Algorithm brings winds of change

By: Andrew Hobbs

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Using the right fans and a predictive algorithm 15 years in the making, WA-based Aeration Control is helping improve grain storage across Australian silos

Algorithm brings winds of change
Henk de Graaf’s team at Industrial Automation Group will work with fan suppliers and other parties to develop the right aeration system for any silo

 

Henk de Graaf, the managing director of Western Australia-based Industrial Automation Group, says the silo aeration system he and his team has developed can save grain-growers anything from $20–$40 per tonne.

Built off the back of a grain aeration technology developed for WA’s Co-operative Bulk Handling, and further developed in collaboration with the CSIRO, today’s system uses a predictive algorithm to show what is happening inside the grain bulk within a silo.

"One of the main things that sets our controller aside from any other controller on the market is that we actually insist that the farmer tells us what he puts into his silo in the first place," de Graaf says.

"If you don’t know what the grain has been doing inside the silo, how do you know the air that you are pumping in will actually cool it, or dry it?"

Rather than operating a fan for a certain number of hours, de Graaf says his company’s Aeration Manager system takes a number of different factors into consideration – including the type of grain stored, its temperature and moisture levels when loaded.

The company also factors in the fan capacity, the height of the grain column and ambient air conditions – adjusting the target temperature in line with the outside environment in a system De Graaf calls adaptive discounting.

"In the process our controller actually tracks the cooling front as it moves through the silo, so at any given time we can give feedback to the farmer about what is actually happening on site," de Graaf says.

"What is actually happening is the controller is looking after itself, all the farmer needs to do is give the details of what he has got in the silo, the details of what he wants to achieve and press Enter and the system will do it all by itself, you don’t need to do a thing."

Instead of selling an aeration system per se, de Graaf says the Aeration Manager team will work with different suppliers to provide a complete design and install package for individual silos.

"The additional equipment that they would need to purchase in addition to our services, is just something that either they pay up front – and thanks to the federal government they can write it off in 12 months – or we can finance it as well," he says.

"We are guaranteeing that whatever we are selling you will do the job… there is no upfront fee for the controller, just a monthly fee. 

"In return for that monthly fee we not only provide the design and provide the control equipment, but we are also providing on-call assistance at all times, prime reporting facilities and even to the extent that we can look after someone’s silo while they are on holidays."

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