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Horticulture racking systems

Horticulture racking systems


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Horticulture racking systems are used in the production of food and non-food produce, such as root vegetables, nuts, fresh market products, and cut flowers. In a common horticulture racking system, produce is received from a conveyor system and is placed in rows on hanger rods positioned within the racking system. After a produce product has been loaded in the racking system, the produce product is then passed through a central section of the racking system which has a vibratory conveyor. The vibratory conveyor is used to displace produce product from the central section towards one or more adjacent zones.

In many systems, a plurality of rack systems are arranged in a matrix and operate simultaneously. During the production of the produce product, product that is loaded into the first rack system is also passed through the adjacent rack systems.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,820,307 (Eriksson) teaches a solution to the problems of product being “trapped” or “caught” in the heads of a food racking system. Eriksson teaches a dual angle contact plate which contacts a vibratory conveyor and a pair of cantilevered bearers that each support one end of the contact plate and allow the plate to flex from side to side. The bearers support the plate at a distance away from the vibratory conveyor, and the flexible plate provides for a degree of freedom of movement of the upper contact plate into and out of contact with the conveyor.

There are two distinct conditions that occur which can result in product being caught or trapped between the contact plate and the vibratory conveyor. Firstly, when the vibratory conveyor is travelling in one direction, and an edge of the contact plate is in contact with the conveyor, the vibratory conveyor will carry product between the contact plate and the conveyor and over the top of the bearers, and the top of the bearers can cause product to be trapped there. Secondly, if the vibratory conveyor is travelling in a direction away from the head where the bearers are located, product on the contact plate can be carried under the bearers and “caught” there.

An alternative solution to the problem of product being trapped or caught is taught by U.S. Pat. No. 7,202,735 (Gao). Gao teaches a rack system which has at least one product carry-over system mounted above and below a conveyor system. The product carry-over systems have a head conveyor mounted to a first bearers and a lower conveyor mounted to a second bearers. The heads are rotatable about a vertical axis. The second bearers allow the heads to swing about their longitudinal axes, from the first bearers. The first bearers are movable along a longitudinal axis, to allow the heads to move vertically and close to the conveyor system.

The heads may either be stationary, when a desired produce product is loaded on the head, or the heads may be vertically movable, to allow the loading of a selected produce product on a head from the product delivery zone to the product discharge zone.

The product carry-over system described by Gao provides a degree of freedom of movement of the heads, between the first bearers and the second bearers. However, a problem with this solution is that a large number of components and tools are required to allow the heads to move from the first bearers to the second bearers and vice versa. Furthermore, in order to move the heads between the first and second bearers, the heads must either be stationary, or have to be vertically moved, in order to allow the first and second bearers to come into contact.

Accordingly, a preferred product carry-over system is desired which is simpler to operate and provides more accurate control of produce products in the horticulture racking system.

Accordingly, it is an object of this invention to provide a rack system that overcomes the aforementioned problems or which at least provides the public with a useful choice.

It is an object of this invention to provide a horticulture racking system with at least two, and preferably three or more, product carry-over systems.

It is an object of this invention to provide a horticulture racking system with a vibratory conveyor, which has a plurality of zones which can be set to either a forward or a reverse rotation speed of the conveyor.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a horticulture racking system, which has at least one vibratory conveyor, and which can be designed so that if a desired produce product is loaded on the conveyor in the first product discharge zone, the first product discharge zone is operated so as to displace the desired produce product towards a selected one of a plurality of forward rotation speed product discharge zones and/or towards one or more reverse rotation speed product discharge zones.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a horticulture racking system which has at least one vibratory conveyor with at least two, and preferably three or more, discharge zones which can be set to one or more forward rotation speed product discharge zones and/or one or more reverse rotation speed product discharge zones.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a horticulture racking system with at least one vibratory conveyor, which can be set to any desired combination of forward rotation speed product discharge zones and/or reverse rotation speed product discharge zones, in order to control the rate of movement of the product from the first discharge zone to the second discharge zone.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a horticulture racking system, which has at least one vibratory conveyor with at least one and preferably two, stationary heads, and which can be set to any desired combination of forward rotation speed product discharge zones and/or reverse rotation speed product discharge zones.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a horticulture racking system, which has at least one vibratory conveyor with at least two, and preferably three or more, zones, each zone having a product discharge zone, at least one stationary head, and at least one movable head, and which