Add-ons bring convenience and dollars back to your pocket
As you clean bins to make way for a new crop, ask if it’s time to upgrade.
“The No. 1 complaint I hear from customers is they have to follow the sweep [while unloading],” says Nathan Luff of Missouri’s Luffland Industries. Updating a sweep system can improve the efficiency of a bin’s unloading system.
“When you compare grain bin sweeps of 30 years ago to today’s technology, there’s a tremendous difference,” says Gary Woodruff, conditioning application manager and territory manager for GSI. “They do a much better job sweeping than they used to eliminating the need for anyone to enter the bin during operation while giving full control from outside the bin.”
New sweep technology is getting the bins cleaner and reducing the need for farmers to enter the bin and follow the sweep to knock down grain. These improved sweeps are installed in most new bins, but could be added to small and older bins.
Upgrading mechanical systems can offer convenience. At the same time, data and sensor technologies can help you keep an eye on your grain.
Sensor technologies track moisture, temperature and other factors critical to grain quality. “With BinManager, we started with separate temperature and moisture sensors in the cables—now every sensor has both,” says Todd Sears, president of IntelliFarms. Their sensors also include grain movement sensing, as well as CO2 monitoring.
Data is collected and communicated with users, who can see a real-time picture of what their grain bin conditions are and make management decisions. Notifications are sent via text message and email.
Using a fully automated system, fans can be turned on and off to reach the optimal level of dryness, saving energy when air is too humid for fans to do any good.
“Some farmers see 50% energy savings in the first year,” Sears says. “In some cases you can pay for the system in a year.” The savings come from not overusing fans and setting “blackout” hours during times of highest rates.
“The biggest obstruction to zero [farmer] entry is clean-out, inspection and spraying insecticide in the bin,” Woodruff says. “Until robot technology gets here, we won’t have zero entry, but I could see it in the next 15 to 20 years.”
Inspect Grain Bins Before Filling this Fall
It’s devastating to have a full bin and no way to empty it. Broken fans might be replaceable when the bin is full, but broken sweeps and augers can lead to major costs.
“I can’t count the number of times someone has called me and said I can’t get grain out of my bin,” says Gary Woodruff, conditioning application manager and territory manager for GSI.
Inspecting your bin before harvest means detecting issues before they cost you money. The University of Tennessee recommends using the “SLAM” inspection method:
- Sanitation: Ensure the bin is thoroughly cleaned of any leftover grain. Old grain can hold toxins and molds, infecting the new grain. Apply insecticide to help mitigate loss from insect infestation, as well.
- Loading: Check that loading equipment isn’t causing breakage and trash. Inspect unloading equipment now, when you can fix it.
- Aeration: Make sure fans and any sensor or automated systems are in good working condition so you can optimize grain quality from the start of the season.
- Monitoring: Make sure your systems are accurate; check for crusting and other signs of spoilage and have a plan in place should something go wrong.