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Title:
LOOSE EGG TRANSPORT MODULE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2007/087692
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An egg transport module receives the daily egg production from a shed and stores it under refrigerated conditions. The module may be lifted by a forklift (see slots 12) or moved on wheels (11). Loose eggs are loaded onto conveyor belts carried by shelves (2) by a loader/unloader (not shown), the head of which, is moved vertically to access different shelves (2). When aligned, a gear on the loader head engages gear (6) of a conveyor of respective shelf (2) and eggs are carried onto somewhat upwardly sloping shelf (2). After loading with eggs, shelves (2), which consist of four articulated pans, may be made to adopt a shallow W-configuration, by turning handle (16) to operate cables (19) to move the mounting points of pans along post slides (15), causing loose eggs to nest at the lowermost regions thereof.

Inventors:
SMITH, Colin, James (Lot 3, Peachester Road Beerwah, Queensland 4519, AU)
SMITH, Christine, Anne (Lot 3, Peachester Road Beerwah, Queensland 4519, AU)
Application Number:
AU2007/000428
Publication Date:
August 09, 2007
Filing Date:
April 02, 2007
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
SMITH, Colin, James (Lot 3, Peachester Road Beerwah, Queensland 4519, AU)
SMITH, Christine, Anne (Lot 3, Peachester Road Beerwah, Queensland 4519, AU)
International Classes:
A01K43/00; B65D19/02; B65G67/08
Foreign References:
US4620504A
US6655897B1
US4020793A
EP0603140A1
AU2007000114A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FISHER, Adams, Kelly (Level 29, Comalco Place 12 Creek Stree, Brisbane QLD 4000, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:

The claims defining the invention are as follows: 1. An egg transport module including: a main frame; a plurality of vertically-spaced shelves supported by the main frame, each shelf having an egg entry end; a respective movable belt or mat on each shelf, operable to move the eggs to and/or from the egg entry end to at least one storage zone on the shelf; and respective drive means to operably move each belt or mat. 2. A module as claimed in Claim 1, wherein: the main frame is rectangular in plan view, and has a base frame with four posts, at or adjacent the respective corners, which support a top frame.

3. A module as claimed in Claim 2, wherein: the base frame is supported on wheels and incorporates slots to receive the forks of forklifts or other materials handling vehicles.

4. A module as claimed in Claim 3, wherein: the wheels are retractable, to allow the base frame to rest on anti-vibration pads or blocks during transport. 5. A module as claimed in any one of Claims 1 to 4, wherein: each shelf is upwardly inclined at less than 10°, optionally less than 5°, from the egg entry end, to prevent eggs rolling ahead and cracking during filling; ad is provided with stop means at a distal end thereof. 6. A module as claimed in Claim 5, wherein:

each shelf comprises a plurality of panels, hingedly connected together transversely to the longitudinal axis of the shelves, the ends of adjacent panels being supported in base support channels and are retained by pin(s). 7. A module as claimed in Claim 6, wherein: at least one set of vertically aligned base support channels are mounted on a pair of post slides, slidably mounted on intermediate posts interconnecting the base frame and the top frame, to enable the shelves to be selectively moved to form at least one substantially shallow V-shape storage zone, to nest the eggs together when the module is being transported.

8. A module as claimed in any one of Claims 1 to 7, wherein: the panels comprise welded mesh panels, which are overlaid with stationary secondary panels of plastic or metal, which are positioned between the panels and the band or mat, to prevent egg leakage through to the lower shelves.

9. A module as claimed in Claim 8, wherein: each band or mat is perforated to allow air flow through to the eggs and to allow drainage if a broken egg occurs. 10. A module as claimed in Claim 9, wherein: the band or mat is manufactured from rubber and/or plastic sheet, or metal or plastics rods or mesh. 11. A module as claimed in any one of Claims 1 to 10 .wherein: each band or mat passes around a head roller, at or adjacent

the entry end for the shelf, and a tail roller, adjacent the distal end of the shelf, the tail roller being rotatably journalled in spring-mounted supports which enable a pre-set tension to be maintained in the band or mat.

12. A module as claimed in Claim 11 , wherein: the head roller is operably connected to a driven gear which is engaged by a driving gear on an egg loader, when eggs are being transferred to the shelf; and by a similar driven gear on the egg unloader when the eggs are to be unloaded from the shelf.

