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  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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Grain Handling February 2019

Growers welcome precision auto drying

A new system offering precision drying of grain and oilseeds with minimal manual intervention has been welcomed by two busy growers.

Shropshire grower, Rob Timmis likes the remote display, which enables him to monitor progress and adjust certain settings while away from the grain store and dryer.

Kentra’s Dryer Master creates a digital record of an individual dryer’s performance characteristics during manual operation and then uses that experience to operate automatically.

Temperature-compensating sensors measure the moisture content of incoming wet grain and outgoing dried grain, enabling the control system to calculate how long the crop must take to pass through the dryer in order to achieve the required average moisture level.

“Dryer Master removes a lot of the guesswork involved in operating a drying system when moisture content shifts during the day,” says Barry Higginbottom of Kentra. “It releases the dryer operator to spend time on other aspects of store and harvest management.”

In Gloucestershire, Hamish Campbell uses the system on a 23-year old Kentra continuous flow dryer for 1,000-1,500t of milling winter wheat, a similar amount of malting spring barley and 1,500-2,000t of oilseed rape grown for the family’s R-Oil dressing and cooking oil and R-Oil Liquid Gold horse feed supplement.

The rapeseed is cold pressed and moisture content is a key factor in the amount of oil liberated.

“We’ve seen all these precision farming developments, such as GPS, variable rate seeding and big advances in spraying but drying, which is critical to achieving the best possible return from the crop we’ve invested so much in, has been the poor relation,” says Mr Campbell. “Now we have something that takes drying to a new level of accuracy.”

An easier workload at harvest is a key attraction of the system for Shropshire grower Rob Timmis, along with the system’s ability to consistently hit average moisture level targets.

“However experienced you are with a dryer, it’s a difficult thing to manage, especially when there’s so much else going on at harvest,” he says. “There’s always a temptation to keep fiddling, so hitting the optimum is really quite hard.

“There’s also the inclination to err on the side of caution because there’s nothing worse than having to put grain through the dryer again when it’s just half or one percent over the contract terms.”

Having seen how consistently it can hit the target moisture, Rob Timmis says he is confident enough to leave the Dryer Master system in control when running his Kentra dryer overnight.

“I can always keep an eye on things by remote access on my iPad,” he adds.

This remote feature can also be used to adjust settings or shut down the dryer. The same key information is shown on the tablet as on the Dryer Master display built into an existing dryer control cabinet or installed as a self-contained add-on for Kentra and other makes of dryer already in service.

Gloucestershire grower Hamish Campbell with the Dryer Master DM510 control panel.

Live readings ensure optimal moisture

Many years of research and development including three years of on-farm work have culminated in the launch of the BDC Systems Moisture Monitoring System.

Much of the product development was carried out with help from Benny Smith of Manor Road Farm in Wantage, Oxfordshire. 

“After three years of development work at my grain store, the BDC Moisture Monitoring System has now become a valuable tool during the harvest season,” says Mr Smith. “I can instantly see any changes in grain moisture going in to the dryer or coming out, and react accordingly.”

Using sampling units designed and developed by BDC, grain is taken from both the incoming (wet) and outgoing (dry) elevators. These samples are then processed through a multi-chamber duct incorporating a Sinar moisture probe specifically designed for this application. Live readings showing the moisture content of both samples in a percentage format are displayed on a screen along with a graph showing the moisture trend. Historical data is also stored in the system’s memory for future reference.

The MMS can be linked in with BDC’s grain dryer control panel and the data can be remotely viewed on devices such as mobile phones. The system can be retro-fitted to any grain drying system, subject to a site survey.

Matt Grainge, BDC’s technical manager and head of product development says: “Following extensive on-site testing at several plants around the country, we are confident that MMS is producing accurate real time data. This information can be used to adjust dryer settings which will save money and ensure grain goes into storage at its optimum moisture content. The ultimate aim is to automate the entire process.”


Automatic moisture sensor

Saving time and money is the aim of the new Automatic Moisture Sensor for grain dryers launched by Perry of Oakley. 

The Automatic Moisture Sensor is accurate to within 0.5 per cent at 5–18 per cent moisture content and within 1 per cent at 18–40 per cent. It is fully integrated into Perry’s own, in-house, PLC control software for the dryer but can also be installed into any make of existing dryer or used as a standalone system. 

