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Accurately Measure Grain

Knowing how much grain is flowing in and out of your bin can be a challenge. “Through my experience loading grain trucks on our family farm, I wondered if there was a way to more accurately measure grain when a scale wasn’t available,” says Ryan Augustine.

A 2012 graduate of Iowa State University, the Rose Hill, Iowa, farmer participated in the college’s Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative and discovered a piece of technology he felt could change traditional grain handling. “While looking through a list of licensable technology from Iowa State University for a class project, I came across an X-ray-based measurement concept,” recalls Augustine. “When I saw this technology, I put the two ideas together to develop AccuGrain.”

Originally invented in the mid-1990s by Joe Gray, his business partner and Iowa State University physicist, Augustine says  X-ray technology is not currently being used to measure bushels. He wants AccuGrain to be the first.
How it works
AccuGrain integrates a patented X-ray measurement device with a simple user interface and can essentially be placed into any location with free-flowing grain.

“The device will take several pictures per second of the moving grain and then calculate the viewed mass before converting to bushels,” he explains. “Since AccuGrain is an imaging device, there are no moving parts and in no way will it affect the rate of flow of passing grain. The information – such as flow rate and fill level – is then sent to a computer.”

While many farmers today have several methods of determining the amount of grain they have on-farm, speed and accuracy of the information are two areas that fall short.

“At an estimated .5% to 1% level of accuracy, AccuGrain will be able to give a much more accurate inventory as compared to volumetric calculations or a summary from a combine yield monitor,” notes Augustine.

“Inventory readings from AccuGrain will be instantaneous, so as grain is brought in or taken out, you will always know what is in storage, and you won’t need to accumulate delivery receipts for each load,” he says.

The system will be designed to be as hands-free as possible, allowing multiple users to still operate the grain facility without any need to make changes to the device.

“Simply move grain as usual, and AccuGrain will see where it goes,” he notes.

Binful of benefits
According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, there are 8,783 off-farm grain storage facilities in the U.S. The 2012 Census of Ag revealed that 263,164 U.S. farms have on-farm storage. Whether a setup is new or old, AccuGrain provides benefits for both.

“This system is a more accurate way to load grain trucks without the need for a full truck scale,” he says.

“Another benefit is the ability to confidently market more of the grain in storage. Oftentimes, when marketing grain, you tend to be conservative with the amount of bushels you have on hand so that you don’t overcontract on what may actually be in the bin,” he says.

With AccuGrain, you will be able to accurately determine storage levels and then market accordingly.

“The system will also be able to calculate the bushels per hour being passed through a grain facility, which could be a useful tool when transferring grain to and from a dryer,” he explains.

“While not a key value point, another benefit is the decreased need to climb bins in the fall when filling them.”

Target market
At the onset, the device will be targeted toward grain leg facilities with a wider variety of applications to follow.

“If you decide you could benefit from AccuGrain, the first step will be to make a site assessment to determine what hardware will fit your operation’s requirements,” notes Augustine. “A unit will then be installed and calibrated for that specific location.”

Testing is currently being done on a farm near Brooklyn, Iowa, to refine accuracy and repeatability. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014. Commercial sales will follow sometime in 2015.

Although pricing has not yet been determined, Augustine says there will be a range of cost options, which will depend on the type of usage and the amount of grain to be measured.

“Just like a large machine shed needs more lights than a smaller one, a more powerful X-ray source will be required for grain facilities with higher grain-flow capacities,” he explains.

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Ryan Augustine

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