Farmers could soon have a better, cheaper way to monitor conditions in their grain bins thanks to work being done at PAMI. Bolt FM announcer Jonathan Charlton spoke with research scientist Joy Agnew for the details.

The problem: Grain storage monitoring is critical for producers to help reduce the risk of spoilage during storage, Agnew said. “We’ve been doing a ton of research on things like natural air drying and best management practices for that, but it all comes down to what kind of information you have about the actual condition of the grain.”

Because grain is such a good insulator, however, a typical sensor on a cable can only monitor the temperature and moisture of a relatively small area. More advanced 3D scanning technology is too expensive to be viable for all but the largest bins. Her team wondered about a cost-effective way to better monitor smaller bins.

The solution: The proof-of-concept looks like a large egg. It’s a sensor in a protective casing that’s able to transmit real-time environmental data, including air flow, over wifi, and the idea is to have multiple sensors free-floating in the grain bin. Down the road, the sensors could be programmed to automatically activate environmental controls in the bin, Agnew said.

The team made the egg with existing, off-the-shelf technologies, Agnew said. “This is two months in the making. So it’s not like we spent years and years developing this. This was, ‘hey, do you think you can do this?’ ‘Sure, why not, let’s give it a try.’”

What’s next: Agnew plans to demonstrate a prototype at Ag In Motion on July 19th. Already it’s an impressive device, able to transmit the conditions at PAMI after setting up a quick wifi connection on your phone. Assuming the need for the product is sufficient, or the air flow sensor proving to be as important a feature as Agnew thinks, the sensor could be available to the public within two to three years, she said.

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