Seed sorter shows potential

Canada’s most beloved Swedish imports have traditionally been hockey players and automobiles, the likes of Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson, Volvo and Saab.

However, if officials at the Canadian International Grains Institute in Winnipeg are correct, another Swedish import, the BoMill TriQ, could soon become a familiar name in Western Canada, at least in farm circles.

BoMill, based in Lund, Sweden, makes machines that use near infrared transmission technology to sort grain based on its chemical composition.

The first BoMill TriQ sorter was shipped to Saskatchewan not long ago.

It is located at the University of Sask-atchewan’s Canadian Feed Research Centre in North Battleford, Sask., and is generating a lot of attention for its ability to separate fusarium damaged kernels from commercial quantities of durum, winter wheat and hard red spring wheat.

The BoMill TriQ can sort three tonnes of grain per hour. The installed cost of a unit is $550,000 to $600,000.

Earlier this month, the Canadian International Grains Institute an-nounced it will buy a BoMill TriQ and a smaller version of the same machine.

The TriQ will be used for commercial demonstrations to determine if it is suitable for use at feed mills, seed cleaning plants and at the farm level.

Rex Newkirk, CIGI’s vice-president of research and innovation, thinks the machine has huge potential.

“The university has shown that we can take out fusarium,” Newkirk said.

“We’ve been able to do it a few tonnes at a time.… Now we want to see if it can be used on a commercial level.”

Newkirk said a preliminary economic analysis of the machine suggests it might be a worthwhile investment for individual farmers, particularly in years when fusarium damaged grain is abundant.

For example, the unit could pay for itself in a matter of months if the machine was used consistently to separate fusarium damaged kernels from durum.

Durum or winter wheat that was graded salvage in 2014 could be sorted and sold commercially, adding value of $200 to $250 per tonne to a product that was otherwise unmarketable.

“This year, we’ve got a whole bunch of fusarium infected winter wheat and durum,” Newkirk said. “The question is, how do we make sure that people have the option to sell this stuff, rather than burning it all.”

Tom Scott, research chair in feed processing technology at the U of S, is equally optimistic.

He said BoMill technology has the potential to add tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars annually to the value of Western Canada’s bulk grain sales.

Nearly 20 percent of the crops grown in Western Canada — almost eight million tonnes — are downgraded to feed every year.

Additional tonnes are graded as salvage and deemed unfit for commercial sale, in years when fusarium infection rates are particularly bad.

“There are estimates that two million tonnes of wheat and durum were graded as salvage due to high fusarium damaged kernels and potential for mycotoxins (DON or vomotoxin) in the 2014 crop year,” Scott wrote in an email.

“Salvage grain is not legal for sale…. Based on this and a price of $300 (per tonne), that would be equal to $600 million in lost value.”

BoMIll’s TRriQ model has a limited track record in Saskatchewan, but Scott, who has worked with the machine in North Battleford for the past two years, is convinced it is time to assess commercial applicability.

Representatives from BoMill were in Saskatchewan recently to demonstrate the machine’s capabilities.

It is also possible that the machine can be used to separate ergot-infected grain from a sample and perhaps even sprouted material.

“It’s typically very small amounts of seeds that actually cause downgrading,” said Scott.

“So if we can remove those, you can recover a lot of salvage grain.”

The technology can also sort grain based on its germination capabilities (vitreousness), and protein content.

CIGI will use funds from the federal and Manitoba governments to buy its machine.

The unit will likely move locations every few months to assess it applicability in various commercial environments, Newkirk said.

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