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2011 Harvest Outlook

By Staff | Aug 24, 2011

New system manages moisture, temps from bottom to top of unit


Farm News staff writer

GARDEN CITY, Mo. – Necessity, to paraphrase Plato, was the mother of this invention.

To store any grain for a niche market, such as soybeans for tofu, maintaining a high-level of quality, conditioned grain is essential; and five years ago there was no technology available to assure grain quality throughout the depth of the bin.

But that was then. Now, through the innovation and guidance of grain producer Todd Sears, president of IntelliAir, based in Missouri, the ambient air inside a bin can be controlled and manipulated to preserve the quality of upward to 144 commodities. The basic system comes with programming to manage 20 of the most common grains, but can be upgraded to manage non-traditional grains and legumes, such as kidney beans.

The system, adaptable to existing storage units, is called BinManager.

According to Joel Moellers, Northern Midwestern district manager for IntelliAir, the new technology monitors the care and treatment of commodity grains once it gets inside the storage unit.

He said the trick to preventing grain from gaining moisture, or even becoming too dry, is round-the-clock monitoring inside the bin.

The system, he said, will rehydrate grain that may come out of the field too dry, as some experienced last season.

“BinManager controls fans and heaters to force the right type of air through the grain mass,” Moellers said, “moving temperature and moisture fronts from the bottom up.”

BinManager, Moellers said, features a series of sensors at every four feet inside the bin constantly monitoring the interior ambient air for moisture and temperature changes. It also incorporates data from temperature and humidity sensors in the plenum and from an exterior weather station. The data is compiled in the system’s computer.

A software formula in the controller’s computer drives the drying process, including fan and heater use needed to maintain conditions for long-term storage. If the programmed moisture content and temperature of the commodity is threatened, the system will turn on fans and/or heaters depending on the need.

A producer can set the system into four different operation modes, including:

  • Auto cooling: For grain augered into the bin from the drier.
  • Auto drying and cooling: For grain with too much moisture coming from the field, being dried with the bin’s heaters to the desired moisture content and then cooled.
  • Auto hydrating: For adding moisture to grain that is too dry from the field as was experienced in some regions during the 2010 harvest. Grain that is too dry is discounted, costing the producer money.

“We want (producers) to be right on the money,” Moellers said, “when they take (their grain) to market.

“As long as they are storing it, they may as well be conditioning it.”

  • Monitor only: For keeping tabs on the bin’s interior conditions and notifies the producer if

action needs to be taken.

For instance, during winter, with fans covered to prevent snow from getting inside the bin, the system cannot turn the fan on in monitor-only mode. An alert that immediate attention is needed can go out to as many as five people via telephone, e-mail or text.

Moellers said BinManager has an additional theft notification function that senses when current flows to the unloading motor. An alert would then go the the producer as a potential theft, or, in case of multiple storage units on the system, if the wrong bin was being unloaded.

Although bin-operating parameters can be set and monitored from the bin site, BinManager relies primarily on a Web interface for monitoring and adjusting control functions.

“We wanted to be Web-based so a farmer could check his grain bins wherever he has Internet access, including his Blackberry [or other Web-capable cell phone or computer],” said IntelliAir founder Todd Sears. “It would make him more mobile.”

The Web interface also reduces software-related challenges, which can occur as computer operating systems change, Sears said.

Communications to and from the bin site are through a cellular modem. If several bins on the site are outfitted with BinManager systems, information from each bin is relayed wirelessly to the cellular modem for transfer to BinManager Web server computers.

For additional information contact Moellers at (712) 330-2941 or visit the company’s website at intelliair.com.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext 453, or by e-mail at kersh@farm-news.com.

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