Here's a tricky question? How's your grain?
You spent all last summer watching it, tending it, and then you harvested it and perhaps moved it into storage. And while storage can be a super way to manage risk with that crop - allowing you to hold it until a mid-winter price rise - what condition is it in right now?
Just sat through a presentation this week with folks from Integris USA LLC, the new U.S. operation for OPIsystems, a Canadian company that has made a name for itself in grain monitoring and control systems. OPI has been marketing its products south of the Canadian border, but now it's getting serious.
Integris will promote the digital grain monitoring systems for what the company is calling Advanced Grain Management. Pretty interesting stuff too. They use digital temperature sensors contained in sheaths installed vertically in bins.
Each sheath of sensors monitors a 10-foot radius in a bin - so there can be a lot of these strings of sensors hanging into a stored grain crop. Once installed, these sensors report for duty and offer up the information needed for the company's StorMax system to monitor the grain.
Interestingly, a recent software update even allows the system - using the same temperature sensors - to sense the grain level in the bin. "We just delete the sensor data from empty parts of the bin," says Bruce Scott, COO for Integris. "That gives us a solid approximation of the grain level." An empty bin has wide temperature fluctuations, which the sensors measure. Deleting the data from those sensors experiencing the temperature fluctuations allows the system to show grain levels.
This is the kind of data that digital monitoring can offer.
Perhaps the first hurdle to clear, for farmers, is just how you're managing grain now? Focus groups Integris conducted last fall show that farmers know this is an area where they need to do a better. Just trusting your nose, and the regular "bin walk" may not be enough anymore.
Grain storage bins have been popping up like mushrooms after a rain for the last three years - despite high steel prices. And that's a smart management purchase.
However, changing demands in the end-user market will be putting pressure on farmers regarding the quality of the grain that comes back out of those bins. Capabilities that Integris offers with it's all-in-one system (the computer is even included on the larger setups) may bring answers.
You can learn more by visiting www.IntegrisUSA.com. I'll have more information about the system and what it offers in a future print installment of Farmer Iron, including a conversation with Scott. In the meantime, you could let me know what you think of grain monitoring, and how you might put a full-fledged monitoring system to work on your operation. Are you leaving cash in the bin with your grain management techniques?
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