The system measures crops’ moisture content quickly and accurately, helping to ensure grain is dried to optimum levels and not over-dried. 

The Perry of Oakley Savannah series dryers are capable of capacities from 5–150ph. The dryers come with Perry’s own PLC panel. If connected to the internet, the panel can send email and text alerts including dryer status updates and alerts for any issues that may have occurred while drying. 

The PLC panel can also be connected to an app where growers can see and adjust the dryer control panel meaning the dryer can be controlled from anywhere with a mobile phone signal or WiFi connection. 

Perry also manufactures a full range of 10–1,000tph handling equipment including chain and flight conveyors, belt and bucket elevators, augers and screw conveyors, aspirator pre-cleaners and belt conveyors.


Making sense of remote grain store control

Remote control technology is making grain store monitoring and management possible from the user’s mobile phone.

Launched at Lamma 2019, the Robydome WTM-1 smart grain store monitoring and control point now enables complete remote management of temperatures and ventilation within the crop in floor stores, using a phone or tablet. 

The WTM-1 is a self-contained smart box in the store, linked to wireless temperature probes and the ventilation system. All the vital information to manage store conditions is available instantly, and in real-time, using a clear and simple web-browser page to check and make changes.

The highly intuitive control programme is designed from years of experience and knowledge of grain store installation and operation, with fully automatic or manual control. 

Linked to ambient humidity and temperature sensors it can autonomously regulate if and when fans operate, to condition the crop to the ideal storage point. 

Records continuously track progress and reports as grain temperatures cool for individual points across the store. This ensures that any hot spots can be quickly targeted and resolved. The WTM-1 will automatically send an email alert if any danger points or problems are triggered.

A single WTM-1 control point can manage up to eight stores, with up to 32 sensors in each store. Its compact design and high functionality eliminates the issues with dust and humidity experienced with a static computer point in the store. The system can also be fully integrated and managed from a computer in the farm office or home.

Importantly, with the Robydome system, all the store’s historical records and data are held on the farm’s own box, rather than a remote server. That has eliminated expensive monthly data storage and access costs associated with server-based systems.    

The WTM-1 is available for compatibility with the company’s range of wireless probes and sensors for new store installation or upgrades, and as a retro-fit for suitable existing Robydome systems. 

Systems to monitor grain store equipment

Joining the Harvest CHC temperature text alert system are two new products to help farmers keep up to date with their Harvest equipment, says Harvest Installations.

The original system was designed to keep farmers up to date with daily crop temperatures via a simple and cost effective text system. It would also monitor ambient temperatures to alert for best store cooling and conditioning.

The new text alert systems for Harvest Constant Humidity Controller and Harvest Maxi Stirrer constantly monitor the equipment to alert the operator of any problems.

The two systems, based on the same GSM modem unit, are connected to the fault systems on the CHC and stirrer. If the CHC locks out, or the Stirrer loses a belt, an alert is sent immediately.

The systems are self contained and powered from the main machine. Each unit can be programmed from a mobile phone and can alarm not only the owner, but other staff too.

All units come pre-programmed with standard alarm messages, but can be customised to suit individual needs; ie store number, farm name or location.

Using a mid-sized SIM card (supplied by the customer), coupled with a high gain aerial, reliable coverage is guaranteed, says the company.

Harvest Installations is also proud to announce Equipment Fault Tracking, it continues. If users register their alarm system the company will add its service number to the text system. This means that as soon as operators know there is a fault with their equipment, so does the company’s service department, which will then get in touch to discuss whether the fault can be fixed by farm staff, or if a service visit is required.

These new systems, coupled with the already successful Harvest Advanced Controller, give farmers all the data needed and equipment support to effectively manage crop drying and storage. 


Complete drying package

Gas and diesel mobile dryers from Mecmar have been added to the range of products available from Morgan Farm Machinery. 

The dryers have capacities from 7-55t with the most popular sizes being 20, 24 and 35t electric automatic dryers. When used in conjunction with a grain loading hopper these will load, dry, cool and empty automatically. 

The whole drying cycle is around two hours, so a substantial amount of grain can be dried in one day, says Morgan. 

The company also refurbishes Opico and Mecmar grain dryers, supplies genuine parts and services dryers nationally.

