicle tires

Mobility on a farm is vital and keeping cars, bakkies, trailers, livestock transport vehicles and all-terrain vehicles running can be a challenge in rural surroundings. Ensuring that the tyres on all your vehicles are inflated to the correct pressure has benefits in terms of operational efficiency, ability and turnaround times. Tyres are an underappreciated maintenance element on any farm, with many only considering their importance in the event of a puncture or failure – which is much more quickly rectified when there’s a compressor close at hand.

2. Powering pneumatic tools

Being able to quickly and efficiently build new structures – or alter existing ones – is an almost-daily requirement on any farm. Distance from local towns and availability of contractors means it’s essential for any farmer to be able to manage projects ‘on site’ and having the right tools at hand is pivotal. An air compressor can power a variety of building tools, including pneumatic nail guns (which can power nails through rock), staplers, drills and even grinders – if it is able to provide enough pressure. Erect a new door, expand a chicken coop, run a fence, repair roof tiles and sheet metal or make running repairs to vehicles quickly and more efficiently than ever before.

3. Painting

Why paint your buildings with a brush and roller when you can harness the power of compressed air and complete the job in a fraction of the time using a compressor-powered spray gun? Spray guns allow for more even coating, savings in paint quantities and deliver far superior finishes to more traditional, manual methods – never mind the time savings, which allow you to allocate critical resources to the never-ending list of tasks which crop up every day.

4. Cleaning

Keeping equipment and large-area processing facilities clean is much easier with a compressor. Compressor-based systems can be used to clean packaging areas, delivering better energy usage and improved cost efficiency, or simply speed when it comes to cleaning barnyard areas of manure, bedding and general debris. Always remember to use compressed air in a well-ventilated space and to wear protective goggles and clothing, taking care around your livestock.

5. Weeding & spraying

Extensive research is being done in the area of compressed air-led weed killing, with promising results being delivered without the need for harmful pesticides. Corn gluten meal is a natural weed killer used on organic farms – when sprayed out under high pressure, it can kill weeds, while simultaneously feeding the soil.

Where other types of spraying are required, compressed air can help farmers distribute pesticides and all manner of treatments to the tops of trees more effectively and quickly than a manual operation. Agricultural spraying using air compressors can also be used to spray a wide range of insecticides, fungicides and fertilisers and row crops.

6. Dairy farms

Air compressors have been shown to have huge benefits in one of the most labour-intensive types of farming operations, dairy farming. Technological advances have seen the development of compressor-powered milking machines which deliver great efficiency and cost-savings – including creating the vacuum suction on milking machines to draw milk into holding tanks. Compressors can also be used to power systems that flush animal waste from milking areas, helping maintain a clean and sanitary environment.

7. Air Powered Gates

Aside from the actual milking application, pneumatic-powered gates and chutes are now being used on farms too, speeding up the processing of animals. Automated gates help control herd ‘traffic’ during milking, vaccination and examination, freeing up additional hands to manage the processing itself, rather than the manual opening and closing of chutes, gates and funnels.

8. Septic systems

Many agricultural septic systems close prematurely when the pipes fill up with clay or silt caught in the drainage field system. Products like the Soil Shaker blow compressed air through closed septic systems to open up the pipes and allow it to function properly again. By fixing the field instead of replacing it, products like Soil Shaker can save farmers and rural homeowners a great deal of money, time and trouble.

9. Water pumps

Innovative products like the Brumby Pump use compressed air to raise water to the surface level, a process known as the ‘air lift method’. It harnesses the principle that air is lighter than water and uses air pressure to push the water up to the surface. This process really comes into its own in areas where electrically-driven pumps can fail during power failures or during major storms as the compressor can be run on a generator.

10. Wind energy storage

Renewable energy – particularly wind energy – can no longer be ignored as a source of power for far-flung farms in rural areas, never mind developing cities. Wind energy is clean, efficient and, once the equipment is put into place, free. Reliance on wind can be a challenge for critical systems though as it obviously doesn’t blow all the time, making air compressors an alternative method of producing the required air movement.

In Iowa, the municipal utility is experimenting with a wind-powered air compressor battery that stores energy from the wind in underground compressed air tanks. Wind turbines running during off-peak energy times pump compressed air into underground tanks. Once stored there, it can be released to power the turbine during peak times.

There are criticisms of the system, but it is a promising area of research which has potentially great benefits for providing clean, renewable energy. On farms, a similar use may be implemented with wind turbines used to generate additional energy. Smaller-scale battery storage using compressed air could potentially keep wind-generated electricity flowing onto the farm, too.

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