Climate Control Keeps them Hopping

Climate Control Keeps them Hopping

Minnesota native Gordon “Gordy” Vadis has a passion for bugs. His interest dates from his youth when his father taught him the family minnow business. Knowing how to trap, maintain and sell a wide variety of live goods became as natural to Gordy as video games are to kids today.
 
In the mid 1980's, while negotiating a joint venture with English insect breeders, Gordy realized the great untapped potential of the U.S. pet market. Believing the industry was ready for change, Gordy began the process of redefining his business. The natural ability gained from a lifetime of working with live products made raising crickets relatively easy. By combining his passion for success with a retailer's eye, Gordy conceived the next great innovation for insect eating pets: pre-packaged live crickets. With this idea, Bugco was born.
 
Most domestic cricket growers are in the southern U.S., and for good reason, the year-round warmer temperatures and higher humidity make regulating the environment much simpler than it is in Minnesota, where Bugco is based. With Gordy’s knowledge and experience, he was able to maintain the temperature in his main growing room at 78 degrees, with variations between room locations at +/- 5 degrees. Humidity was generally uncontrolled. The most difficult times of the year were months during seasonal changes from hot Minnesota summer to frigid winter and back, when addition labor and resources were required to maintain the cricket-growing atmosphere.
 
When Bugco outgrew its location and prepared to move its operations to a larger facility in Ham Lake, MN, Gordy saw an opportunity to increase company efficiency by automating control of the environment. Bugco partnered with BOSS Control Systems, Inc. of nearby Coon Rapids to design and implement the solution.
 
BOSS President Mark Antczak, who handled project management responsibilities on the Bugco automation plan, said, “At Boss, we specialize in providing turnkey automation solutions, so the project was a good fit for us, but working in a building with millions of crickets was a new experience for everyone on the team. Luckily, none of us suffers from Entomophobia [fear of insects.]”
 
The goal of the project was to improve on the temperature variation of the old system and add humidity-control capability. The Bugco cricket production process is superficially very simple. The crickets enter the world in the hatchery, a small room with a constant temperature of 78 degrees and humidity at a sticky 80-90%. After several weeks in the hatchery, the bugs are transferred to the main room, a large open space with a 13-foot ceiling. Rows of plastic bins about the size of laundry baskets are stacked 5-7 high on shelves. Each open-topped bin is teaming with crickets; the room contains millions of them at various stages of the growth. Interestingly, the oppressive environment of the hatchery would rapidly kill the crickets if they were not moved to the main room, where it is also 78 degrees, but humidity runs a much more comfortable 40-50%. Crickets are “harvested” at various sizes, from pinhead to one inch, depending on customer needs, than moved to the packaging and shipping area, where they leave the building in boxes and bags of various shapes and sizes.
 
The Boss team divided the Bugco facility into two zones based on environmental requirements and went to work. At the heart of the system are Advantech’s TPC-1560 touch screen monitor and Advantech Studio working in conjunction with a PLC and expansion modules. 
 

 
The PLC monitors conditions in the zones and, as needed, adjusts each zone independently based on parameters set via the TPC-1560 screen. The system uses a network of overhead heaters, intake and exhaust vents, dampers, circulating fans, and miles of copper piping to sustain the optimum conditions. All temperature and relative humidity information is logged, allowing historical data to be used for planning as well as evaluating the system’s affect on cricket growth and overall yield. In the event of a breakdown in the process, an auto-dialer/alarm function notifies the appropriate people, alerting them to the nature of the problem. The entire system is web enabled to allow monitoring from anywhere in the world. 
 
The results have been impressive. The new system is able to hold the temperature dead-on, with variations inside the room of less than one degree from floor to ceiling, and humidity is stable as set.
 
Says Gordy, “We were able to easily identify and track the return on this investment. Stocking density doubled. Production resource requirements dropped, and the climatic seesaw caused by the seasonal changes was totally eliminated.” “The ideal environment allows us to grow bigger, more nutritious crickets, and that makes everyone happy,” After a pause he adds, “Except the crickets, of course.”
 
Advantech Corporation, eAutomation GroupFounded in 1983, Advantech is a global leading ePlatform service provider integrating web-based technology, computing platforms and customization services that empower the connected eWorld. Advantech cooperates closely with system integrators to enable them in providing complete solutions for a wide array of applications in various industries. Advantech delivers more than a thousand products and solutions under 3 main categories: Embedded & Applied Computing,Industrial and Network Computing, and eAutomation. With the combined talent of more than 2,000 people, Advantech operates an extensive support, sales and marketing network in 16 countries and 28 major cities to deliver fast time-to-market services to our worldwide customers. US operations for the Industrial Automation Group, 1320 Kemper Meadow Drive, Suite 500, Cincinnati, OH 45240. Website for Advantech customers in North America: www.eautomationpro.com/us    Emal: [email protected]
 
BOSS Control Systems Inc.  BOSS Control Systems specializes in control systems integration, providing machine retrofit, panel design, PLC HMI programming and controls engineering. The company also develops software, electrical and electronic control systems for a variety of industrial automation applications. More information is available at www.bosscontrolsystems.com  or call Mark Antczak at (763) 786-4720.
 
Bugco: Bugco has been serving the finest live products for more than 50 years. They've learned that customers want exceptional products served with attention to detail. So they feed the finest ingredients to get the perfect reptile entrée and use first-class packaging to deliver convenience with their crickets. This approach to business has poised the company to capture the nation as the leading supplier of packaged feeder insects. Bugco’s most visible innovation is pre-packaged insects. The flagship product is BugBox!™ crickets - a pre-packed system that provides buyers and sellers a more convenient and cost-effective way to buy and sell crickets. In addition to crickets, The Bug Company also offers mealworms, superworms, and waxworms. Learn more at www.ebugco.com or call Gordy at 888-333-2248.