All reconditioned dryers are covered by a season’s parts and labour warranty.

Morgan Farm Machinery also sells fixed equipment, grain store buildings, Challow wooden floor drying systems, centrifugal drying fans, constant humidity controllers and concrete wall panels.


Get grain pests under control ahead of harvest

Insects in grain can be a costly problem for farmers with rejections and potential missed opportunities to sell. Command Pest Control can offer solutions at all levels to kill insects in grain and to prevent the problem from recurring in the next stored crop, says the company.

This has been a very busy season in dealing with pests in grain; the long hot summer meant that grain coming into store was very warm and, with few cool nights, it could not be cooled fast enough to prevent insects from multiplying. This has led to situations of hot spots in stored grain and making corrective action difficult to achieve.

Command has a large number of screw-in pedestals and fans capable of sucking heat from grain enabling it to get the grain under gas faster. Once gassed, the grain is checked for any further problems and, if clear, a certificate is issued and the grain can be moved.

Prior to next harvest, Command can offer grain store cleaning using road compressors to blow walls, followed by vacuuming. An insecticidal treatment with specialised equipment capable of ensuring the correct application over all surfaces of the store kills and prevents any resident insects from contaminating new crop. Once in store Command can also offer a grain monitoring service tailored to a farmer’s needs. Inspections monitor temperature, moisture and bird activity and reports are entered into a report book. Should problems occur the farmer is quickly notified with advice on any corrective action, concludes Command Pest Control.

Pedestal ventilation just got better

Pedestal ventilation is popular in the UK, be it metal or plastic. There are challenges particularly for growers using overhead conveyors to fill grain stores, as pedestal top pipes can bend over when filling, if flowing grain pressure is not kept even around the pipe. The potential of unwanted problems at harvest has put some people off using pedestals to cool grain, writes Evans & Pearce’s Rob White.

Underflow from Evans & Pearce is a pedestal based ventilation system with a new method of supplying air to the perforated base, resulting in a number of additional advantages for users.

Fans are positioned outside of the store and air is ducted to the underside of the pedestal via 160mm underground plastic air ducts. The air ducts emerge in the store under a floor-flush manhole cover, the cover is removed and a steel transition piece is fitted into the air duct. The steel transition then sockets internally into the 450mm Polycool base and allows the heat from the grain to be removed and vented directly to atmosphere and not into the grain store.  

Two roles

The steel transition piece performs two roles; a coupler from the air duct to the Polycool and, secondly, secures the pedestal base in position during filling. Capping the top of the Polycool stops grain entering the pedestal. A marker pole can be supplied to identify the pedestal base during emptying.

The 160mm underfloor ducts are positioned into the hardcore base prior to the concrete floor being poured. The extra work incurred at this point is minimal, easily completed by experienced ground workers.

The grower now has a ventilation system with the cost advantages and flexibility of pedestal ventilation, with added benefits:

Warm air from crop is removed directly from the grain store 

Pedestals held firmly in position during filling

Fans can be managed at floor level and from outside, not on top of the grain

No worry of the top pipe collapsing during filling

Pedestal positions are planned and installed during the build and once the floor is poured, are fixed. This leads to accurate spacing year after year and the tendency to opt for more cooling points from the outset as extras are not really then cost effective to add. Underflow elevates pedestal ventilation from a cost effective stop gap with limitations to a genuine replacement for underfloor channels, without the high installation cost.

Fans are much easier to move if opting to have less than one for each pedestal and simpler to automate as all power points are usually positioned outside on one wall.

The majority of additional kit required is standard building materials, which are relatively cheap to purchase so the costs of the overall installation are kept to a minimum. As a guide, typical hardware costs for a system like this would be between £4–£6 per stored tonne of grain.

As old buildings are replaced with modern, purpose-built grain stores, we expect to see demand for permanent Underflow systems increase. 


Grain store improvements

The price of wheat has gone up considerably from £99/t a couple of years ago, to approximately £170/t now, and this gives farmers a little more confidence to re-invest in their storage facilities when the futures market is more buoyant, writes Mark Weatherhead of grain storage specialist company Mark Weatherhead Ltd.

Consequently, since harvest 2018, we have been busy with quotations for new stores principally for those whose acreage has increased. People this year have their minds set on floor stores with or without drying floors. This enables them to tip and run back to the combine as quickly as possible.

