Sensors that monitor stored grain

By: Andrew Hobbs

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Using sensors that monitor stored grain in real time could change the way you operate your silos

Centaur grain sensors
The sensors gather important information about both the grain and the storage facility itself

For all the work that goes into growing and harvesting grains around Australia, it’s important to make sure that the finished product reaches its buyer in the best condition possible.

But no matter how new the storage facility, stored grain runs the risk of spoiling for its intended purpose – and with varying temperatures and internal moisture, it can be very difficult to predict when this might occur.

To help avoid this problem, US firm Centaur Analytics has developed what it calls its Internet of Crops platform – a range of sensors that monitor stored grain in real time and sends its data through the cloud for easy reading.

Centaur director of engineering Nikos Anastasiadis says the sensors, which can monitor wheat, corn, malting barley, rice, soybeans, oats, sunflower seeds and feed grains, are now available in Australia through Grain Logic.

"We have been co-operating with GrainCorp in Australia over the past year, but now we want to open this and actually work with farmers in Australia, because we think this has very high potential," Anastasiadis says.

The sensors gather important information about both the grain and the storage facility itself – including its moisture content and internal temperature.

"Like how much heat does it conduct from the outside to the inside – or how much air is it leaking?" he says.

"With this information, along with the weather data which is integrated into the system and the total grain mass in storage, we can predict what condition the grain is going to be in 60, 90, 120 days from today."

The predictions are bolstered with advanced grain analytics foreseeing risk for dry matter loss, losing germination capacity and mould or insect infestation

Its oxygen and carbon dioxide monitors will also be able to predict any breach in hermetic storage caused by a rodent or bird, notifying the operator with a real time alert, and enabling them to move quickly to prevent spoilage.

Depending on the storage facility, environmental conditions and the grain stored, the platform can also provide an accurate estimate of the amount of fumigant required for individual cases.

"We can predict how the phosphine will be released from the phosphate itself because of the temperature and relative humidity," Anastasiadis says.

"Using a worst case scenario, we can conclude exactly when any fumigation will be completed – and when you actually execute it, the sensor measures phosphine concentration in real time, so you can be sure if the fumigation has been successful or not.

"In cases where things deviate from your plan you will get valuable warnings that will enable you to act quickly," he says.

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