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Automated grain management offers peace-of-mind, energy savings

It's easy to say you'd never make a grain storage mistake, such as forgetting to shut off bin fans during a rain.

In the heat of battle, though, it's another story. Fields to plant or spray can divert your attention from checking and monitoring stored grain. In the meantime, fans running during rain can suck moisture into bins and create a spoilage scenario.

That concern is dashed with the automated Integris Advanced Grain Management system, says Bruce Scott, Integris Chief Operating Officer.

"With this system, you can get peace of mind knowing what is happening inside the bin," he says. "Our system automatically monitors temperature and aeration."

Scott says Integris bases its system on three trends:

  • Increased on-farm storage
  • Larger on-farm storage
  • Longer storage periods

"When we looked at those three trends, we realized the old customer practices of managing stored grain no longer work today," says Scott. "If 5,000 or 10,000 bushels in storage started to go bad, you could smell it. With 50,000 or 100,000 bushels of corn, you can have quite a bit of spoilage by the time you smell or detect it."

That possibility always bothered Bob Weiland when he’d manually aerate his grain. "About every two weeks, I'd get up on top of the bin, check it, and wonder if it would be okay the next time," says the Laura, Illinois, farmer who installed the Integris system for his 590,000 bushel storage system. "This system gives me peace of mind that everything is OK in those bins. This system controls the fans and turns them on only when it’s beneficial for the grain."

Bruce Scott of Integris talks about the company's grain bin monitoring system and some of the problems it helps avoid (video by Gil Gullickson).

There's a cost for all this, though. System cost for a 100,000 bushel system ranges from 15 to 20 cents per bushel, says Scott. Cost for 1 million bushel-plus systems is between 3 to 4 cents per bushel.

The system's optimum fan control can help system payback in two ways, says Scott. It prevents overdrying. Dry corn destined for storage less than 6 months below 15% moisture down to 14% moisture, and you can short yourself 1% of your corn crop.

"If a customer brought in grain from a field at 18% moisture and 80 degrees and wanted to bring it down to 15% moisture and 80 degrees, our system would turn on fans when the right air conditions and the right equilibrium occurred," says Scott. "With this system, you can get an 80% reduction in fan time."

That also transfers into energy savings.

"At first, there seems to be a lot of cost, but when you start calculating bushels, the payback is extremely fast," says Weiland. "The savings through using less electricity and only running fans when necessary are tremendous."

Scott adds that in Iowa, farmers can qualify for an energy rebate program from Alliant Energy that can rebate up to 25% of the initial system cost.

It's easy to say you'd never make a grain storage mistake, such as forgetting to shut off bin fans during a rain.

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