As farmers approach the 2019 harvest, comparisons are quickly being made to 2009’s late wet harvest. But one thing’s for sure: Remote dryer monitoring has come a long way in 10 years, and that piece of technology might help you better manage grain drying this time around.
An early entry on the remote dryer control market, GSI’s WatchDog unit lets you monitor and control the dryer from your smartphone and can be installed on any GSI dryer with Vision Controls. According to GSI’s Gary Woodruff, the screen looks the same on your smartphone as it does on the Vision Controls box, but it has mobile-friendly menus and is accessible from any web-connected device.
WatchDog lets you adjust dryer settings such as moisture and temperature, and monitor dryer status, sending out alerts as needed.
“We only let it do things that would be safe, so you can’t start it remotely,” Woodruff says, explaining that this prevents the dryer from being started when someone could be working in or near it. Users also have to enter a password to gain access and make changes.
“Our first monitoring system was put out in 1997. Then in 2005, Vision Controls came out, and that’s when we saw farmers transition to wanting more technology,” Woodruff recalls. “Today, the majority of our dryers go out capable of running WatchDog.”
You will need internet access at your dryer, but WatchDog is not subscription-based; there’s an initial cost on hardware for stacked or portable dryers. Tower dryers and Top Dry systems don’t require the hardware, so there’s no charge in that case.
Costs will include web access fees or cell modem fees, depending on which route you go to secure a static IP address at your dryer.
Mathews Co. launched MC Trax in 2011 as a monitoring app that generated alerts. Last year, the company launched a version that’s fully capable of remotely controlling the dryer.
“People are in the combines, off-site working, or may not have the manpower to be at the grain dryer,” says Nick Nanos, Mathews Co. “This gives you the ability to connect through Wi-Fi or a cellular connection so you can control the dryer.”
MC Trax also lets you change moisture and temperature, and with safety and security. You can’t start the dryer remotely, and you can only make changes using a four-digit pin.
“We wanted to make sure we were doing things very safe and ultimately making it extremely easy to use,” Nanos says.
MC TRAX: “People are in the combines, off-site working, or may not have the manpower to be at the grain dryer,” says Mathews Co.’s Nick Nanos. “This gives you the ability to connect through Wi-Fi or a cellular connection so you can control the dryer.”
All MC dryers come with one year of free MC Trax, which is followed by an annual subscription fee. There’s no hardware to purchase, but farmers will need a wired Ethernet connection at the dryer, which can be done by any local internet service provider. According to Nanos, a hot spot can only be used if it has Ethernet connectivity, or if you connect the hot spot to a separate router and hard wire the Ethernet from that router.
Woodruff sums up well the technology portion of drying grain in 2019: “I wouldn’t want to run a dryer any year — particularly this year — without those kinds of warnings and the ability to remotely monitor the dryer.”