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Farms share stories of grain store projects during Covid-19

When it comes to the design and build of grain stores, bespoke solutions are essential, but growers should not discount repurposing existing stores to meet requirements. Roger Fairs, of Tey Farm Systems, describes two recent projects on Essex farms.

When investing in the design and build of a new grain store, growers will have specific requirements and the store should be bespoke to the needs of the individual business, believes Roger Fairs, managing director of Tey Farm Systems.

For example, you may not have the power you need to operate the crop drying fans, or you may wish to incorporate machinery storage, rainwater harvesting, or indeed renewable energy within the build process. “This is why when we look to provide a proposal, we start with a site visit,” Roger explains. “It gives us the opportunity to look at the existing facilities and evaluate these alongside the customer’s ideas and desires.”

Whether it’s a pre-season check on a burner, or a complete grain store service, the company says it has the expertise on hand to accommodate most scenarios.

Increasing technological advancements for operators can provide key indicators, allowing them to plan pro-active maintenance work. One area that has grown in recent years is the cleaning of home-saved seed, Roger adds, as customers look to take this in-house to reduce variable costs. Tey Farm completed two such installations for harvest 2020 and already has a number of projects to look at for harvest 2021.

Along similar lines, but a great deal more specialised, it is currently completing the ductwork to the installation of a Colour Sorter on its own mezzanine, in a new build for a customer who is at the leading edge of speciality crops.

Two projects, completed this year for clients in South Essex, both involved floor drying equipment – one as part of a new build, while the other breathed new life into an old store.

Completing a new-build during Covid-19

Farming family Richard and Phil Cottis, based in Rochford, Essex, first contacted Tey Farm in December 2019, with regards to constructing a new, modern grain store with drying facilities. Having recently replaced the combine, the final nail had been put in the coffin for the old continuous flow drier, which had been installed over 40 years previously.

Since that time, a number of drive-over drying floors had been installed on the farm and both Phil and Richard decided that was the way they wanted to go with the new store. After an initial meeting with Roger, they decided on a 1,200-tonne grain store. A steel framed building with 3.6m-high concrete grain walling and wooden drive over floor, along with a 12m-deep lean-to was agreed.

Planning was relatively straightforward, as no building work had been carried out in the previous two years and the building was below the permitted development threshold (less than 1,000sqm). The only concern was the close proximity of Southend Airport.

With planning permission granted, Tey Farm set about applying for a grid connection, but this was quickly abandoned when the eye-watering estimate came in from the local provider. “As there was no alternative energy supply and the prospect of an engine-driven fan did not excite the family, we worked with a local firm to design a control panel in conjunction with a silent genset, which would provide an automated crop drying system.

“In summary, when the ambient conditions are right, the control panel sends a signal via a single-phase supply, to the auto-start panel on the generator to run the fans. The customer had an existing gas burner on the farm so we simply arranged for a new bulk gas supply to be installed, so that the burner could be used when ambient conditions were not favourable.”

Due to the eave’s height of the new store, the team were able to design a lean-to of sufficient height and width for the new combine to take pride of place. It also serves as useful covered storage for the caterpillar tractor and large cultivation equipment. From the outset, Richad and Phil wanted to convert one of the bays in the lean-to, into an insulated sprayer store. Although this was not done during the initial build phase, it can be easily achieved in the future.

While the design, planning and initial building works went without a hitch, the first Covid-19 lockdown did hamper speed of construction and the supply of some materials in the early phase of the build. However, the companies employed by Tey Farm Systems worked tirelessly to achieve their construction targets, Richard says.

It was no mean feat to have the building complete before harvest, and even more so with the lockdown rules in place. To allow continuous construction on the building, the concrete was poured in stages. The electrics were installed by an efficient team of electricians who worked long hours to achieve their targets.

The four 18Kw fans were installed by Tey Farm Systems and utilised inverter starters powered by a 165kva generator, as the existing three-phase power supply would have been too costly to upgrade.

“Roger was in frequent contact with us and oversaw the whole project,” Richard says. “His attention to detail and expert knowledge of the building we wanted, set our minds at ease when we went through the first lockdown and into the beginning of harvest. Quality of the materials used and the finish of the site was never compromised. The building was finally finished in August 2020 with just a few days to spare.

“Overall, a quality modern grain store with drying facilities was achieved during one of the most difficult years.”

Breathing new life into an existing store

Repurposing a new store is often overlooked when it comes to providing additional storage and/or drying facilities on farm. The default is often to build new, but Tey Farm Systems has two dedicated teams working on such projects constantly, Roger says, so this was the natural solution when they were contacted by Essex farmer James Cole.

Before – external

Before – internal

The farm’s building had galvanised grain walling which had rotted through at the base, the low volume ventilation comprised of multi-bar laterals and a below-ground tunnel and fan house – “the first I had ever seen in my 22 years of working in the grain handling industry,” comments Roger.

The team removed the old floor, which was replaced with new timber main air duct and drying floors. They then had to replace the rotten galvanised panels with concrete grain walling and erect a new lean-to fan house. The customer was decommissioning another store on the farm, so having fully refurbished the old fans, they were moved to the new store along with the modulating burners.

“In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were delighted to complete on time and on budget for the client and I would like to say a huge thank you to all involved including the customer, his suppliers and the dedicated team at Tey Farm Systems, all of whom worked within the restrictions to get the job done,” Roger says.

James adds: “Roger Fairs and Tey Farm Systems were great to work with and were very accommodating and communicative throughout the construction process. The drying floor was finished to a very high standard. We look forward to further building projects with TFS in the future.”

After – external

After – internal

For further information or to arrange a service of your equipment please contact Tey Farm Systems – www.teyfarmsystems.co.uk

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