When Cotton Growers, Inc., in Dell, Ark., cranks up its cotton gins this fall, it will take lint cleaning and cotton ginning to new levels of efficiency.

Seven of the gin's 14 saw-type lint cleaners will be equipped with new technology that allows up to seven grid bars in each cleaner to be bypassed if necessary.

The technology, called prescription lint cleaning, can add as much as 12 pounds of lint to a bale of cotton, according to its inventor, Stanley Anthony, director of the USDA — ARS Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory at Stoneville, Miss.

The technology is somewhat similar to gin process control, which uses computer software and electronics to bypass selected cleaning and drying machines to maximize profit for the grower.

But Anthony noted that with typical gin process control “the ginner is mandated to use at least one saw-type lint cleaner for all the cotton that passes through the gin, because the classing office or the mill do not like to see cotton that has not been through one. It looks a little rough.”

Ginners often don't need an entire lint cleaner to accomplish this, notes Anthony. For example, the first grid bar (cleaning point) in a lint cleaner takes out virtually 100 percent of the immature seed and most of the trash left in the lint. “Once you get past the first grid bar, most of what's taken out is more fiber than trash.”

Sometimes, additional grid bars may be needed to improve color, noted Anthony. “For example, your color might not be quite 31 and maybe two more grid bars could get you there.”

To accomplish the desired level of cleaning on a per bale basis and minimize over-cleaning, Anthony developed a system of louvers which can be extended between the grid bars when needed. In this position, a louver will fully conceal the cleaning point of the grid bar and allow the flow of cotton to bypass it.

The technology, tested, patented and further developed by Continental Eagle Corp., is now marketed as Continental LouverMax lint cleaners.

LouverMax uses seven, computer-controlled cylinders that move the louvers in or out. The first grid bar is always in this configuration. Therefore, there are eight cleaning options for each lint cleaner — from one open to eight open. It is available only on 24-D Continental lint cleaners, which contain eight grid bars. Most other lint cleaners have between five and nine grid bars.

Cotton Growers, Inc., a 13-year-old gin complex, is installing the technology on Continental 24-D lint cleaners for each of its seven gin stands. Four of the lint cleaners are part of the original gin. Three other cleaners are a part of a gin expansion project.

Prescription lint cleaning addresses the frequent problem of over-cleaning cotton to improve grade, noted Bailey Wiener, cotton producer and stockholder at Cotton Growers.

“The problem with a traditional lint cleaner is like a light switch on the wall. It's either on or off. There are no degrees to which it is cleaning the cotton. All grid bars are engaged. The LouverMax cleaners are like a car. You can press the accelerator pedal halfway or all the way, depending on what you need.”

Anthony noted that the first two grid bars in a saw-type lint cleaner will typically remove about 8 pounds of material. “The louvers can save between 8 pounds and 12 pounds per bale, depending on the cotton condition.”

“If a farmer is netting 50 cents a pound, the savings are up to $6 a bale extra profit,” Wiener said. “Most of that additional lint is coming out of the motes and trash pile and ending up in the bale. So theoretically, we should be able to give the farmer that much more lint in the bale than a conventional lint cleaner.”

Anthony noted that during one season, 80 percent of the cotton ginned at Servico Gin in Courtland, Ala., where the technology has been in place for several years, used only two grid bars.

Continental also developed an optical sensor, the Eagle Eye, which helps the gin's computer determine how many grid bars need to be automatically engaged for optimal cleaning. The sensors are being installed with the LouverMax lint cleaners at Cotton Growers.

According to Auvie Kincer, vice president of domestic sales for Continental Eagle, prescription lint cleaning “allows you to do exactly the amount of lint cleaning needed.”

He said around 50 LouverMax lint cleaners will be in commercial use in 2004. “Upwards of 2 million bales worldwide will be processed through the LouverMax lint cleaners.”

The Cotton Growers, Inc., expansion project is on pace for completion by the start of this ginning season. All pollution controls are complete as well as all the concrete work — the foundations under the building and the tunnels underneath the gin.

Three Continental 161 gin stands, centrifugal cleaners, and LouverMax lint cleaners are already in place on the foundation in the new gin, which can support a fourth gin stand if necessary, and the gin building itself is under way.

The existing four-stand gin, also equipped with Continental 161 gin stands, faces the new one, which is offset to allow room for truck turnaround. The gins share a docking area.

“Everything in the two gins is identical,” Wiener said. “So when we bring you a sample, you won't be able to tell which gin it came from.”

Each gin will have the ability to add moisture to the cotton before it goes into the stand to improve ginning efficiency. Moisture can also be added at the lint slide.

“We also use a high-capacity dryer, so the cotton spends less time in the dryer, which minimizes damage,” Wiener said. “When we start up this fall, these will be the most modern gins in the world.”

Cotton Growers, Inc., started operations in 1991 and built its capacity to an average of 70,000 bales by 2003, “by treating the grower right, picking up his modules quickly, and properly ginning his cotton,” said gin manager, Barry Braden. “Plus our rebate program has returned over $7 million to our growers.”

But the rapid growth also meant that its four gin stands have been processing well over 17,000 bales per season, according to Tim Gipson, plant superintendent. “When you go over 14,000 to 15,000 bales per stand during a season, your frequency of repair goes straight through the roof.”

With the addition of three gin stands, Cotton Growers, Inc., will have the capacity to gin just over 100,000 bales, according to Braden.

“Growers are happy with the expansion,” Braden said. “We're going to have a good balance of trucks, yard capacity (900 modules) and 2,000 bales per day ginning capacity. Come Thanksgiving, we should have all the cotton ginned.”

The gin is adding a third seed house which will hold seed from 25,000 bales, making the total seed inventory capacity around 75,000 bales. The gin has a service area as far north as Rector, Ark., and as far south as Clarkedale, Ark. It serves over 40 growers and more than 40,000 acres of cotton.

“Our philosophy is to treat everybody the same whether he's got 40 acres or 4,000,” said Clarence Crosskno, chairman of the board for Cotton Growers.

“Our cotton all comes here voluntarily. That's a big plus for the organization. Plus, we've got an excellent group of people to work with.”

Cotton Growers board members, all cotton producers, are Allen Donner, Paul Fleeman, Tommy Dilldine, L.H. Gaines, Louis Lammers, Bailey Wiener and Clarence Crosskno.


e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com