In 1995, I happened to observe a unique machine in operation: it was being used to fill dump-trailers with shelled corn stored in silica-sand mines. The machine was designed to fill the trailers in a place with serious space constraints. It featured a 16-ft extensible and retractable belt frame that conveyed the corn from the floor of the mine into a dump-trailer, which subsequently carried the grain to a barge on the Mississippi River.
I observed this machine through the prism of a turkey grower and loader. And started thinking about how a similar machine might be constructed to move turkeys into transport coops on a trailer.
Eventually, this observation drove the design of a machine that now carries a turkey on a variable-pitch, main-line conveyor belt from the barn floor to a horizontal, head-section conveyor belt which continues to operate when the head-section conveyor belt is extended into the coop, already on the trailer outside the barn. Once fully extended into the coop, which is the full width of the trailer, the head section belt is retracted. During retraction, the birds drop off onto the coop floor –all with no sign of stress: no struggling, no vocalizing, just hunkering.
In one trial run, early on, the machine operation reversed. Eureka! A similar machine could be built to unload the birds at the processing plant after their journey from the farm.
No more manhandling turkeys—at either loading or unloading.
Since that original serendipitous moment, we’ve continued to work to refine and extend the system.