Trends and New Technologies: Grain Temperature Monitoring

Grain Journal spoke to six grain temperature monitoring system suppliers to see what’s trending and what’s new in the industry.

Gil Garcia |Regional Sales Manager | AGI CMC| St. Louis Park, MN

“There’s a greater need to understand what’s happening in the bin. Temperature cables have been around for 50-plus years, so we’ve had some knowledge of what’s going on, but now customers want to know more, such as the number of bushels in storage, gases caused by insects, decaying grain, or decaying rodents. All of this data can be collected and made available on dashboards. But how can companies use this information? One example is knowing how much grain they can store or purchase.

“Information needs to be able to be accessed remotely and kept extremely secure. Some companies want to own the data and be able to access it remotely. Dealing with IT, creating unique IP addresses behind firewalls, and keeping it secure while providing remote access are just a few of the challenges.

“Traceability of grain from farm to processor is becoming extremely important. There’s a heightened necessity for this traceability back to the source. It’s a huge concern.

“Additional devices are being integrated with cloud-based or web-based platforms to provide information on things like fuel levels and generating automatic tickets. Automating processes are being integrated on platforms with grain temperature and other conditions in the elevator.”

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Scott Chant | President | Safe-Grain/Maxi-Tronic | Loveland, OH

“Everyone wants systems that are cell phone-compatible, so they have multiple means to capture data and access self-generated reports from the system instantly.

“We’re also seeing solar-powered systems for ground storage piles and for places where running line power is difficult or expensive. Solar is low-cost and easy to install by comparison.

“Each cable can have up to 18 sensors, or three cables with six sensors each and one panel. You can put a solar system on top of a tank, connect the panel, and you’re done.

“Use of fan controllers also is c increasing. It provides fan automation without in-person monitoring based on grain temperature conditions. Fans start and stop automatically for automated precision management. We’re also definitely seeing more temperature systems connected to a PLC, so people want PLC-compatible equipment.”

Cole Halbleib | Western Region Sales Manager | EXTRON AgTECT | Minneapolis, MN

“Managers are focusing more on predicting what will happen with their grain and rising carbon dioxide (CO2 ) levels, which can be a leading indicator before temperatures get too hot. This trend has been around for a while, as we have seen managers put CO2 monitors in the head space or along roof exhaust vents.

“The other thing we’re seeing is fan automation with temperature systems that can turn fans on and off based on temperature and/or CO2 levels. Fan automation helps keep grain in condition automatically while reducing electrical and shrink costs that occur when running fans continuously.”

Gregg Knox | President | Rolfes@Boone | Boone, IA

“There haven’t been many new developments the past few years. Everything continues to trend toward wireless temperature cables and readout administration. This does away with a lot of wiring, which is susceptible to moisture damage and other issues.

“We’re seeing systems that have the ability to read analog and digital cables on the same reading system. This is probably the newest trend. There have been issues with this technology, but companies are working to eliminate the bugs. This saves customers money on instrumentation, if they have both types of cables, because they no longer would need two separate monitoring systems.

“Another trend is the ability to read temperatures on mobile devices, particularly cell phones and tablets. This is extremely popular, and most companies are doing it.”

Dan Winkowitsch | President | Tri-States Grain Conditioning Inc. | Spirit Lake, IA

“We’re seeing large equipment manufacturers trying to corner the automation part of the market. These companies want to do temperature monitoring, hazard monitoring, and grain dryers. Total facility management providers want to be a one-stop shop for all their customers’ data needs.

“At the same time, farmers are rebelling against data fees. As these numbers are mounting, there’s counter pressure from end users for commercial operators that don’t want to be put in that corner.

“Technology that reduces labor is a hot commodity, as it’s hard to find good people and keep them. With increased technology, the higher you climb, the further you fall. When advanced technology fails, it fails in a spectacular way. Think of the old AT&T rotary phone compared to today’s cell phone. Only one of these will last for 10 years or longer.

“You go high-tech, you pay maintenance fees forever. It’s a never-ending circle – higher technology, higher fees, and the greater chance of crippling your operation if one link goes out. We’re building an upside-down pyramid, and COVID-19 showed how easy it is to make it wobble.

“People want multiple options to monitor grain temperatures, moisture, CO2, and exhaust fans. Remote-start technology and automation are here to stay, as are higher maintenance fees and more pushback from customers.”

Naeem Zafar |CEO | TeleSense Inc. | San Jose, CA

“The trend is to gather data automatically to make better, more profitable decisions. This trend is emerging over time, as experienced labor is in shorter supply, and one wrong decision can impact potential profits drastically.

“There has been significant progress in wireless sensor technology. With new long-lasting batteries, solar-powered options, and persistent cellular connectivity, we can do things intelligently and remotely.

“Business models also have evolved, and growers now can rent solutions that update and upgrade automatically without having to shell out large sums for a product that may be obsolete in the future. It is similar to a cable subscription where you pay a small fee for the hardware and the services.

“The older method of hanging temperature cables from the bin roof is expensive and unable to detect a hot spot proactively. Often, cables also require manual intervention to capture data. The new trend is to collect data wirelessly, automatically, and persistently. This data is not just about rising temperatures but also increasing CO2 levels and the ability to manage moisture levels inside the bin by monitoring ambient conditions intelligently.

“These new solutions also work with temporary storage structures, such as ground piles, warehouses, silo bags, and even barges in transport.

“With these advances in technology, we can make the grain business more profitable.”

From the July/August 2021 GRAIN JOURNAL

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