Grower develops unique equipment to address problems
By JOHN SCHMITZ
For the Capital Press
When you sell grass-seed-cleaning equipment, grow grass seed and offer custom seed-cleaning services, the annual Willamette Valley Ag Expo is a must-do event.
One exhibitor who's been at the Expo almost since its inception is Bill Boyer, owner of Boyer Seed in McMinnville, Ore.
Boyer, who can remember helping his dad harvest bentgrass seed as a kid, is the exclusive Willamette Valley representative for Westrup A/S, a Danish company that manufactures a broad line of seed conditioners. He also grows grass seed and custom cleans grass seed for farmers and dealers in the Willamette Valley.
Yet another of Boyer's offerings is a debearder he designed and manufactures that knocks the rough edges and any awns off the seed before it enters the cleaning process.
"With this the seed goes through the cleaner better and you get a more precise job of cleaning," Boyer said.
Boyer's debearder sales have been good in 2011.
"I've had about as a good as year as I have," he said. "I (stock) a batch of them and then we sell them. I have one left to go yet, then I'll have to do another production run."
Westrup screen seed-cleaning machines vary in price according to size, with small lab models starting at around $20,000 and the larger, better equipped models with price tags upwards of $150,000.
"The average cleaner sold here in the Willamette Valley will run $60,000 to $70,000," Boyer said.
The large Westrups are capable of cleaning 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of grass seed an hour.
Boyer said the Westrup cleaners he's sold and personally used require little, if any, maintenance.
His favorite seed-cleaning units are the air-screen cleaners that remove materials that are both bigger and smaller than the seed and that use air blasts to remove the dust and chaff from the seed.
Boyer prefers seed mills with the equipment on the ground floor since these units require less steelwork and are much easier to adjust, monitor and service.
Yet another advantage of the configuration is that any danger of fire is greatly reduced.
As for his seed-cleaning business, Boyer said that 2011 has been "the good, the bad and the ugly. Some seed lots have had more weeds to deal with than normal. I think we were down a bit this year. My perennial ryegrass fields happen to be the best of the lot so far."
In a typical year, Boyer will custom clean between 3.5 million and 4.5 million pounds of seed.
"We were a little on the low end of the range this year because more people are growing wheat," he said.
Boyer said that one thing helping to stabilize the Oregon grass seed industry is the lower amount of carryovers going into the 2011 crop. "Last year we had pretty close to a million pounds of carryovers. This year we were at 250,000 pounds."
He mentioned one seed dealer who was "shipping seed as fast as he could get it," one reason being not only lower inventories but a later crop than usual.
One of Boyer's fondest memories, he said, is the time he and his son, an Oregon State University engineering graduate, built a seed-cleaning plant from the ground up for seed cleaner Jason Whitehead of Scio, Ore. "That was our dream mill."
Boyer Seed is in Booth 212 in the Santiam Building.