An innovative hand-held device for in-field grain quality measurement
by Julia Auzeral, GrainSense, Finland
The innovative grain quality measurement device GrainSenserevolutionises farming practices and trading grain commodities. Contrary to conventional grain analysers, the GrainSense device is truly hand-held and battery-operated. It is now possible to analyse the quality of grain in a few seconds in the field, when loading or unloading, in the barn and at the silos.
All measurements are saved instantly to a secured cloud database via bluetooth connection through a mobile application. Personal data can be accessed at any time from anywhere with a GrainSense cloud account. The GrainSense hand-held device measures the protein, moisture, oil and carbohydrate contents of grains cereals and other crops. For the first time, farmers, seed producers, and plant breeders will be able to rapidly measure the key parameters of their crops in the field and make decisions that can significantly improve their productivity and profitability. GrainSense allows major improvements to the food supply chain.
The GrainSense solution has been developed in close collaboration with individual farmers and farming organisations. The feedback from farmers has confirmed that until now, there have not been suitable tools available to support farm-level decision-making in order to manage and optimise the protein content of crops.
Affordable and durable for farm use, both grain and livestock producers will find great interest in such a product with a pay-back time that is estimated as less than a year. Farmers generally farm for 40 harvests, 40 chances to 'get it right' so to speak. GrainSense helps farmers to get answers to many questions that directly affect the quality, cost, and pricing of their produce and also allows them to assess their individual field performances and farming practices.
The GrainSense device:
• Eliminates need to mail samples and wait for results
• Enables early harvest planning based on crop quality
• Enables 'real time' sorting at the grain silos, thereby increases revenue
• Saves energy at the dryer with accurate moisture measurements
• Optimises operations through more frequent protein/oil measurements
• Simplifies inter-farm trading, a growing trend
• Enables farmers to buy grains that have optimal protein content for the feed and adjust the animal intake
• Gives negotiating power to the farmer when selling because protein, moisture and oil contents are of paramount for fixing most crops prices and premiums
• Enables improvement in farming practices, harvest after harvest, based on real data
A measurement in 30 seconds
To take a measurement, a reference reading is first taken using an empty sphere for a baseline. Kernels are then loaded onto the glass (60-80 kernels, 3-5gr), and the sample is measured in four seconds. From these two measurements, the absorbance cross section (ACS) of the kernels can be determined. Multivariate calibration algorithms are used to define the protein, moisture, carbohydrates and oil contents.
According to the sample size (e.g field size, truck capacity), three measurements or more can be taken and averaged via the app in a couple of minutes.
On a year to year basis, NIT lab devices are re-calibrated to adjust for the phenomena known as annual offsets. These annual offsets are a result of different growing conditions (mainly weather related), observed at the national level. GrainSense provides, via the cloud service, annual calibration updates that are comparable to the national laboratory device.
A new approach in using NIR
GrainSense followed a new approach in developing and realising the GrainSense device design. The technical principle is near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy in the so-called third overtone wavelength range. This technique has been used in laboratory instruments for years, but GrainSense is the first to realise such an instrument in a handheld format. Because of the patented sampling technology (grain inside an 'integrated sphere') the light intensity arriving at the detector is several hundred times higher than otherwise possible. This enables the building of a small, battery operated device. The key components of the GrainSense solution are the GrainSense device, mobile application, and cloud-based database.
Accuracy tested by Luke, the Natural Resources Institute Finland
Luke tested the GrainSense device using commercial and non-commercial wheat varieties harvested during 2013 to 2018, and compared to a NIT grain analyser in the Finnish grain network. The White Paper on GrainSense device accuracy can be found on the GrainSense website.
Because everyday day-life decisions affect the efficiency and profitability of the farms
• Which fields have higher protein levels? When and where should we start harvesting to attain the highest quality?
• How should I store the crop in different silos to avoid spoiling the best quality grain with a lower quality batch?
• What is the price I am getting from my crop? Am I getting the right price? Where should I sell my harvest? For feed or to the mill?
• Should I sell now or later?
• Am I paying the right price for the grains I'm buying?
• How much protein am I feeding to my animals to maximise the growth and income?
• These are typical, everyday questions that farmers ask themselves that affect greatly the profitability of their operations.
Distribution in Europe
In the EU, the GrainSense device is retailed for an international price of € 3,900 (+VAT), which includes the device, a carrying bag, and a measuring cup. It also comes with a one-year warranty. 'GrainSense is at least three times less expensive than the closest alternative,' says Edvard Krogius, CEO of GrainSense. 'We believe it will pay for itself after one harvest season.'
The annual cloud service fee is € 250 euro (around US $300). It includes updates and calibrations, unlimited data storage, and the possibility to share measurement results. Five species are available currently: wheat, barley, oats, rye, and rapeseed. Available species are country specific.
Sales started in Finland in May 2018. By spring, the GrainSense device will be sold by local distributors in nine countries: Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Turkey.
GrainSense is looking for suitable distributors for the sales on the European market in 2019 and beyond. Please contact company CEO for enquiries.