Bin monitor makes money

If you save a 13,000 bushel bin of $12 canola, worth $156,000, you have more than paid for the price of a good monitoring system.

That’s the conclusion Yorkton farmer Siegert Wenning arrived at last winter while vacationing in his homeland of Holland.

Wenning grows 4,500 acres of canola, peas and oats annually.

While in Holland, the delivery date on the 13,000 bu. of IP canola was fast approaching, and he was concerned about the condition. His bins are equipped with the OPI Blue monitoring system, allowing him to keep an eye on the canola from 6,500 kilometres away. He didn’t miss the critical moment when it came.

“I could see the temperature in the bin was starting to take off, so I phoned my son on the farm to turn the fans on, and that saved the canola in that bin,” says Wenning, adding that the remote sensing system is critical even when you are home on the farm.

“You might be planning to go in there with your hand held (sensor), but something comes up and you don’t. You could have some cold weather, but there’s snow on the roof and so you’re feeling pretty comfortable about what’s in the bin. You find out later that it heated up and the quality goes down.”

When a windstorm tore through his farmyard six years ago and levelled his grain bins, Wenning built a new grain management system with the most current technology. He had been learning to fine-tune the management and condition of his stored grain, giving him back some control of the risk posed by farming conditions in east-central Saskatchewan.

In previous years, he’d learned a lot about grain quality management, the hard way. Those were costly lessons. He learned that grain quality can change so quickly that monitoring must take place around the clock.

Wenning chose the OPI Blue monitoring system, which automatically monitors temperature and moisture. This data is gathered by two vertical cables with sensors at four-foot intervals, allowing the system to take precise readings at multiple spots within the bin.

Wenning says that’s something you can’t do when sampling from limited access points, and when many parts of the bin are out of reach.

The OPI Blue can remotely control fans so they run only when needed, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in run time. Also, weather station integration uses information from outside the bin to control fans.

Connectivity played a big part in his decision. OPI Blue wirelessly delivers hourly data on temperature and moisture from each bin to his desktop, laptop, iPad, android or any other type of mobile device. As for cost, he considers the math to be straightforward.

“You have 13,000 bu. of IP canola, at $12 per bushel. That’s a lot of money sitting in that bin. You can buy quite a few monitoring systems for that. Look at how much money is in the bin and compare that to the system cost. It’s peanuts.”

The Yorkton area typically experiences wet, sloppy harvest conditions and grain often goes in the bin tough and damp. Drying is essential.

“We dry all the canola automatically. We might have to dry it twice to get it down to 10 percent moisture. I’m checking the system all the time, whenever we stop for coffee and before I go to bed. The system is a lifesaver when you have nothing but tough grain.”

OPI’s Dave Crompton says a big loss caused by damp or heated grain sticks in your memory forever, which is why farmers are investing in monitoring technology to ensure it never happens again.

“Managing grain quality is risk management, plain and simple,” says Crompton.

“It’s about monitoring and managing changes in grain temperature and moisture over time. Canola, for example, should be maintained at 15 C or less and eight percent moisture for long-term storage. Grain quality can deteriorate quickly. If you need to take preventive steps, you need to do it now, not tomorrow or the day after.”

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