13. A module as claimed in any one of Claims 1 to 12, wherein: the modules are provided with side end thermally-insulated curtains, doors and/or walls; and optionally a refrigeration unit is mounted (on the top frame) to provide cooling air to maintain the eggs within a preferred temperature range while stored on the transport modules.

Description:

LOOSE EGG TRANSPORT MODULE

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention

THIS INVENTION relates to an egg transport module for the transport of loose eggs between different locations.

The invention also relates to an egg loader for loading eggs onto the transport module; an egg unloader for receiving eggs from the transport module; and an egg transport system incorporating the transport modules, egg loader and egg unloader. 2. Prior Art

Within the poultry industry today, excepting battery production, there is an increasing move away from the hand gathering of eggs towards automated egg collection. This means that the eggs are automatically removed from the laying nests and conveyed to the front of the sheds for packing. Examples of egg harvesters suitable for such automated egg collection are disclosed in International Publication WO 92/20222 (= US 5,562,067) (Smith) and International Publication WO 02/091819 (Smith).

Packing is usually performed by manual labour, standing at a packing table and sorting, and positioning, the eggs into trays, ready for removal from the sheds.

In limited instances, the eggs are conveyed beyond the shed(s) - sometimes more than 100 metres - by a specialised "anaconda"-type conveyor system, to a central grading area, where they are mechanically graded and packed onto trays by automated farm packer machines. This

provides an almost totally automated system with minimal labour requirements. These conveyors have only been partly accepted by the industry, as an option to manual packing and moving. There are numerous reasons for this: 1) these systems are expensive over long distances;

2) the conveyors are obtrusive in layout to key access areas on farms and/or;

3) the eggs can be exposed to severe temperatures during the slow journey to the packing area, which is totally unacceptable to both commercial table eggs and the more valuable fertile breeder eggs.

SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide an egg transport module which provides an effective means for collecting, storage and/or transport of loose eggs, eg., from an automated egg collection system to a central grading/packing area.

It is a preferred object to provide such transport modules where the modules are refrigerated to ensure the eggs are safely stored during the collection/storage/transport modules.

It is a further preferred object to provide such transport modules which are easily transported, over even large distances, where the size of the modules is designed around standard trucking dimensions.

It is a still further preferred object of the present invention to provide such transport modules which are fitted with anti-vibration cushioning devices for transport, and where the shelves are oriented to nest the eggs

together, thus minimising cracking, when in the transport mode.

It is a still further preferred object of the present invention to provide an egg loader suitable for use with the transport modules.

It is a still further preferred object of the present invention to provide an egg unloader to unload the eggs from the transport modules.

It is a still further preferred object to provide an egg transport system incorporating the transport modules, egg loader and egg unloader.

In one aspect, the present invention resides in an egg transport module including: a main frame; a plurality of vertically-spaced shelves supported by the main frame, each shelf having an egg entry end; a respective movable belt or mat on each shelf, operable to move the eggs to and/or from the egg entry end to at least one storage zone on the shelf; and respective drive means to operably move each belt or mat.

Preferably, the main frame is rectangular (eg., square) in plan view with external dimensions which do not exceed standard trucking dimensions, eg., for length, width or height. Preferably, the main frame has a base frame with four posts

(preferably at or adjacent the respective corners) which support a top frame.

Preferably, the base frame is supported on wheels (eg., castor wheels), and may incorporate slots to receive the forks of forklifts or other materials handling vehicles. The wheels may be retractable, to allow the

base frame to rest on anti-vibration pads or blocks during transport.

Preferably, each shelf is upwardly inclined, eg., at less than 10°, more preferably less than 5°, from the egg entry end, to prevent eggs rolling ahead and cracking during filling; and is provided with stop means at a distal end thereof.

Preferably, each shelf comprises a plurality of panels, hingedly connected together transversely to the longitudinal axis of the shelves.

Preferably, the ends of adjacent panels are supported in base support channels and are retained by pin(s). Preferably, at least one set of vertically aligned base support channels are mounted on a pair of post slides, slidably mounted on intermediate post interconnecting the base frame and the top frame, to enable the shelves to be selectively moved to form at least one substantially shallow V-shape storage zone, to nest the eggs together when the module is being transported.

