New technology for cleaning swine transportation trailers is showing promise in reducing labour and water requirements while maintaining or possibly improving biosecurity-related outcomes.
“We believe that the system we are proposing is not an ultimate solution, but it certainly represents a good solution to better handle biosecurity concerns,” said Hubert Landry, research scientist with the Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute (PAMI).
PAMI has been working in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan’s college of engineering to develop the hydrovac system.
Funding for the project was received in early 2015 through the Swine Innovation Centre and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
“Given the PED crisis, the industry wants to move rather quickly on these kinds of studies. We are also making sure to work with as many stakeholders as possible as there are other initiatives ongoing,” said Landry.
The current methodology for cleaning livestock trailers involves removing material, a flood wash, a pressure wash, sanitization and a dry time. Researchers say the process takes significant man-hours and substantial volumes of water.
“As you can imagine all of these steps take a fair bit of time. Of course it varies on the trailer style and the time of year, but it can take anywhere between four and 12 person-hours,” said Landry. “We have decided to look into a better way to go about this with the ultimate goal of developing an automotive system.”
PAMI has completed the first phase of the project, where it worked with a prototype to clean the floors of a straight, 53-foot, two-level trailer.
“With our trials we did not clean entire trailers, we focused on the floor surfaces, conducted a time trial and extrapolated the results,” said Landry. “Within those assumptions, cleaning the floors of that straight trailer requires about 40 minutes. Obviously there is a need to look after the walls and ceiling but we are still looking at significant time savings.”
Landry said the cleaning process for the floor only would require approximately 30 gallons of water.
“It is difficult to get very accurate data, but it is estimated that current practices would require between 600 and 1,800 gallons per wash. Now the understanding here is that is for the entire system, the trailer as well as the truck.”
Parallel biosecurity outcomes
Researchers believe that coupling this system with the use of baking bays would control the pathogens just as well, if not better than current methods.
“One probable method of destroying pathogens is to heat the surfaces of the trailers to 70 C for 10 minutes. The combination of the wash we have developed with heating the trailer to that temperature for that amount of time would take care of biosecurity concerns,” said Landry.
Landry also notes that the hydrovac system allows the wash water and debris from the trailer to be contained in a reservoir, enabling a more controlled disposal.
Although the project results are only theoretical, Landry says they are very promising.
“It is quite early but there has been some interest so we are encouraged. I think if we can provide industry with a close-to-ready system, I am hopeful that it could get used on a day-to-day basis.”
After recently acquiring further funding from the same sources, PAMI will now move into Phase 2 of the project where it will fine tune the equipment to better interface with trailer surfaces and begin automation.
“In Phase 1 we have demonstrated that the concept is viable and now in Phase 2, what we need to do is make it automation ready. We are not promising a fully automated system at the end of Phase 2, but we want to do the engineering required to prepare the system,” said Landry.