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Babysitting grain

Denny Eilers
Successful Farming magazine Contributing Editor

To create the longest possible shelf life for their grain,
Grigsby Farms has turned to a completely automated system as "an insurance
policy for our 1.1 million bushels in storage," says Randy Leka, farm
manager for the Tullula, Illinois, operation.

Besides taking the guesswork out of determining grain
condition, the OPIsystems technology that Grigsby Farms utilizes can be
accessed wirelessly. This allows Leka to check on the grain from the field or
road. The system has also allowed Grigsby Farms to use natural air to finish
drying grain, thus reducing fuel costs.

The automated system tracks moisture and temperature in each
bin from sensors suspended from wires. This information is transmitted to a
farm computer where it's analyzed. Programs can automatically turn on fans at
the most optimum ambient air to keep grain at preset target moisture and
temperature goals.

Moisture and temperature sensors are placed in each grain
bin, depending on bin size. A 50,000-bushel bin, for example, may have four or
six cables stretching from its ceiling to within 6 inches of the floor, with
about eight sensors spaced evenly along each length of cable. A remote terminal
unit goes on top of the bin to collect data from sensors and to transmit it by wireless
to a desktop computer in the scale house. A weather station at the bin site
monitors ambient air temperature and relative humidity. A desktop computer
analyzes all data and uses preset moisture and temperature target goals for
each bin.

"How you treat grain up front determines shelf life
down the road," Leka notes. "Cool it down as quick as you can (after
harvest). After that, constantly manage moisture and temperature levels. This
system does that more reliably than I can."

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