Grain sampling systems provide a representative sample, traceability, and enable real-time analysis of grain
The standard scoop on a stick-sampling technique may soon be a thing of the past with VeriGrain’s launch of its 300 series automated sampling and data management system during Crop Production Week in Saskatoon.
VeriGrain is a subsidiary of Intellicon. However, Intellicon chief executive officer Ken Jackson said VeriGrain is significant enough to warrant its own company.
“The driver for the development of this product is there is quite a substantial information gap that exists between the point of production, the producer and the point of processing,” Jackson said.
He said it can be difficult for growers to take representative samples when moving grain, especially during harvest, so farmers often don’t have an accurate understanding of what they have in the bin.
This can cause problems when grain is shipped to a buyer, who bought it based on specifications or grade.
“If you show up and that’s not what’s on the truck either you take a downgrade, or if it’s a really bad day they just won’t accept it at all. In every conversation I’ve ever had, no one has ever been upgraded,” Jackson said.
“Statistically, you should be upgraded as much as you’re downgraded, but it never happens. So it just goes to show the buyer has all the power.”
With the VeriGrain grain sampling and data management system, growers and buyers will have more confidence about the quality of the grain before a deal is struck.
A major component of the system is the sample extraction module that goes on the discharge end of an auger, conveyer or a bucket elevator, and continuously extracts small cross-cut samples.
The company is also developing a sample extractor for the pivot on a swing auger.
“We use a vacuum to suck the samples down from the auger and then into a second major component we call the sample management module,” Jackson said.
This module has a microprocessor that controls sample rates and runs the sample management system.
Users will use their phone’s bluetooth to interact with the sample management module.
“So when you select the sampling rate, say you want a five-gallon container representative of the next 5,000 bushels, you would just plug those numbers into the app and the app will automatically communicate through the bluetooth to the sample management module and it will set that sampling rate,” Jackson said.
Both the sample management module and the extractor itself has a series of sensors that will alert operators if something isn’t working properly, such as a full container or a plugged line.
The sample management module communicates with the cloud, either through WiFi on an operator’s phone or through a cell modem within the module.
“If there is no cell connection, then all of the data will be stored in the unit and as soon as somebody walks up or you get close enough to a cellular connection it will automatically sync with the cloud,” Jackson said.
Samples are stored in three- or five-gallon containers that have tear seals, which must be ripped once the lid is snapped on.
“The containers are all barcoded. You can take a picture of the barcode and add the information that’s related to it to the record, and all of that ends up in the cloud. So now you’ve got a nice efficient way to keep track of your samples and the samples are sealed in proprietary containers,” Jackson said.
The second generation of VeriGrain, the 1000 series that will be available in 2021, will be capable of splitting the sample into six representative samples and will use a barcode tag to seal the samples.
“The barcode has been registered along with the barcode on the sample container itself, so now you know if the tag is intact the sample hasn’t been tampered with,” Jackson said.
“We want to create a transparency between the grower and the buyer so that the grower has the confidence to say ‘look, this is what I’ve got,’ and the buyer has the confidence to agree with it and negotiate an appropriate price.”
He said VeriGrain will enable the first step of a traceability chain that grain buyers are getting pressured to supply their customers.
“I’d be willing to bet that within three years, if you’re not able to provide traceability you’re going to start to pay for not having that capability,” Jackson said.
“There is a whole risk reduction, risk management aspect that comes with having more accurate information, and having it easily shareable.”
He said blockchain is a very secure method of managing data, but if the information is poor to begin with then all users have is very secure bad information.
“You’re taking what may be incorrect information from a scoop on a stick, and just making it very secure but you really haven’t gained anything. When the boat lands in China you can still be in trouble because the information wasn’t correct in the first place,” Jackson said.
The rollout of the 300 series VeriGrain starts at the Crop Production Show, but add-on modules are expected to be available later in the year, including a sample assessment module that has temperature and moisture sensors.
With the help of the microprocessor, users will be able to run real-time spoilage risk analysis as grain is moved in or out of a bin.
“A further feature that we’re planning to add here sometime later next year is to start to determine characteristics of the grain,” Jackson said.
“The protein and oil content, and colour and shape and size, the technologies are all pretty available for that, so we are integrating those technologies into our platform.”