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Family farm increases revenue with new grain processing plant

Investing in improvements to the productivity and efficiency of their grain handling process proved essential for the Hobsons, who farm in Co Meath.

David Hobson (right) farms with his brother Robert and father John. 

Working with BDC Systems Ltd and its partner Irish Grain Handling Services Ltd (IGHS) the Hobson family successfully completed phase three of the development of their high-tech grain cleaning, drying and storage plant in time to provide additional revenue around harvest 2021.

The Hobsons farm 570ha of arable cropping: winter wheat, rye, milling oats and oil seed rape, spring barley, beans and camelina, and herbal leys at Warrenstown Farm, Co Meath.

“Previous wet harvests and no control over green grain prices, meant that investment to improve productivity and efficiency of our grain handling process was imperative. A grain dryer was essential,” said David Hobson who farms at Warrenstown with his father John and brother Robert.

The Hobsons engaged with IGHS and BDC Systems on the design of the first phase of the new plant because of the proven reputation of both companies for the successful design and installation of grain processing plants.

Phase one had at its core a 27tph Svegma continuous flow drier, a Soby aspirating pre-cleaner and a Zanin rotating drum cleaner, all housed in a specially constructed building.

Grain is fed into the plant via a Skandia curved intake chain and flight conveyor with a six-metre intake set almost 1.5m below the level of the tipping trailers to provide ample wet grain intake capacity and pre-drier storage.

From the intake, grain is sent directly to the Soby aspirating pre-cleaner via a belt and bucket 60tph Skandia elevator to remove any light dust and chaff.

The operation of the plant is designed to provide options around how the grain is handled, before being transported to the grain store via a Cimbria 30m long belt conveyor.

From the Soby pre-cleaner, grain can be sent directly to the grain store or sent to the Zanin drum cleaner and then to the Svegma drier. Alternatively, grain can be cleaned only or dried only. Dried grain not reaching the required moisture content can be returned to the Svegma drier, which can also be deployed as a batch drier.

Whichever route the grain takes, manual valves on the outlets of the Soby pre-cleaner and discharge conveyors are fitted with micro switches that tell the plant’s control system where the grain is to go; it is transported along the correct route via five x Skandia 60tph I-Line conveyors and three x 60tph I-Line elevators.

Svemga drier and Skandia handling equipment during installation of phase one.

“The Svegma drier is crucial to our business. It has allowed us to increase our contract storage business, which includes working with multiple grain merchants in the east of Ireland and storing and handling imported feed material for grain traders. It has opened up avenues for us to market grain to our customers,” explained Mr Hobson. “Most of the grain that we handle is sold either directly to pig and poultry users or to feed mills for the manufacturing of feed rations for livestock farmers.

“We have also been able to open up new revenue streams with the Zanin rotary drum cleaner. Its four interchangeable screens are used to suit the crop and sample requirement. Not only can we clean our own crops, we can clean everything from oil seed rape, hempseed and camelina seeds to beans, grown off farm to be contract dried.”

The successful installation of phase one meant that BDC Systems and IGHS were engaged to develop phase two of the plant to further increase the Hobsons’ grain storage capabilities. An additional five 60tph Skandia chain and flight conveyors were installed, connecting the plant to two more grain stores. The ability to dry to trailer was required to transport the grain to another grain store located across the yard and to handle contract dried corn to be taken off-farm.

Continued growth in the Hobsons’ grain handling business drove development of phase three, once again undertaken by BDC Systems and IGHS. An additional three x 60tph Skandia chain and flight conveyors were installed to transport the grain to the store across the yard, which had been extended by 24m, negating the need to transport it by trailer.

“We chose the Svegma, drier, Soby pre-cleaner, Zanin drum cleaner, Cimbria and Skandia handling equipment as recommended by BDC Systems because of its knowledge and expertise within the sector. Because we handle a variety of crops, BDC Systems’ advice was invaluable,” said Mr Hobson. “The complete system has proved to be robust, reliable and easy to operate.”

The Hobsons’ plant handled just under 20,000t of grain during harvest 2021 and the drying campaign began during the winter barley harvest in mid-July and finished in early October.

“The plant allows us to not only meet our customers’ needs by separating and cleaning different varieties of grain to the highest standard, it has enabled us to focus on organic and regenerative farming practices. We have experimented with combi-cropping, growing cereal crops alongside legumes to promote symbiosis and productivity and we needed a system that could handle the different grain,” said Mr Hobson.

“Anyone looking to upgrade their existing grain handling facility or build a completely new plant can do no better than to talk to BDC Systems and IGHS.”

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