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Moving 1 Million Bushels

03/10/2014 @ 12:01pm

Craig Crone faced a challenge over a decade ago. His farm had undergone a growth spurt over the past 20 years (he began with 1,600 acres and expanded to over 21,000 acres). His grain-handling setup had originally been put up in pieces, and Crone faced the problem of how to get grain to the huge assortment of bins and storage buildings scattered about his Englefeld, Saskatchewan, farmstead.  

Crone also wanted a unified system that was simple to operate. His operation, K&C Farms, is run by a four-person crew that includes wife Pam, father Ken, and mother Cathy. “That’s the crew, plus I’ve got a son and daughter who are 11 and 8 years old,” Crone says.

All told, K&C Farms includes storage for approximately 1,250,000 bushels of grain in approximately 90 storage bins scattered in clusters across “at least 15 acres,” he says.

An intensive amount of research, combined with strategizing with manufacturers, created a system utilizing pneumatic grain transfer that is designed so that the K&C Farms crew doesn’t have to touch the grain from the time it’s dumped at harvest until it’s ready to ship.

Grain bin arrangement
The grain bin setup bespeaks a farm that grew steadily over the years by adding bins according to one plan and then another and yet another. 

“In the main old part of the yard, I’ve got a block of fertilizer storage that I use for grain first thing off the combine. There’s 1,700 tons of fertilizer storage,” Crone says.

A second block of bins holding 73,000 bushels is a work in progress. Pneumatic plumbing is in place to add another three bins, which would increase capacity to about 875,000 bushels. The operation’s Farm Fans dryer, legs, pneumatic system, and wet storage bins are located in the center of the yard. 

The third set of bins is a row of 29 bins located east of the dryer. This set has capacity for 300,000 bushels.

The fourth block of bins is north of the dryer and alternates between grain and fertilizer storage. It holds about 30,000 bushels of grain.
Receiving grain
Trucks coming into the yard are unloaded with a set of four Brandt high-capacity 13-inch swing augers that need all 110 feet of reach for the tallest bins. Later, outgoing loads are removed with two Bergen 70-foot self-propelled augers.

Crone and Pam direct harvest traffic, take load samples, monitor bin capacity, keep records, and operate the handling system from a control shed near the dryer. They also use a Palm Pilot to monitor the system when on foot in the yard.

“I know what’s in all those bins as grain is coming in and going out. If I want to fiddle with things, do some mixing or blending, I know what’s in them with a glance at the board,” Crone says.

Crone hires a custom harvester to take off the crop and deliver it. “Usually Pam and I are on the ground here all the time for unloading trucks. Most of the time, two augers can put away the loads coming off of seven combines. I have an extra auger for backup.”
Wet storage
When he needs it, Crone has 160,000 bushels of wet-storage capacity in a row of 18 older bins. “I’ve had them for years. They were on concrete floors. I pulled those off the floors and put them on hoppers with aeration ahead of the dryer,” Crone says. “If the grain has to sit some time before I can get it dried, I keep it in condition by running the fans on it. The smaller bins also give me flexibility. If I see some different grades coming in, I can blend ahead of the dryer to improve the grade.”

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