Sensors allow bins to be remotely monitored

ROSETOWN, Sask. — This will be the first winter that Alvin Moore uses a cellphone or tablet to monitor grain in his bins while he vacations in Arizona.

The Rosetown area farmer said the peace of mind that comes from having the information at his fingertips is a good investment.

“It will be nice to know, to see what the temperature and moisture is. It makes you feel better when you know your grain isn’t heating when you are down south, or away,” he said.

Moore is the first farmer in his area to have the OPI Blue monitoring system installed on all 14 of his 7,000-bushel bins at two separate yard sites.

The wireless system is designed to remotely measure grain temperature, moisture or both and deliver the data directly to a mobile device anywhere in the world.

OPI Systems Inc. of Calgary and Central Plains Co-op in Rosetown, which is a distributor, recently hosted a field day at Moore’s farm, where they promoted their monitoring systems and talked about best practices for grain storage and handling.

The company offers several grain storage monitoring systems: StorMax, OPI Blue, Integris Basic and Integris Pro.

Glenn Michaliew of Central Plains Co-op said OPI Blue allows remote access to the farming operation “anywhere and any time.”

He said most farmers opt for installing the system themselves, but the distributor can arrange it for $75 per bin.

Solar charging cable nodes are mounted on top of each bin, which act as satellite eyes and provide wireless transmission. Each one costs $475.

The gateway, which is a centrally located master device, collects and stores information on a regular basis from the node network. It then transmits information by wi-fi and/or cellular for local and remote connections. The unit costs about $3,000.

Cables for larger bins that measure temperature or moisture cost about $450 each. A single cable that measures both is $1,000.

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A free app downloaded to a smartphone or tablet using a graphical interface provides instant access to bins. It stores all data with the ability to review offline.

Grant Anderson of Rosetown is installing four new 7,000 bu. bins with the OPI Blue system with temperature cables.

He said it’s a good investment to monitor stored crops, particularly in large bins.

“With higher bin volumes, there are more chances of loss. If something takes off, you get a lot of trouble in a hurry,” he said.

“You’re also piling more grain in and you may be two days filling a bin, so you may have some green stuff go in. Especially a year like this, you may pick up the odd green kernel, so you’re going to have to watch your temperatures.”

Andersen doesn’t travel during the winter, but chose the remote system because he has bins at two yard sites.

He thinks the system will help control volumes as producers continue to expand their operations.

“As these farms get bigger, you won’t miss a bin full of grain anymore,” he said.

He can also see farmers using remote monitoring as a surveillance system.

“All of a sudden, your grain volume starts to disappear, you know somebody’s been there,” he said.

Many producers have installed monitoring cables in their bins, but they have to physically plug a device into each bin to determine temperature and moisture levels.

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“For smaller producers like us, only 3,000 acres, it’s not as critical, but somebody with 10, or 15,000 acres and 30 to 40 bins, it’s a lot of climbing, or a lot of plugging in,” he said.

“This way you can sit at the desk and manage everything.”

Jack Senecal, who travels south each winter, is looking forward to being able to see if his canola is heating from the comfort of his Phoenix home.

This summer he’s installing 12, 4,800 bu. bins, complete with temperature cables and the OPI Blue system. He said it’s all about the safety of grain storage and his bottom line.

“This is protection of the quality of the grain,” he said.

“Lose one bin of canola and guess what, it paid for itself 10 times.”

Senecal is considering buying the top of the line Integris Pro system, which allows producers to adjust aeration control remotely.

“That’s worth money,” he said.

“I don’t have to go to the farm. I don’t have to do all these things. We can just remotely turn things on.”

Contact william.dekay@producer.com

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