New Study Shows How Gin Data Can Foster Cotton Traceability and Sustainability
November 30, 2021
Linking ginning rate to field attributes could decrease energy use per bale
Ginning machinery automatically collects large amounts of performance data, and many machines can be modified at little cost to collect sustainability metrics like processing rate and energy use. But the lack of gin data standards still keeps the cotton industry from using gin data to support supply chain efficiency, traceability and sustainability. A new research study, conducted by representatives from the U.S. National Cotton Ginners Association (NCGA) in partnership with Cotton Incorporated, shows just how much value ginning data could add to the cotton industry.
How Ginning Efficiency Affects the Cotton Supply Chain
As the first manufacturing link along cotton’s supply chain, ginning performance plays a significant role in the industry’s economics, efficiency and sustainability. The more bales per hour, the lower the cost to the ginner, the better the price for downstream customers. Delays on the gin are measured in seconds, with a time-to-bale of more than minutes considered a choke. Since a gin’s energy use stays fairly constant no matter the processing rate, any chokes will waste both money and energy.
The NCGA’s study used advanced statistical models and machine learning to match sensor and classing data with the rare 3% of chokes. The result suggests that gin efficiency can be directly tied to field attributes like variety, agronomic practices, harvesting and weather. Some cotton is harder to gin or gins at a slower rate and creating variety-specific gin settings could improve gin efficiency. Being able to accurately state and decrease energy use per bale could substantially support cotton traceability and downstream sustainability goals.
Learn about how technology makes collecting module-specific data simpler and efforts to integrate this farming data with gin machinery.
Using Data to Decrease Gin Stoppage
These results also suggest that data could help predict a ginning failure. Ginning failures—when the gin must be stopped because of clog—can shut down a gin’s operations for minutes or even hours. With every second counting toward the cost of bales, these failures create a major economic blow to gins, decrease efficiency, and are a large source of wasted energy.
If data could reveal variety-specific ginning rates operators could predict the maximum processing rate for each specific module. Instead of pushing the gin to run at 60 bales per hour on a difficult-to-gin variety and possibly overloading it, they could simply slow down processing and save the risk of failure. Research shows that maintaining an optimal ginning rate and avoiding down time are two of the most important issues in energy savings as well.
The Unrealized Potential of Ginning Data
The study also found that about 50% of the variability in ginning rate can be predicted based on the field the cotton came from. Researchers analyzed variety attributes like seed index, lint percentage and fiber quality on 50,000 bales to try to identify the factors that decrease bale rate. Some of their findings were expected, like a higher lint index (weight of lint per 100 seeds) meant a slower bale rate. But surprisingly, module moisture did not seem to affect ginning rate.
“The fact that the results weren’t always consistent with expectation shows that sophisticated gin data analysis does have value,” said Edward M. Barnes, director of Cotton Incorporated’s agricultural and environmental research division and one of the study’s authors.
Read more about Cotton Incorporated’s efforts to standardize cotton research data and create a central cotton data repository.
Creating universal standards for ginning data could help unlock more of its potential, especially gin data’s value to growers and apparel brands. Growers could pair gin data with their own farming data to help create cotton quality maps of their fields. Brands could use standard energy use and efficiency metrics to measure progress toward their sustainability goals. The NCGA study shows just how much insight ginning data can provide and how close the cotton industry is to making data a driver in every element of its supply chain.
The work we do is possible because of collaborations with researchers like these and partnerships with people all throughout the value chain. Ready to commit to sustainably produced cotton? Become a Cotton LEADS℠ partner today. Interested in doing even more? Contact us for ideas to get the most out of sustainable cotton and your partnership with Cotton LEADS.
U.S. Cotton’s Strides in Land Use and Soil Conservancy
Huge gains in soil conservancy and land-use efficiency have changed the U.S. cotton industry and sustainable agriculture.Get the full story
The Latest Developments in Sustainable Cotton Pest Management
Targeted pesticide use and integrated pest management have a widespread effect on cotton sustainability.Get the full story
Cotton farmers restore riparian zones with amazing results
Farmers on the Darling Downs have been restoring 150 hectares of riparian grasslands along the local creek, initially to control feral pigs, but to their surprise, the project has had greater positive impacts on the natural environment.Get the full story
New environmentally friendly spray developed to combat notorious cotton pest
Researchers have developed an environmentally friendly method for controlling one of agriculture's most vicious pests that’s known for degrading cotton lint quality.Get the full story
Marathon runner praises Australian cotton industry’s water use efficiency
Marathon runner Mina Guli will compete 200 marathons in one year, raising awareness about the global water crisis. Her outback Australian leg has taken her through the cotton fields in NSW. Watch the video here:Get the full story
Australian Cotton Conference returns to the Gold Coast after a four-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conference isn’t just a place for farmers and industry experts - brands, retailers and anyone working with Australian cotton will have the opportunity to learn and ask questions about this thriving agricultural industry.Get the full story
Brands, retailers and industry join forces to tackle national clothing circularity plan
Cotton Australia has joined fashion stewards from across the nation to help develop a pathway to Australia’s clothing circularity by 2030.Get the full story
FREE WEBINAR: Join Australian Cotton experts as they unpack the latest industry sustainability findings
Australian cotton industry experts will detail the latest findings from the 2020/2021 sustainability report during a free webinar open to all.Get the full story
Brands and retailers get boots muddy at Camp Cotton
Fashion brands have gained a first-hand experience seeing cotton in the field for the first time.Get the full story
New cotton sustainability report highlights improvements in soil health, greenhouse gas emissions
Each year the Australian cotton industry undertakes an analysis on key indicators and targets that make up the PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. Sustainability Framework. Here’s the latest report:Get the full story
May Cotton Pricing Update: Volatility Seems the Only Certainty in the Cotton Market
A slowing global economy, soaring commodities prices and potential supply shortages create an unpredictable cotton market.Get the full story
Partner Profile: Australian fabric manufacturer ensures ethical, safe work standards for employees
Knowing what happens in Australia's cotton fields and industry is important for Melbourne fabric manufacturing company Topknit.Get the full story