Preferably, the panels comprise welded mesh panels, which are overlaid with stationery secondary panels of plastic (or metal), which are positioned between the panels and the band or mat, to prevent egg leakage through to lower shelves. Preferably, each band or mat is perforated to allow air flow through to the eggs and to allow drainage if a broken egg occurs.

The band or mat may be manufactured from rubber and/or plastic sheet or metal (eg., steel or aluminium) or plastics rods or mesh.

Preferably, each band or mat passes around a head roller, at or

adjacent the entry end for the shelf, and a tail roller, adjacent the distal end of the shelf. Preferably, the tail roller is rotatably journalled in spring- mounted supports which enable a pre-set tension to be maintained in the band or mat. Preferably, the head roller is operably connected to a driven gear which is engaged by a driving gear on an egg loader, when eggs are being transferred to the shelf; and by a similar driven gear on the egg unloader when the eggs are to be unloaded from the shelf.

Preferably, the modules are provided with side and end thermally-insulated curtains, doors and/or walls; and preferably, a refrigeration unit is mounted (preferably on the top frame) to provide cooling air to maintain the eggs within a preferred temperature range while stored on the transport modules.

In a second aspect, the present invention resides in an egg loader, suitable for use with the egg transport module hereinbefore described, the egg loader including: a docking station having an external frame; a loading head movable vertically up and down the external frame to access different shelf levels on a transport module when located at the docking station; a conveyor on the loading head having a discharge end arranged to be located adjacent the egg entry end of a selected shelf of the transport module located at the docking station and an inlet end spaced therefrom;

a connecting conveyor operable to transfer eggs from a collection station to the inlet end of the platform conveyor; and respective drive means for the platform conveyor and the connecting conveyor, so arranged that: eggs are transportable from a collection station along the connecting conveyor and the platform conveyor to the egg entry ends of the selected shelves on the transport module.

Preferably, the drive means for the platform conveyor incorporates a driving gear operable to engage the driven gear of the respective shelf of the transport module with which it is adjacent.

Preferably, the platform conveyor is mounted on a horizontal support frame on the loading head, to enable retraction away from the transport module when the loading head is moved vertically for selective alignment of the platform conveyor with the shelves of the transport module. Preferably, a connecting bridge is provided between the platform conveyor and the adjacent shelf in the transport module, the platform bridge being raised when the platform conveyor is retracted to prevent eggs rolling forward from the platform conveyor.

Preferably, the connecting conveyor is hingedly mounted between the collection station and the inlet end of the platform conveyor; and preferably, the connecting conveyor is telescopically extendable to facilitate the vertical movement of the loading head to different levels in the docking station.

Preferably, the connecting conveyor has transverse rods or

bars to prevent the eggs rolling down the inclined top run of the connecting conveyor.

Preferably, a convergent chute is provided on the platform conveyor, and is hingedly mounted to "sweep" transversely across the platform conveyor, to distribute the eggs evenly across the entire width of the platform conveyor, to enable the maximum number of eggs to be conveyed to each shelf of the transport module.

In a third aspect, the present invention resides in an egg module unloader which is substantially identical to the egg loader as hereinbefore described, but omitting the chute; and where the platform conveyor receives the eggs from the egg entry end of the respective shelves of the module and the connecting conveyor conveys the eggs to a packing and/or grading station (or the like).

Other preferred features of the present invention will become apparent from the following description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

To enable the invention to be fully understood, a preferred embodiment will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings in which: FIG. 1 is a schematic sectional side view of an egg transport module, in accordance with the present invention, in the filling mode;

FIG. 2 is a similar view of the module, in the transport mode;

FIG. 3 is a similar view, on an enlarged scale, of the front section of one shelf or the transport module;

FIG. 4 is a similar view of the back section of one shelf;

FIG. 5 is a schematic side view of the egg loader; and

FIG. 6 is a similar view, on an enlarged scale, of the platform conveyor of the egg loader. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE

PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, the egg transport module 1 is rectangular in plan view and is preferably of sufficient size to accommodate a full day of production from a single shed. The size is. partly determined by transport requirements, preferably not exceeding standard length/width/ height limits for transportable containers and preferably has a floor area equalling a multiple of standard pallet sizes.

