Bladder control the solution to better bin flow

DECATUR, Ill. — There’s a grain bag in the bin, but it’s not there to keep the grain in. It’s there to kick it out.

While farmers might not be leaving their shovels and brooms out at the road by a For Sale sign just yet, they might be able to consider some new technology that will make bins easier and safer to empty.

Jonathan Waits of GSI brought out the company’s bag-in-a-bin concept to the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, earlier this month.

“The Flexwave is designed to pull out 99 percent of the grain from a bin before anyone has to even think about going in there,” he said.

Engineer Greg Trame said the design is deceptively simple.

A pair of heavy duty canvas poly tarps are mounted on the side of the bin and to a central auger drag. Air is pumped into the areas underneath the tarps, inflating them like balloons. The grain slides into the auger, leaving almost no material inside the bin.

Waits said the system actually allows many bins to increase in size because the floor around the auger can be removed.

“And it avoids putting people into a bin that could entrap them or cause them to be caught up in the sweeps or augers,” he said.

The reduced labour and improved air quality for the farmer are added benefits, Waits said.

“It only needs about one (pound per sq. inch) to push the grain into the auger,” he said.

“Without the perforated floors, there is nothing to clean up down in the bottom of the bin either.”

However, access panels are added to the bottom rings of the bin to get in behind the tarps and for inflation pumps.

Trame said the canvas material should last up to 30 years, but each inflatable liner can lift up to about 90 tonnes.

Waits said the system is gentler on the grain than bin sweeps or vacuums when it comes to moving the last of the grain out of a bin.

Trame said the virtual bin cone that is created allows producers to avoid the legs and cost of a hopper bottom unit and allows those who have very large bins with flat bottoms to enjoy a hopper’s benefits.

Waits said the Flexwave will be available for new bins, 48 feet in diameter and smaller, and a retrofit version is planned. Farmers will be able to buy them next year.

“We will start with smaller bins first and get a feel for them on the farm and work our way up,” he said.

Last week, the German farmer’s group DLG recognized the innovativeness of the design with one of its Agritechnica Silver awards that will be presented at the giant farm show in Hannover, Germany, in November.

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