“It makes manure handling fun,” says Scott Van Grouw, a dairy producer from Ohio and Indiana. “The system is well-thought-through. The operators do not get out of the vehicle, keep their hands clean, do not waste valuable time talking to others between loads, and load in about 30 seconds. Everyone on the dairy was happy to help with manure hauling this year.”Nick Szabo, who has been in the manure-hauling business ever since he was a teenager, developed the new system. He grew up on a Canadian hog farm and noticed that, as some new dairy farmers moved in nearby, they were not purchasing equipment.
An idea struck. He approached one dairyman with a picture of a spreader and suggested that he would buy the new spreader if he could get the dairyman’s business.
Before he knew it, he was given a list of 10 more names and within two weeks had contracts to haul more than 10 million gallons of manure.
Szabo started hauling with top-load tanks and tractors, but after getting covered in manure while pulling things apart to keep the machine from freezing, he decided to buy a vacuum tank.
While he stayed cleaner with its use, he found it would take approximately 10 minutes to load the tanker and end up with 40 percent foam. It did not take long to realize the inefficiency of this system was costing him money.
That was until he came to one farm where the manure storage was above-ground. There he could load his tanker in just over two minutes and could spread twice as far on the field because it was full of manure and not foam. This sparked an idea and a series of experiments.
“Bigger is not always better. Let’s be smarter and think through what we are doing,” Szabo believes.
Seeing the potential of the U.S. agriculture industry, Szabo moved to Michigan to make his dream come true. He worked with some companies in the States and found the most help from Pichon Industries in France.
He also partnered with Tom Smyth, who has not only served as a shareholder, but also a mentor for Szabo.
The result was the iCan patented loading system, which allows any spreader or truck to load in under one minute with a 100 percent payload each and every time.
This system features a galvanized steel nurse tank with two vacuum pumps. The tank can be lifted 16 feet in the air so trucks can drive under it for top-loading spreaders. The 18-inch loading pipe allows for a 6,000-gallon tank to be loaded in 27 seconds with just gravity.
“It’s just incredible how fast it is loading tanks,” Szabo says.
The first dairy he tried it at normally spends a full two weeks to haul manure. With this system they were done in two-and-a-half days and saved an estimated $20,000 in manure- handling expenses, including fuel and time.
The loading system can fill tankers so fast that a line of waiting haulers doesn’t form by the manure storage. While tankers are in the field, the 20- horsepower pumps refill the loading system.
Those electric pumps are more efficient than other filling systems, only burning 15 gallons of fuel through a generator in a 15-hour day. Because of this, Szabo is working with the USDA to have the system qualify for low-interest loans or grants from the government’s energy efficiency programs.
“It was very fast and very efficient,” says Van Grouw, who hired Szabo and his system to help desludge his manure storage. “Efficiency is the No. 1 reason I wanted to try it.”
With the help of an agitator, the very thick manure was pumped into the loading system. Then, in just 30 to 40 seconds, the tanker was filled by gravity alone, he recalls.
“The loading system loads so fast it helps agitate and keeps the solids in suspension when the manure enters the tankers,” Van Grouw says. Its performance did not vary as it worked on four different manure pits for him. Each one had a different bedding material, too, including sand, sawdust, paper and woodchips. “It handled all of them very well,” he adds.
Another major benefit he found was that the machines stayed cleaner than usual, which is a real plus for neighbor relations.
The loading system does take about 30 to 60 minutes to set up, depending on the situation, which can be a negative factor if you need to move it a lot. However, the efficient load time will make up for the extra time used in setup, Van Grouw notes.
“If your manure system forces you to put your manure on wheels, this is an extremely efficient system that will pay for itself over time,” he says.
The loading system is available with a 20,000-gallon capacity and the option to load two spreaders simultaneously. The units can be rented from Ferthaul.