The transport module 1 has a base frame 30 and a top frame 31 interconnected by corner posts 32. The base frame 30 is provided with castor-type wheels 11 for ease of movement, as well as the provision of slots 12, to enable engagement of the forks of forklifts or other materials handling vehicles for safe transport. The wheels 11 are mounted on anti-vibration mounts 13 to assist against cracking the eggs contained in the transport module; and retraction of the wheels 11 allows the module 1 to rest on anti-vibration pads 14, on the base frame 30, when the transport module 1 is in the transport mode.

Vertically-spaced shelves 2 are upwardly-inclined, eg., at less than 5°, from an egg entry end 33 of the transport module 1 to a distal end

34 where the shelves 2 are provided with stops (not shown) which prevent the eggs from passing over the distal ends 34 of the shelves 2.

As shown in more detail in FIGS. 3 and 4, the shelves 2 each comprise four welded mesh panels 3, carried between respective base support channels 4 and retained therein by pins 5. The top runs 7A of continuous belts or mats 7 are supported by stationary plastic panels 8, interposed between the upper runs 7A of the mats 7 and the welded mesh panels 3, to prevent egg leakage through to lower shelf levels.

The mats 7 are perforated to allow air flow through to the eggs and to allow drainage if a broken egg occurs, and may be designed from rubber or plastic sheet or metal, eg., steel, or plastic rods or mesh.

The mats 7 pass around a head roller 40 which is connected through to a driven gear 6 (for the purpose to be hereinafter described); and around a tail roller 41 , which is provided with axles (not shown) received in slots 42 and urged towards the distal ends 34 of the shelves 2 by compression springs or blocks (also not shown) to maintain a desired tension on the mats 7. The lower runs 7B of the mats 7 are supported by spaced transverse rods or bars 29 (preferably mounted below respective base support channels 4). If necessary, the tail rollers 41 may be mounted on mechanical supports, movable, eg., in the horizontal plane, to provide sufficient travel to enable the tail rollers 41 to maintain the tension in the mats 7 as the shelves 2 are reconfigured between the filling and transport modes.

The front and rear base support channels 4, and the central

base support channels 4, are fixed on the corner posts 32, and central side post 35, respectively.

The intermediate base support channels 4 are mounted on post slides 15, slidably mounted on intermediate posts connecting the base frame 30 and top frame 31. A rotating handle 16 operates through a small gearbox 17 to rotate shaft 18. Attached to the shaft 18 are stainless steel cables 19, connected over pulleys 20, and to the post slides 15 to enable the configuration of the shelves 2 to be changed from the substantially planar arrangement shown in the filling mode of FIG. 1 to the substantially shallow W-shape (formed by two substantially shallow V-shapes), to cause the loose eggs to nest in the two lowermost portions of the shelves 2, in the transport mode shown in FIG. 2. (It will be noted that the tail rollers 41 move relative to the slots 42 to accommodate the effective increase in length in the shelves 2 in the transport mode.) The respective driven gears 6 on the mats 7 of the shelves 2 are selectively engageable by a driving gear (to be hereinafter described) on the egg loader, or on the egg unloader, to enable the mats 7 to be moved to charge the shelves 2 with eggs or to discharge the eggs from the shelves 2, as required. The transport module 1 is enclosed with a covering on all sides, top and bottom, to provide an airtight fit. The covering may be of a heavy fabric insulated material on the four sides, possibly with VELCRO (trade mark) attachment; a metal floor; and a fibreglass, plastic or metal top wall. Alternatively, the side and end walls may be manufactured from

insulated panels, with an opening door or panel at the egg entry end 33, when the transport module 1 is engaged with the egg loader or egg loader, to be hereinafter described.

The transport module 1 is designed for high pressure washing and thorough cleaning, and preferably incorporates plastic bearings, a galvanised or powder-coated frame, stainless steel fittings and food-quality plastic or steel mats 7.

The transport module 1 is provided with a refrigeration unit 9, mounted on the top frame 31 , to chill and maintain the eggs at a required temperature and cool air from the refrigeration unit 9 is delivered through a manifold 10 at the distal end 34 of the module 12 of the shelves 2.

