When you consider that some grain is lost each time a crop is handled between the field and the end user, it may be time to look at new ways of transporting corn, soybeans, cotton or other crops.
Melinda Dittmer and her colleagues at Minnesota-based Nexyst 360 believe that putting the harvested material in a sealable mobile container may be a good solution for keeping transportation losses at a minimum and other benefits.
“What Nexyst 360 wants to do for grain handling is what the mobile phone did for the landline,” says Dittmer, chief operating officer for Nexyst 360. “How do we accomplish this? We’re going to load a crop in a box in the field. The crop will stay in the box until it gets to the end destination.”
Dittmer, a speaker at the AgLaunch Initiatives Row Crop Challenge training in Memphis, Tenn., said the box can be transported on a truck and hauled to an intermodal facility where it can be loaded on a rail car or a ship.
“By doing this we solve several issues,” she said. “One of the big ones is insurability. We can grade the crop when we put it in the box and seal it so that when it gets to the buyer they know what kind of quality they’re getting.
“A lot of times when a crop is sent from the U.S. by the time the crop gets to China or Southeast Asia it’s degraded in quality significantly, and the farmers are docked. We’ll have sensors in the box so we can monitor the moisture content and the oxygen level. We’ll know the seal is broken if the oxygen level goes up, for instance.”
Once the container arrives, Nexyst 360 hopes to have a system that will have it reloaded and sent back to the United States to keep a steady flow of containers between ports or rail or truck facilities.
Data capture will be another part of the system. “Today, a lot of the data that goes into producing a crop is lost when it leaves the field and is comingled with other grain at an elevator or port facility,” she noted. “We can keep all our data with the box in addition to the quality of the crop in the box.”
Nexyst doesn’t expect to replace all the grain elevators or commodity firms overnight.
“We’re an alternative that today doesn’t exist,” she noted. “We have grain bins, and we have bags. There’s not a lot of other options, and when storage runs out, there’s nowhere to put the crop except on the ground.”
Nexyst completed a prototype box last fall and plans to begin testing more Nex Boxes in 2020.