A truism about grain storage learning is that each trial, experiment or learning event requires a year. This suggests that progress on what really works takes a long time. Added to the length of a cycle for storage is the variability of climate, weather, crop conditions, operator follow through, the applied method and differences in seeds at a biological level. Good conclusions require getting the correct balance among these factors.
An Iowa farm boy saw many advances as he grew up but wondered why too often grain spoils and the result is that livestock and turkeys do poorly and even die after eating moldy grain. In 1974 an experiment led him to what turned out to be a better way.
TGM founder Dan Kallestad grew up on a farm near the small town of Rake, Iowa, a mile from the Minnesota border. Crops included corn; soybeans; oats as a nurse crop and for straw for bedding; and alfalfa/bromegrass pasture and hayland. Livestock included feeder cattle, feeder pigs, 3,500 turkeys (free range in the '50s) and a beef cow/calf operation for awhile.
A bounty is being produced under the summer sun. Soon this will mature and then be harvested. The challenge then is to preserve this bounty without spoilage. This is now economically feasible.
Dan left the farm, but returned in 1974 due to circumstances including the death of his father. Many changes were occurring at the time and the trend was toward high heat drying of corn as opposed to letting corn finish its cycle in a corncrib, relying on the wind to dry it. Handling corn on the cob had become too labor intensive but, in Dan's mind the high heat drying methods were damaging the value of the crop. He thought there must be a better way.
His investigations led him to what was called 'natural air drying'. Many claims were made for and against this method but little scientific evidence existed. So the story starts:
1974 Experiments on Iowa farm.
A 36' natural air drying bin was installed for the 1974 corn crop. Records were maintained on each load put into the bin and of course of what was delivered. Each load was weighed, the temperature was checked and a moisture sample was taken. This was recorded as the wagon was unloaded. Test weight was determined by saving a sample from each load and periodically taking it to the elevator for measurement. Electric meters were installed to record energy use.
The following year at delivery the old-timer trucker who had retired from corn shelling remarked as he ran his fingers through the corn as the truck was being filled "I haven't hauled corn this nice for many years". Most had abandoned cribbing corn and were using high heat dryers of some sort or another.
In 1975 two bins were sold to other farmers to continue the evaluation. With good outcomes a business grew that sold over 600 systems before the great farm price collapse in the early eighties.
One of the outcomes was that there was considerably less shrink than the pencil shrink used by elevators. (Current work looks promising to provide reliable comparisons on shrink factors and how to benefit from this.)
1979 Experiments with profiles during grain curing.
An experiment and test was designed to find out how natural air drying (curing) progresses within a grain bin. A new 30' diameter grain bin had 5' horizontal probes installed up the sidewall — each 12" above the next lower one (a junction box was on the exterior, a grommet protected the 1" ID hollow fiberglass tube that protruded 5' toward the center). Each was equipped with a temperature and relative humidity sensor at the end. A data logger was connected so the readings could be saved automatically.
This experiment seems to not have been repeated any where in the world. [And no, the probes were not pulled down when the bin was unloaded from the center dump, but remained horizontal — reaching into the air.] The probes were mounted horizontally because air channels around a cable hanging vertically so the corn right next to the cable will change several times faster than that several feet away. During initial drying this can be misleading, especially when handling wetter grain. As aeration continues the differences diminish.
1983 First Sentry PAC introduced.
Chino, CA facilities 1998-2014
Observing these 600 natural air drying systems managed by the seat of the pants led to introduction of the Sentry PAC®, the first 'Smart' aeration controller, in 1983 (the 'P' in PAC stands for Programmed meaning it does not need programming, only simple settings). While it was not designed to be a full function natural air drying controller, its performance has helped many finish drying the last few points whether from the field or a high heat dryer.
The Sentry PAC can, not only finish drying the final points without over drying the bottom, it can re-wet over-dry crops such as soybeans. Much contention prevailed due to the USDA viewing re-wetting by aeration as food adulteration (of course they were pushed by processors who wanted to pay for less weight and then add water for processing). The resolution was to remove moisture content as a grade factor and let the market resolve the issue.
It is now better recognized that moisture content is a quality factor that impacts breakage, palatability, germination and other attributes.
The field proven technology in the Sentry PAC consistently produces good outcomes during grain storage.
Since its introduction, many hundreds of thousands of bin-years with 20 different grains managed by thousands of operators supports the making of the TGM System — an intelligent, networked grain aeration platform.
2014 The TGM System Introduced.
The TGM System has learning built in and adds connectivity, ease of use, enhanced drying/re-wetting capability and improved sensing. Micro-beam RH sensors provide precision monitoring to aid risk management. Another built in feature is the foundation for more robust traceability. Qualifying operations can have the grain storage history — Certified Aeration™ — to satisfy emerging buyer requests, and to reap higher selling prices whether by premiums or reduced discounts.
Grain management during storage requires precise fan run times — run times that achieve the following targeted outcomes:
► A Targeted Moisture Content that is uniform;
► A Targeted Delivery Date that economizes on energy use;
► A Targeted Delivery Temperature that enhances shipping.
The TGM System produces these Targeted results during grain storage. It then goes a step further to enable the industry to Target sources of grain that best meet its needs. Many benefits flow from what can be called "virtual merchandising".