As hereinbefore described, the shelves 2 are upwardly-inclined, eg., at less than 5° from the egg entry end 33 to the distal end 34, to prevent eggs rolling ahead and cracking during filling. A transverse stop member (not shown) extends across the top run of each mat 7 adjacent the head rollers 40, when the mat 7 has been advanced to completely fill the respective shelf 2 with eggs. The stop member prevents the eggs being inadvertently released from the shelf 2 when the loading head (to be hereinafter described) of the egg loader, or corresponding unloading head of the egg unloader, is moved out of alignment with the shelf 2.

In addition, sensors (not shown) at the stops adjacent the distal end 34 will shut off the supply of eggs to the shelf 2 by the egg loader when the shelf 2 has become fully loaded.

Preferably, the egg entry end 33 of the transport module 1

and/or the adjacent docking station (to be hereinafter described) of the egg loader or egg unloader, will be provided with sealing means to provide a thermally-insulating seal between the transport module 1 and the egg loader or egg unloader when the transport module 1 is being filled with, or emptied of, the eggs.

Referring to FIGS. 5 and 6, the egg unloader 50 has a docking station 51 comprising an external frame 21 of two upright posts, higher than the transport modules 1 , connected across the top, mounted to the floor and braced diagonally by diagonal braces 52 back to the floor beside the positioned transport module 1.

The docking station 51 has a loading head 53 which moves vertically up and down the external frame 21 to access different shelves 2 on a transport module 1 received at the docking station 51.

The loading head 53 has a platform conveyor 22 of width equal to the width of the transport module 1.

The platform conveyor 22 is mounted on a horizontal support frame 54 (having a pair of inverted channel section arms 55) on the loading head 53, by pairs of rollers 55 which enable the platform conveyor 22 to be advanced towards the transport module 1 when eggs are being supplied to a shelf 2 of the transport module 1 ; or to be retracted, eg., 70mm, when the loading head 51 is moved vertically to enable the platform conveyor 22 to be brought into alignment with another of the shelves 2 of the transport module 1.

The platform conveyor 22 may be moved relative to the

horizontal support frame 54, and thereby the shelves 2 of the transport modules, by an actuator (not shown) interconnecting the platform conveyor 22 to the horizontal support frame 54.

A suitable drive motor (not shown) on the frame 56 of the platform conveyor 22 selectively drives a gear 57 which advances the top run 58 of the platform conveyor 22 to advance the eggs to the adjacent shelves 2 of the transport module 1. A driving gear 25 on the platform conveyor 22 engages the adjacent gear 6 on the aligned shelf 2 to enable the platform conveyor 22 to drive the mat 7 of the aligned shelf 2 in unison, to advance the eggs up the inclined shelf 2. Pinch rollers 26 on the platform conveyor 22 pinch the mat 7 to its respective head rollers 40 to ensure positive drive of the mat 7 by the head roller 40. (Preferably, the pinch rollers 26 are also driven at an indexed speed to the driving gear 25, to match the speed of the adjacent head rollers 40 and mats 7.) The eggs are supplied to the platform conveyor 22 from a packing shed table egg conveyor 23, via connecting conveyor 24, which is hingedly mounted between the packing table 23 and the front edge of the platform conveyor 22.

Connecting conveyor 24 is extendible telescopically to facilitate the vertical movement of the loading head 51 to different levels up the external frame 21 , enabling the platform conveyor 22 to be brought into alignment with selected shelves 2 of the transport module 1 in the docking station 51. Preferably, the connecting conveyor 24 has a plurality of transverse rods or bars 59 which ensure that the eggs will not roll down the

inclined top run of the connecting conveyor 24.

A convergent chute 27 is pivotally mounted on the frame 56 of the platform conveyor 22, and is provided with an actuator (not shown) to cause the convergent, downstream end, of the chute 27 to be swept transversely across the top run 58 of the platform conveyor 22 so that eggs are distributed across the full width of the top run 58 of the platform conveyor 22 and thereby across the full width of the adjacent shelf 2 of the transport module 1. The convergent chute 27 may be raised to sweep transversely to the top run 58 of the platform conveyor 22 by a mechanical cam device (not shown) driven by drive gear 57.

