U.K. grain dryer makes strides on the Prairies

Alvan Blanch’s continuous double flow dryer in use on a farm in Manning, Alta.  |  Al Ross photo

To better preserve grain quality and start harvest earlier, some farmers, especially those in wetter regions, have begun using what they feel like is a more robust drying system.

Unlike some dryers, the continuous double-flow dryer can dry any type of grain and run all day with little supervision. The technology was made by Alvan Blanch in the United Kingdom and entered Canada in 2006.

“When you want to handle a crop gently and a special crop in some cases, then there is nothing else out there like it,” said Al Ross, owner of Dave Ross Equipment in Spirit River, Alta., only dealer of the product in Canada.

With the double-flow system, producers auger wet grain into the dryer. The grain moves on a conveyor chain at a six-degree downward slope for 40 feet, one way. It then drops down onto another layer within the machine, moving on the same chain horizontally for another 40 feet.

Hot air comes up through the moving grain. Once the grain nears the end of the drying session, it is cooled within the machine. The grain is then augured out.

Farmers can set the temperature, and the machine will automatically shut off if it overheats, has a mechanical issue, the hopper is empty or if there is a blockage, Ross said.

“Nine times out of 10 it stops because the grain ran out.”

As well, air flow can be turned down when drying lightweight seeds, like flax, said Nick Gaisford, the export sales manager with Alvan Blanch.

The grain is also loose when going through the machine, he explained. This allows for as much air circulation as possible and prevents hot spots from forming.

“Our dryer will handle anything a combine will harvest,” he said. “From canola to hemp seed to corn, we can dry it low or high delicately.”

Most of Ross’s clients farm in Alberta’s Peace region, where conditions tend to be wetter during fall than other regions of the Prairies. Ross also has sold a few dryers in Saskatchewan, a couple in Manitoba and two in Nebraska.

“It’s been very efficient for us,” said Paul Walters, the secretary-treasurer at the Birch Hills Colony north of Grande Prairie, Alta. “Drying canola can be fairly high-risk, especially if it’s extremely wet, but with this we’ve had no problems.”

Ross said his clients have told them they are able to start harvest earlier because the machine dries it down well enough.

The 1,000-bushel unit can remove five points of moisture from 1,000 bu. in one hour. In dry weather, two percent moisture can be extracted without the use of heat.

As well, because the machine needs little supervision, Ross said many farmers are able to complete more combining. It also uses less fuel because the exhaust air is re-circulated, reducing consumption by up to 15 percent.

“There’s big savings on gas,” Walters said, suggesting the savings in fuel allowed the colony to pay off the machine in about five years.

Ross, who also farms and uses the machine, said he’s probably spent $400 on maintenance over the last 14 years. The machine costs $280,000.

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