Tifton Gazette

Local News

September 13, 2011

Local man gets patent for cotton harvesting method

TIFTON — Simpler is almost always better. When it comes to cotton harvesting, Jimmy Bell of Ocilla has found the most simple design is definitely the best. Bell has a patent pending on a new method of cotton harvesting using air.

Other people have attempted air harvesters in the past without the level of success they had hoped for. Bell says his device is different than any created so far and can deliver the efficiency he has worked toward for 11 years.

Bell is an ordained Baptist minister and has been married to his wife, Carol, for nearly 44 years. He worked in remodeling and sheet rock in Douglasville until he and Carol moved south 12 years ago.

“I had never been involved in growing cotton before that. I didn’t know anything about it,” says Bell. “We moved onto Rob and Angie Bryan’s farm. It’s a big farm going back to the 1800s. So for a few months there I helped work on cotton picking and peanuts. Stuff I had never been around. That’s what got me interested in why so much cotton was left in the field.”

Bell became fascinated with the harvesting process. It bothered him to see so much cotton left behind, so he began studying and researching to find a way to solve the problem. During the 11 years he spent perfecting his air harvester he also learned a lot about the problems people face when creating their own inventions.  

“There are a lot of pitfalls to having an idea. A lot of people don’t realize that when they let their idea out or show it they have very little security. Anybody can steal it. Another thing is being careful of all the people who will claim they want to help you but really all they are thinking about is money,” Bell says.

Filing a provisional patent is the first step in protecting your work. Once a provisional patent is filed you have one year to complete the actual patent process or lose your rights.

“Another difficult thing is the people around you - sometimes even your own family, friends or people at church. While you’re working so long on an idea people will start to joke at you about it, laugh at you, not realizing that when you’re pouring your heart into something like that year after year it hurts for people to make a joke of it,” Bell says.

The cotton air harvester is definitely no joke. It is eligible for a patent because it is unlike any other harvester put forth so far. Before moving forward, Bell completed an exhaustive search of cotton harvesting patents going back to the 1800s.

Bell states, “Cotton harvesters can be divided into two groups; stripper harvesters and spindle harvesters. Stripper harvesters strip large amounts of unwanted plant material from the cotton stalks. Spindle harvesters offer better quality harvesting but also strip unwanted material from stalks. Spindle harvesters are one of the most complicated pieces of farm equipment.”

According to Bell, recognizing the problems with spindle and stripper harvesters was the first step in solving the problem.

Bell’s harvester does not require all the extra parts found in current harvesters, things like spindles, doffers, moisten pads, brushes, rotating drums, cutter blades, water, additives or spindle lube. All those things are required by spindle harvesters being used today. Because so many parts are eliminated in the air harvester, not to mention all the water, Bell’s row harvesters are much lighter and more flexible. He is able to group his units closer together with the results being a highly efficient harvest.

A series of cones generate a very high level of vacuum that pulls the cotton from the plant as they pass along side the plant. “We call it a vacuum, but really it’s wind. You have to have incredibly powerful wind to make it work,” says Bell. One of the tricks to it is the genius of realizing how to position the air flow: A simple revelation to perfect a revolutionary invention.

Bell states, “There have been other people to try and use air to harvest, but not in the way I’m doing it. Every step of this was given to me from the Lord. I prayed for sight and understanding from the very beginning and the Lord showed me what to do,” says Bell.

University scientists and industry leaders have all been eager to get a look at Bell’s air harvester. He’s kept it pretty close to the vest up until now, but with the patent pending he’s ready to let the world see the simple beauty of his invention.

To learn more about the Cotton Air Harvester visit:  www.cottonairharvester.com 

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