Moultrie Observer

Local News

September 1, 2012

Billy Willeby's Cotton Saver now in production

Coolidge inventor teams with Morven manufacturer

MORVEN — Billy “Wild Billl” Willeby is back. The inventor has put into production a piece of cotton picking equipment he first introduced 16 years ago.

The Coolidge man has 59 inventions notched in his belt but it is the NuWay Cotton Saver that has been brought back to life. With a new manufacturer and only slight modifications, what originally was called the Boll Saver is now available to growers who want to leave less cotton in the field and have a better grade at the gin.

Willeby had grown 300 acres of cotton in the 1990s and had been a mechanic in cotton gins, but one day on a tractor his idea to prevent cotton from being left in the row came to him.

The Cotton Saver costs $144 per row and could net farmers an additional bale of cotton every 30 acres depending on ground conditions, Willeby said. That cost is down $200 from 16 years ago with the only design change being a switch from metal to polymer parts.

The whole idea is to create a cushion of air under the cotton that lifts cotton into the picker and also separates “pepper trash,” which is dried debris that drives down the grade of cotton at the gin, Willeby said. The device mounts on the pickers’ heads.

 In 1994 the original production of the equipment was being sold through John Deere and Case Manufacturing and was on display at the Sunbelt Expo. But the original manufacturer died and Willeby was wrapped up in road maintenance work in Florida. The economy sank and Willeby decided he had had enough of that work.

 “I’m just getting back into it. I’ve been busy. I just turned 74 years old and reallized I might have 74 more to go,” Willeby said. “I’ve always thought positive and even in the darkest times I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

 The refocusing involves Alternate Energy of Morven, the new manufacturer and distributor of the Cotton Saver.

 Alternate Energy partner Irvin Lawson of Morven met Willeby in March and hired him to help at his peach packing facility.

 “He started spitting out ideas,” said Lawson, adding that Willeby is working on a device to make boxing of the peaches a faster process.

Willeby’s inventions range from a cabbage picker to a commode for the hanciapped and from a fishing lure to a safety slide that prevents a tractor from overturning, He said his Redneck Seafood Cooler, which is an onboard unit for fishiing boats, is now being sold and is being used on oyster boats.

 “It all started when I was 5 years old with a pair of pliers, a screwdriver and some hay wire. Then I graduated to a Crescent wrench,” Wileby said. “I figured at my age the world could use this stuff. Things just come to me, and you can’t overload a mind.”

 For the farmer Willeby has designed a firefighing unit for pickers and a cotton roller for which he has produced a prototype and which should be available next year. The roller has been tested at an experimental station in Quincy, Fla.

 He also is working with the Vidalia Onion Commission on an onion harvester and has designed a watermelon harvester and equipment to cut pigweed.

 The Cotton Saver is already in use in South Georgia fields.

 “It’s just the kind of help farmers need,” Lawson said, “There’s no limit to it and only the future can tell.”


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