As a company we have been building grain stores for 50 years and therefore have considerable expertise in design and construction, together with our subcontractors many of who have worked with us for 25 years. We design and build from start to finish including health and safety requirements.

Most of the requests this year are for plain storage, storage with ventilated floors, or ventilated floors with stirrers.

With Christmas behind us we are being asked to modernise old redundant buildings with concrete grain panels and new float finished concrete floors so that they pass all the necessary inspections.

Last but by no means least, all the old stores with grain dryers, elevators and conveyors are in need of updating.

They need inspecting, servicing, adjusting and new parts fitted where necessary by our specialist team.


Discounts for out of season sales

Using the latest streamlined automated technology is the main focus for Master Drier in 2019.

The company has 40 years of experience with over 3,500 drier installations. It supplies a range of mobile and fixed grain driers with capacities from 5-56t. It says it will be offering ‘excellent’ out of season discounts on all models. 

Coupled with its tailor-made grain bins and cleaners, the Master range offers farmers the most efficient, seamless grain-drying and cleaning operation of its kind on the market, claims the company. Alternatively, those looking for a quality second-hand refurbished machine can find the company’s latest offers on its website as well as detail on hiring a drier.

Included as standard with all purchases is the Master Care package, which includes a three-year full manufacturer’s warranty. Reliable and efficient support is invaluable to customers and that’s exactly what Master Farm provides, it says. Sales, service and support back-up, as well as round-the-clock cover during the summer months, is offered. Plus, its experienced technicians are fully qualified and carry an extensive selection of quality spare parts – further assurance that machines are in safe hands.

Market leading results for 2018 harvest

Following the success of the benchtop DICKEYjohn GAC 2500, the Mini GAC 2500 has also proved it can outperform other moisture meters in its class. 

Analysing the data from UK proficiency testing schemes, the Mini GAC 2500 has given the most accurate results of any small moisture meters. 

Using the latest 149 MHz grain analysis technology and UK specific calibrations, the Mini GAC 2500 delivered the most accurate results for the 2018 harvest for wheat, barley and oilseed rape. Compared to the average laboratory oven results, the Mini GAC 2500 had a difference of only 0.19% for wheat and oilseed rape and 0.17% for barley. 

In the same scheme, the next best small moisture meters, both of which are more expensive than the Mini GAC 2500, delivered results with accuracies of 0.31% and 0.41% for wheat, 0.37% and 0.88% for barley and 0.29% and 0.23% for oilseed rape.

The Mini GAC 2500 is sold and supported by Farm-Tec which develops the UK specific calibration on a wide range of commodities including wheat, barley, oats, rapeseed, peas and beans, and monitors the calibrations throughout the year to ensure optimum accuracy and performance. 

Due to its size and ease of use, the Mini GAC 2500 offers laboratory standards in the field, store and dryer, giving the confidence to make sound decisions when drying, storing and trading grain.


Remote control systems

Remote control and monitoring of grain drying and storage using the internet or SMS text messages is increasingly popular, according to Bennett & Co.

With larger farming businesses and large areas being contract farmed, farm managers and operators need the ability to be warned of system alarms, output of continuous flow dryers, or the temperature of stored crop from wherever they are. It also means that logging of drying and storage data for quality assurance is then possible.

In 2018 Bennett & Co supplied a Perry continuous flow dryer and plant that can be controlled not only by a remote desktop computer but also by a mobile phone app. The screen shows exactly what is on the panel touchscreen so is easy to use. On the same site Bennett & Co supplied a Robydome StoreCheck system to control 18 cooling fans as well as monitoring crop temperature using wireless sensors which can be remotely accessed too.

On-floor grain drying systems can also be monitored remotely. Harvest Installations supplies text alarm systems to give operators operational warnings with its Constant Humidity Controller modulating gas burners and Maxistirrer stirrer systems.  

Bennett & Co can also supply systems for potato and onion stores.


Clean up ahead of harvest

Michael Williams Engineering has been serving the farming community since the 1970s.  During that time, the company says that it has listened to its customers by designing, developing and building many types of Big Brute industrial vacuum cleaners. Its large range of machines enables farmers to clear up arduous, mucky areas of the farm quickly and easily, points out the business.

