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Crop Storage Investment Earns Rewards

Published 2014 – When you plan to store grain from one season to the next in pursuit of the best prices, your facilities need to be up to the job.

Farm manager Nick Johnson feels those at High Dyke Farm, Wellingore, which he manages for Dutch owners, are up to the mark, and help them hold onto grain and ‘play the market’.

The farm is in two parts, a main block of some 400 hectares on Lincolnshire brash soils at Wellingore, served by a 3,000 tonne store and three 500 tonne bins, and  220 ha of heavy land South of Sleaford, where there is a 2,400 tonne store.

Cropping is 250 ha of winter wheat and 180 ha of oilseed rape, with 65 ha of sugar beet and 95 ha of winter/spring barley.

He still has all of 2012’s grain in store, although some of it may be sold soon to help fund construction of a new 9,000 tonne store at Wellingore, which would further increase their control of their grain marketing.

Monitoring of grain temperatures and fan management is now controlled by Martin Lishman Ltd’s “Barn Owl Wireless” system, which provides 24 hours a day monitoring of grain temperatures, and only turns on fans when they are going to be effective.

They installed a monitoring system first and continued operating fans manually, which saved a lot of management time:

“Manual sampling is time consuming. We had to insert spears manually, wait several minutes to register a reliable reading, and repeat the process every few metres. As a result we probably didn’t do it as frequently as we should.

“The Barn Owl Wireless system monitors temperatures properly all year round. I can check everything from my farm office. The farm’s Dutch owners can log into the system from their offices too. The system monitors temperatures inside and outside the store and starts the fans when the differential between the crop and the ambient temperature reaches five degrees.

“We can change the temperature differential if needed, and have reduced it several times this winter. As a result, even though we have not had any really cold temperatures we have been able to cool the grain effectively. Because fans only work when they are going to be effective cooling is more efficient and our energy bills should be lower”.

Their 3,000 tonne store at Wellingore is cooled using a set of 36 Pile-Dry Pedestals, each of which has its own fan: “We used to move fans around between them to cool sections individually, but now we can react to problems much quicker. Each pedestal effectively reacts to the temperature sensor nearest it”.

The Sleaford store is cooled via underfloor tunnels, with airflow being managed by manually adjusted slides, so localised problems can be addressed.

They use the Silo Strings introduced by Martin Lishman Ltd to monitor the bins, these being armoured cables with sensors positioned down their length so they give a complete picture of grain temperatures:

“Each bins has two fans at the base which extract warm air form the grain, which draws cooler air in from the top. Even in last year’s hot summer when the air above the grain often heated up during the day, the grain itself never got too hot because we could always cool it down at night”.

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