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Lauber Seed Farms is a provider of premium irrigated hybrid seed corn. Located in Geneva, Nebraska, its fertile farm ground sits above the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest natural bedrocks which ensures consistent production, regardless of rainfall. In the organization’s quest for continual change and improvement, Lauber Seed Farms has taken a bold step towards innovation by partnering with TOMRA Sorting Food and installing a number of its automatic sorting systems.
Since 1939 and over four generations, the Lauber family has been involved in seed production. They started out as Lauber Blue Valley Hybrids and their use of innovative techniques and renewable farming practices has yielded over 75 years of hybrid seed with cutting edge genetic integrity and exceptional quality. The current farm has nearly 200 years combined experience in the production of hybrid seed corn.
Brad Lauber, Lauber Seed Farms CEO, says: “We pride ourselves on delivering hassle-free, turnkey superior products and services to our customer, the American farmer.”
Lauber Seed Farms not only produces hybrid seed corn, but also soybean conditioning of all kinds. The Lauber family works seven days a week, 16 - 20 hours a day, during peak season. “We are a family owned and operated hybrid seed corn producer. While all agriculturally related businesses benefit from relationships and partnerships with the large multinational seed companies, Lauber Seed Farms has been able to use its smaller platform with greater flexibility to define and refine its specific production processes to create efficiency and quality that are not possible on a larger scale. This is the principle that has kept us in business for multiple generations,” explains Lauber.
“Each seed is a living organism. At Lauber Seed Farms we plant each and every seed as an individual unit and do not see our farms as simply fields of corn. Our farms are nurseries for seeds that ultimately help the American farmers feed the world. We recognize the importance of timing in the growing process. We have tooled our entire operation through proper equipment, personnel and procedures to be ready and able to work in all conditions, rain or shine.”
Prior to the installation of TOMRA’s Zea sorting machines, Lauber Seed Farms used human sorters for sorting out husks, rogues, diseased seed ears, mold and inert matter. But like any business, it was confronted with the associated issues of a human workforce: limited workforce availability, finding sufficient numbers of qualified workers in a rural area and filling schedules, especially weekends and nights. That’s why the Lauber family visited the ASTA Convention in Chicago.
“Over a five year period, after speaking with a number of company representatives, we initially were not interested in the value of the top view camera, two-stream sorter as it only scrutinized one side of the corn, which was not sufficient towards achieving our quality standards, nor the desired labor reduction we wanted for making the investment in automation. However, the technology intrigued us enough to keep our interest in the equipment,” says Lauber.
At a subsequent ASTA Convention Lauber asked the TOMRA representatives if it was feasible to add a second bottom viewing camera to examine both sides of the corn simultaneously. They were happy to learn a top and bottom camera version was being commissioned in South America. In parallel, TOMRA engineers were working on an optional third sorting stream to maximize sorting efficiency and labor reduction. “We believed such a system would meet our demands for quality and we made the decision to purchase the TOMRA Zea sorters.”
TOMRA’s Zea optical sorter featuring a top and bottom viewing camera and three-sorting streams was a first of its kind within the North American seed corn industry. The sorters were implemented for the 2015 harvest season under minor line modifications which simplified the process.
“We were excited to implement the new TOMRA Zea 64.2.3 Automatic Whole Ear Sorters into our operation. It is especially significant that we are finding that quality in the sorting process can be successfully maintained while optimizing efficiency for our entire harvest operation in many ways.”
As with any project start up, in the first few days, Lauber Seed Farms faced challenges. “TOMRA was very responsive in getting specialized personnel on site to assist us with the minor issues we were dealing with.”
“Being able to pick the hybrid seed corn during peak threshing hours has easily saved two to five bushels of harvest head loss depending on the conditions. We have found this to be an extremely important added factor. The Zea sorter cut my sorting time. Compared to human sorters I have 36 percent more efficiency.”
“Firstly, seed corn harvesting requires precise timing. Field operations supplying our new sorting facility are no longer bound to the schedule of a large sorting workforce freeing pickers to fully utilize every peak threshing hour throughout harvest. This is essential in the attainment of the high quality seed American farmers require.”
“Secondly, TOMRA’s Zea whole ear sorters have given us greater flexibility with our daily hours of operation. By simplifying our workforce needs, efficiencies have been created by opening up the hours in which we are able to operate. An example of this was enabling the delicate seed corn drying process to optimal performance as we can now fill the dryer bins full each night rather than doing so when time permitted by worker’s schedules.”
“Nowhere in the world is there a start to finish seed corn production college. Our family’s generational experience has taught us how to deliver a premium product to the market or we wouldn’t have stayed in this business for over 75 years.” Visit the Lauber Seed Farms website for more information.