Preparing for harvest is always busy, cleaning out grain stores or pack floors ready to store the new crops. This whole process can be made far quicker and safer with the right Big Brute. The company offers free demonstrations to show farmers how the powerful Big Brute ranges can make life much easier.

The Big Brute Popular is ideal for silos, elevator pits, conveyor trenches, floors and under floor ventilators. It’s designed specifically to tackle these locations on account of its high suction power. In addition, the Popular can be attached to a Big Brute Bulkmaster, featuring a large capacity and rapid emptying, to ensure the vacuum cleaner can be operated without having to be stopped and emptied so often.

For large storage floor areas, the company recommends the Big Brute Warehouseman. With the front-mounted floor brush, areas can be cleaned at walking pace, and it is particularly suited to clearing dirt from potato store floors, reducing airborne dust.

All Big Brutes are designed and built in the UK. Their strong, robust design ensures that they work hard for farmers over many years, concludes Michael Williams Engineering.

Considering intake options

With the ever-increasing outputs of modern combine harvesters, it is important to avoid bottle necks back at the farm. 

To help overcome this problem Danagri-3S offers several different types of intake systems from above floor intake hoppers, level floor conveyors and its JEMA Dry Pits which allows operators to drop up to 60t of grain in the pit and get the trailers quickly back to the combine harvester. 

The dry pit consists of a 3m wide galvanised hopper which is suspended from floor level and keeps the base of the conveyor at least 160mm away from the concrete floor. The pit can be from 3-10m long and has a chain and flight conveyor in the bottom to outload at 60, 100 or 150tph. Access for service is made easy by the hopper being suspended. The company offers both walk-over and drive over versions of the pit. JEMA also offers a full range of chain and flight conveyors, belt and bucket elevators and belt conveyors to complement the pits.

JEMA equipment for filling and levelling grain in floor stores uses its popular belt conveyor range. Here the company offers capacities from 60-300tph together with a full range of accessories including tripper carriage, hanging brackets, winches, guide rails and controls using the latest sonar depth sensing technology to give an accurate depth filling of a floor store. This system is widely used on the continent to give layer drying, which eliminates any damp areas of grain in the store and ensures good air-flows and even drying.

Danagri-3S offers free and technical back-up service for both new and existing installations.


Hope in a challenging grain market

One of the UK’s largest seed producers has given its verdict on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Recommended List for 2019/20 as it predicts a challenging year ahead for growers.

GrainLink, the marketing division of Wynnstay Group, has highlighted exciting additions including new Group 4 soft wheats LG Spotlight and LG Skyscraper – both candidate varieties last year – and the new winter barley options offering very high yields and good disease packages including KWS Gimlet, LG Flynn and Valerie.

The group’s combinable seed product manager Jonathan Baxendale said: “Growers also shouldn’t forget the three G’s, which were favourite Group 4 wheats this year – Gleam, Gravity and Graham. All grew in popularity in 2018 and we envisage this being the case again for 2019, with all three yielding well despite a difficult year.”

GrainLink, which has trading offices in Shrewsbury and Grantham, markets cereal commodities to the end user, enabling its experienced traders to maximise returns to both suppliers and customers. It makes use of the latest commodity software and uses a TASSC accredited laboratory for accurate analysis of all grains, oilseeds and pulses.

In addition, it offers growers an extensive range of forward cereal contracts plus spot marketing on all commodities. There is also a free app at which allows farmers to keep an eye on the market trends.

Managing director Stuart Dolphin said GrainLink offered growers a helping hand as the sector faces pressure from political uncertainty and reduced marketing opportunities:

“Marketing grain is difficult at the best of times but with the added confusion surrounding Brexit and other potential trade wars it only worsens. Our continued expansion in the East, backed by our parent company Wynnstay, offers growers alternative opportunities and outlets coupled with financial security that is paramount in this volatile climate. 

“We market all combinable crops on their individual merits using the latest grain testing equipment, thereby maximising returns and limiting costly claims. We can also tailor packages to suit a specific business by way of a buy back contract to complement seed choice and to offer security at time of planting or bespoke reciprocal trading arrangements.”

Trial plots of all varieties on the List can be viewed at this year’s Arable Event, organised by GrainLink and Wynnstay, on June 19. Visit for more information.

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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