Designing highly efficient grain handling facilities and caring for the environment
By Peter Larsson, CEO Tornum AB, Sweden
Since our business is to supply state of the art solutions for the world"s most important business, I would like to take this opportunity to share how we at Tornum feel about the latest global trends in grain handling.
Let us begin by identifying a trend that is beyond all trends: caring for the environment, which is a reality we all need to relate to. Looking at a typical grain handling facility, there are several potential areas for big and profitable improvements on environmental impact, including the safety standards of the workplace environment.
Grain dryers consume substantial amounts of energy but the overall efficiency differs significantly depending on the design of the dryer in question. As an example, our heat recovery dryers can, under favourable ambient conditions, reduce the energy consumption and the carbon footprint by up to 30 percent compared to traditional designs.
Natural gas is probably the most common heat source for dryers, but there are better solutions available. A good example is hot water radiators inside the dryer, heated by biomass fuel for a carbon neutral drying process. We actually use a similar system for our offices and our factory, with excellent results.
Drying to moisture levels below market requirements "just to make sure" is a common sight, which causes unnecessary weight and revenue losses as well as wasting energy. Taking the guesswork out of the equation offers a huge potential for savings. Sophisticated dryer control systems like Tornum"s IDC make sure that your grain is correctly dried every time, resulting in lower energy bills, less emissions and fewer man hours needed to monitor the process.
Dust emissions are often neglected, which is a dangerous practice. Dust explosions do occur from time to time, and by minimising the dust you also greatly reduce any health impact on your work force including surrounding areas. Varying particle sizes present a problem, but a reduction of 95 - 99 percent is actually possible with today"s technology.
In my experience, concentrating on eliminating dust from the dryer itself yields the best results, using separation fans or, preferably, a centriklon system. Then you can evaluate the need for further dust separation efforts around elevators, conveyors and unloading areas.
Entering a grain filled silo should always be avoided. Tragic accidents happen regularly, usually when servicing sweep augers, despite the fact that alternative solutions for unloading using air only are available. In addition to minimising the need to enter confined spaces, these low maintenance systems also offer high quality aeration.
Grain is our food, and we should not allow anything to happen to it that could cause health issues for the consumer. But sustainability is not just about wholesome food it also means that we should not allow grain to be wasted.
Grain is a living material and needs to be carefully managed throughout the storage period. Controlling the moisture content and temperature is an absolute necessity but using ambient air for aeration only goes so far. Way too often, we see grain going out of condition where using artificially cooled air would have solved the problem.
Regardless of the type of equipment, good grain management is absolutely essential. At the latest Agritechnica show, the trend towards management apps was very noticeable. New technologies develop at a faster pace than ever before and practices that have worked well for years will not be good enough anymore. In my opinion, we all need to open our minds and embrace the new possibilities to stay competitive.
To sum things up, the digital age with the "Internet of Things" offers a great potential for the grain handling industry. Already you can monitor and adjust the drying process via your smart phone or laptop remotely. But I am totally convinced that what we see today is just the beginning of a new era for the world"s most important business resulting in grain handling facilities all over the world showing vastly improved efficiency, sustainability and, as a result, sustained profitability.