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Wireless grain drying

Agriculture.com Staff 08/09/2006 @ 10:43am

Harvest logjams and rising commercial drying and storage rates inspired Derry Wright to make the investment of a lifetime in a 750,000-bushel grain system last year.

And while the Richmond, Missouri, farmer appreciates this facility's ample storage ("Now we can keep rolling instead of scrambling around for storage") and speedy processing equipment ("We sure don't sit idle in the field waiting for dryers to catch up"), the best part of his investment is an electronic system that not only monitors grain temperatures in storage but also controls drying.

"The first year in use (last fall), it was set to dry corn down to 15%," Wright recalls. "When we were taking the corn out of the bin, the majority of our loads ran from 14.9% to 15.1%. It is unbelievable how accurate it is."

The "it" Wright refers to starts with a series of six cables hanging down in each of his 48-foot-diameter bins. Temperature sensors are located every 4 feet along the length of each cable. These sensors report the temperature of the grain to a radio transmitter located at each bin, which relays its information to a computer Wright has located in a building next to his weight scales at the grain site.

"Software on the computer operates the fans for natural air drying," Wright explains. "And it determines if supplemental heat is required, which is provided by burners on the bins' fans."

The system Wright installed, sold by IntelliAir (www.intelliair.com), is the cutting edge of management electronics that, in addition to regulating aeration and drying, also monitors grain in storage by automatically operating fans when necessary. "Wright installed our deluxe Pro System, which also reads static pressure, plenum temperatures, as well as grain temperatures," says Todd Sears of IntelliAir, Garden City, Missouri. "We are currently testing sensors to determine moisture content of grain. The system also has the weather station on site that reads outside temperature and relative humidity. It brings that information into the equation."

Harvest logjams and rising commercial drying and storage rates inspired Derry Wright to make the investment of a lifetime in a 750,000-bushel grain system last year.

Information from the weather station and bin sensors is relayed to the site's computer either using cables or radio transmitters with a reach of up to 2 miles. Software on the computer (Wright uses Excel) automatically controls aeration and drying heat to reach targeted storage moisture content. "And it constantly monitors grain alerting me if there is a problem," Wright adds. "I have the computer online so I can check on the bin site from my office at home.

Remote monitoring and control of equipment, such as the system installed by Derry Wright, have been field proven in another area of agriculture requiring remote operation -- center pivot irrigation. Already by the mid-1980s, Valley Irrigation was offering on-off operation of center pivots using handheld radios.

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