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Babysitting grain

Agriculture.com Staff 07/16/2009 @ 1:16pm

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."

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.

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