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New tech could revolutionize grain management

GSI grain bins
BIN INVESTMENT: Managing moisture content is one of the key strategies for storing grain safely. A new tool about to hit the market could change how you manage grain in the future.
GrainViz will allow you to see moisture levels inside grain bins down to the bushel.

Game-changing technologies in agriculture pop up frequently: autosteering for tractors, Precision Planting’s smart seed-firmer sensors, and the list goes on. Add GrainViz, a technology soon to be marketed by GSI, to the list.

The new tool lets you see moisture content within steel grain bins down to the bushel, experts say. Key words are “see,” as in a schematic colored map, and “bushel,” as in a bushel of grain at a different moisture content within the bin.

“The system produces a 3-D map on a computer screen or other device and shows moisture content by different colors down to a bushel on a volume basis,” says Roger Price, director of North American sales for GSI. “You can be much more accurate at maintaining proper moisture levels and keeping grain in condition. You also avoid overdrying and sending moisture out the top. You lose money when you sell corn which is too dry.”

How it works
Paul Card, president of GrainViz, spent five years adapting this technology to grain bins. “A researcher with an ag background working on imaging technology in the medical field wondered if it could have application in monitoring moisture levels in grain. That was the beginning,” Card says.

Twenty-four sensors mount inside on steel grain bin walls, Card explains. A sensor sends and receives FM radio frequency signals. The other 23 sensors also send out signals while receiving signals at the same time. The result is a round-robin pattern of signals that allows construction of a 3-D image, Card says.

grain moisture levels
SEE MOISTURE: This image produced by a new system of sensors inside steel grain bins shows variation in grain moisture within the bin.

There are other benefits, Card says. “We pick up insect activity because it senses insect respiration,” he adds. “It also detects anytime a person enters a bin.”

Price notes that the system can be used in conjunction with temperature cables. The advantage over temperature cables alone, he explains, is that GrainViz detects moisture changes, which can lead to temperature change if heating occurs anywhere in the bin. Temperature cable sensors only report grain temperature near the actual sensor.

Status report
Advanced beta testing is underway, Card says. Price expects GrainViz will roll out in early spring. The system will be ready for installation before the 2019 harvest.

Price says cost will depend on certain variables, including installation and whether the system is used with cables. However, he says for large bins, GrainViz is expected to be comparable to or lower in cost than existing grain bin monitoring systems that use cables. The cost will include an annual site subscription fee since GrainViz uses FM radio technology, plus a monthly per-bin charge for each month grain is in the bin.

“It will work on any size bin and be more economical the larger the bin,” Price says. “It’s a matter of penciling out how much you can save in unnecessary weight loss, and what it’s worth to automatically control aeration and moisture.”

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