A connecting bridge (not shown) transfers the eggs from the platform conveyor 22 to the adjacent egg entry end 33 of the shelf 2 in the transport module 1. It bridges the gap formed by the radius of the two opposing rollers 26, 40; and when the loading head 53 is withdrawn, a small actuator (not shown) tilts the connecting bridge upwards to retain the eggs still on the platform conveyor 22 until the loading head 53 is brought into alignment with the next shelf 2 on the transport module 1 and the platform conveyor 22 is advanced to engage the driving roller 25 with the driven roller 6 of that shelf 2. In an embodiment where the platform conveyor 22 is advanced/retracted by an actuator, the bridge connection may be tilted by a mechanical connection to the platform conveyor 22.

The construction of the egg unloader is substantially identical to that as hereinbefore described for the egg loader 50, except that the chute

27 is omitted from the platform conveyor 22.

All functions of the system can be controlled by a suitable programmable logic controller, eg., personal computer; and micro-switches can provide the necessary sensors to ensure, eg., accurate alignment of the loading head 53 of the egg loader/unloading head of the egg unloader with the respective shelves 2 of the transport module 1 when engaged in the docking station 51 of the egg loader or egg unloader.

With this system in operation, eggs are fed directly from the shed conveyor 23 onto the extendible connecting conveyor 24, and sensor paddles (not shown) will temporarily stop the shed conveyor 23 if overload is sensed at this point. Eggs continue to the chute 27 on the platform conveyor 22, where the chute 27 also has overload sensing paddles at each side, to halt the in-flow of eggs when necessary.

The eggs in the chute 27 are resting on the top run 58 of the platform conveyor 22, where they are moved towards the egg entry end 33 of the aligned shelf 2 of the transport module 1. Positioned on the sides of the platform conveyor 22, near the entrance, are also sensor paddles. When both of these paddles are activated, indicating eggs are full across the face of the shelf, due to the action of the chute 27, then the driving gear 25 will operate the driven gear 6 to drive the mat 7 of the shelf 2 a small distance to allow further eggs to feed onto the shelf 2. This process continues until the shelf 2 is filled to the back of the transport module 1. A sensor will indicate this and all the conveyors will stop. The platform conveyor 22 will be retracted, the loading head 53 will move to alignment with another shelf 2 in

the transport module 1 , to start a new cycle.

When all the shelves 2 of the transport module 1 have been filled, or a time desired for effective system management, eg., at the end of the laying period, the transport module 1 is disconnected from the docking station 51 of the egg loader 50 and the transport module 1 can be moved to the packing area for downloading at the end of the day. The eggs are removed from the shelves 2 of the transport module by the egg unloader, in a reverse operation.

Depending on the distance between the shed conveyor and the packing and/or grading station, the transport module 1 may be wheeled on its wheels 11; may be transported via a forklift or other materials handling vehicle, or may be mounted in/on a vehicle, e.g., a refrigerated van for transport between the two locations.

While eggs are received within the transport module 1 , the refrigeration unit, blowing cool air over the eggs, ensures that the eggs are maintained within a desired temperature range. Advantages of the system include:

1 ) eggs are constantly removed from the shed throughout the day and placed into the transport module to allow flexible collection of the eggs from the nesting boxes;

2) the transport modules are refrigerated, so that once in the transport module, the eggs are safely stored under controlled climatic conditions until such time as they can be downloaded, which best suits farm management processes (typically, farm staff are busiest during mornings

when most eggs are being laid - with the eggs simply accumulating in the transport module, they are protected until quieter periods of the day when they can be downloaded);

3) the transport modules are easily transported by various methods such as forklifts, trailers, trucks with tailgate loaders, pallet jacks or manual pushing (depending on distance and farm lay-outs);

4) the size of the transport modules is designed around standard trucking dimensions;

5) the distance from the laying sheds to the farm packer is of no real importance;

6) multiple farms may even share a farm packer at a central packing station;

7) the modules are fitted with anti-vibration cushioning devices for transport; 8) for transporting, the shelves are oriented to the transport mode, which nests the eggs together, thus minimising cracking;

9) the transport modules are automatically downloaded to the farm packer with minimum labour; and

10) the egg laying collection within the sheds continues while the

transport modules are away being unloaded.

When combined with the automatic collection system for the eggs in the sheds, the transport modules, and the overall system hereinbefore described, enables extremely efficient, safe handling of the loose eggs with minimum manual labour input.

Various changes and modifications may be made to the embodiments described and illustrated without departing from the present invention.