Senior Design Project 2012-2013
        ​Hops Baler Project
Created by: Jacob Speed, Matt Gallagher, Sam Ledue, Lloyd Bryant, and Nathan Rocker
Our Vision
Aroostook Hops

        Our vision was to create a Hops Baler that vastly improves Aroostook Hops baling process. The baler would consist of a hops feeder into a two-stage compression (vertical compression that follows with a horizontal compression). Each compression will be forced by an electric push/pull linear actuator, and run by a control system. The end product will then be compressed into a detachable bag chamber which is then vacuum sealed.
Aroostook Hops is a small family farm that started growing hops in Westfield, Maine in 2009. Their mission is to produce excellent quality whole hops for brewing and rhizomes for propagation using organic farming methods.

​​​Dr. Shahinpoor,

        My name is Jacob Speed and I will be a senior this coming semester. I have been thinking about the senior capstone project and would like to propose an idea for approval. I have talked with a couple other students about this project and they are on board as well.

        I know a couple who own a local hops company in Westfield, Maine. They harvest hops cones which are compressed into bales and put into vacuum sealed bags to send to brewers and brewpubs that use these hops and make beer. The problem this couple has is they don’t have a very good process of creating the bales they need to sell to their customers. They are currently using 5-gallon buckets and ‘smashing’ the hops as much as they can and then pouring their compressed product into the bags where they are then vacuum sealed. What they can’t compress with the buckets, they do by hand. Not only is this a tedious process, but it takes longer than they would like.

        I was talking with them one day about my senior project, and they thought this might be a great project to design and build. They would like a vertical system that compresses the hops into tubular bales because they have tube-shaped bags they use for the vacuum sealing. I’m thinking we could create a hopper to hold the hops cones that would feed into the ‘baler’. We could design and create a process that compresses the hops at a certain pressure to the dimensions they need in order to fit the bales into their bags they currently use. They would like an ideal bale to be 4-5 pounds so it will take some calculations and research to how much needs to be compressed in order to reach that goal.

        This baler would be a good start and addition not only to their company, but others in the industry as well. They know of a couple other companies who are trying to start the hops harvesting and this would make their process a lot easier. There are many local brewing companies even in the Bangor area that might also be interested in one of these balers, so this would be a good start to what could be a big creation.

        Here is a little detail from one of the owners of Aroostook Hops:

        “What we think is the best idea (ever evolving!) is a tubular shaped bale that we could slide into one of our vacuum sealer bags easily.  I could get back to you with exact dimensions if this proceeded into a project, but I think our bags are 11" wide, and so a 8-9" diameter tube shape that is somewhere between 18-24" long would be manageable for the vacuum sealer.  We think this would produce a bale that is between 4-5 pounds.  Vertical orientation would be better than horizontal.  Also, it would ideally have a feed hopper that the hops would sit in and be fed into the compression area.  The volume gets compressed about 10x or so.  Sliding the tube into the vacuum bag with some ease is also a consideration.

        We can talk more details if and when you are ready, and we'll continue to think about it, also.”

        I think this would be a well-rounded project for us to do with much thinking, designing, and precise construction. We would need to plan with the company and get the full details once the time comes, but they are energetic to get started on this because they are tired of what they are currently doing now.

        Please let us know what you think about the project idea.

        Thank you,
        Jacob Speed, Matt Gallagher, Sam Ledue, Lloyd Bryant, and Nathan Rocker.

​​​​November 1 – Finish design calculations for actuators so we can find a motor and control system to run our baler.

November 3 – Start ordering Materials

November 9 – Complete Solidworks Design 

November 13 – Begin layout of the baler

End of November – Begin getting familiar with how everything is going to be integrated and ran. Full Design comprehension & functionability. 

January 14 – Begin Construction

​​February 1 to 8 – Adjust/Update Website & Research for Patent
February 6 – Finalize quotations and order material
February 8 – Design multiple mounting positions for vertical & horizontal Actuators
February 18 – Begin Construction Base/Frame for Chambers as well as Mounting Brackets for the Actuator​s
February 18 – Begin Construction of Compression Chambers
March 29 – Finalize Construction
March 29 – Begin Testing Operation of Baler

April  1 through 13 – Finalize and Make Necessary Adjustments

April 15 through May 1 - Finish final report, and finalize poster for presentation

May 2 - Present Hops Baler Project to the public at the open house​​​​

May 15 - Present Finished Hops Baler to Aroostook Hops​​

Background of Project
Aroostook Hops is a small family farm that started growing hops in Westfield, Maine in 2009. Their mission is to produce excellent quality whole hops for brewing, and rhizomes for propagation using organic farming methods. A professor of biology at UMPI, his wife, and their two small children own the local business. They hope to expand their hops harvest from approximately 200 pounds of hops per season to 1000 pounds. Their current baling process involves putting the dried hops into 5 gallon buckets. The hops are compressed by sitting on a bucket that goes inside another bucket that is full of hops. This is repeated until the bottom bucket is filled. The compressed hops are then taken out by hand and stuffed into a vacuum sealed bag.  When they   asked us if we could build them a mechanized hops baler, we gladly took on the challenge.
Hops Baler Project 2013
Future Plans
We plan to present our finished Hops Baler to Aroostook Hops at their farm on May 15, 2013. We are confident this will improve their process and save a tremendous amount of their time and effort.