Storage—Start with the end in mind

Dave Ahern, national sales manager of IntelliFarms, told Sorghum U attendees about the role management plays in helping farmers handle stored crops.

IntelliFarms provides advanced management technology systems installed in grain bins. Most often systems monitor wheat, sorghum, canola, corn and soybeans.

“We monitor that moisture, the temperature in the bin,” Ahern said. “We monitor the weather outside.”

By collecting the data it does, the firm is better able to advise the farmer as to when he needs to turn the fans on or to take the crop to market.

“We develop meaningful solutions,” he said. “Being a technology company we have to kind of be that kayak in a way to where we can mold our products and make sure we’re providing value.”

Ahern believes a grain storage plan starts before the farmer puts the seed into the ground.

“My storage plan should be around my market,” he said. “It should be how am I going to feed this to get it to a specific market. I want to show you how the technology can help drive that.”

Ahern likes to help relate science to the management of the grain in the bin.

For example, equilibrium moisture content. The bin has certain characteristics like the moisture level with and without grain in it.

“Put a piece of sorghum in at 10 percent and the equilibrium of the room is 13 percent, that sorghum is going to hydrate back up to 13 percent if left long enough,” Ahern said. “Another piece of sorghum at 16 percent will dry down to that 13 percent.”

The farmer is able to take specifics of the humidity and target temperatures and dial it down to not only certain commodities, but specific varieties and help to manage them accordingly while they are being stored.

“Storage should be thought about all the way from seed down to the field, what we do in the field, how we nurture that plant,” he said. “What we store and have a marketing plan behind that as well.”

The tools Ahern has available allows users to check fields, check varieties and on-farm storage systems. Farmers can also research test plots/field trials in their area to help find the best varieties and apply the data to their own operations.

“We’re not biased to any of these different varieties, but we know how it stores,” he said. “So that’s where we start when we’re thinking about storage.”

To make decisions about storage, Ahern reiterates the importance of having a plan. Ask the following questions:

• What is your purpose?

• What are you growing for?

• Are you growing for the highest yield potential?

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“We can get it into the bin and we want to deliver it,” he said. “We want it to be a predictable product. Not grow necessarily just a commodity, grow a product.”

Technology can help predict harvest date, yield, moisture and when it should go into the bin. These combine to help create a more predictable situation on the farm, including the required airflow, which can enable the crop to maintain quality during its time in storage.

“When you’re talking about shelf life of a commodity—all commodities, all varieties of commodities have a different shelf life,” he said. “They’re a biodegradable substance.”

The technology inside the bins helps keep the crop consistent all the way through. It’s kind of “like x-ray vision.”

“The system can react to it and it can run fans more aggressively where you can make decisions based on that,” Ahern said.

He wants to “promote” having an on-farm storage plan.

“I’m also going to plug how do you create that plan around your storage, whether you have a bin already or you’re planning to build one,” he said.

IntelliFarm staff spends time on the farm and evaluates data to make the system operate the best it can.

“Get the modeling done so you can have a better plan,” Ahern said. “I can’t plug that enough.”

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].