A novel new robotic device, designed to “swim” through stored grain checking for quality problems, is about to go on trial in silos in Scotland.
The Crover is a patented device that can work its way through heaps of grain, taking samples and monitoring its condition from top to bottom.
“Unlike current grain solutions that can only reach near the surface and pose a safety hazard to operators collecting the samples, Crover’s remote probing device will be able to autonomously collect samples throughout the whole silo or shed,” said a statement.
“This gives early detection of potential spoilage, allowing steps to be taken to reduce losses and maintain quality.”
Supported with £250,000 of Innovate UK funding, the Crover will be trialled over the next 18 months at the East of Scotland Farmers co-operative in Perth & Kinross, at a farm in Northumberland and within the Agri-EPI’s network of partner farms.
“Cereal grains are the basis of staple food, yet post-harvest losses during long-term storage are significant and high,” said Dave Ross, chief executive of the Agri-EPI Centre – one of the four Agri-Tech Centres of Agricultural Innovation
“Through this new and exciting collaboration, the partners will blend their technological and industry expertise to investigate how the Crover can respond to that challenge.”
‘Pests and mould’
In particular, the developers point to variations in temperature and moisture in grain stores, which can lead to the development of pests and mould.
“Post-harvest losses have serious financial impacts for cereal storage sites such as farms, grain merchants, millers and breweries,” said Crover’s managing director, Lorenzo Conti.
“But they also have significant social and environmental consequences, which are becoming ever more pressing due to threats such as increasing global food demand, intense price volatility, and harvest unpredictability due to climate change.
“Four-and-a-half billion people per year are exposed to dangerous mycotoxins from grain moulds, which contaminate 25% of the world’s food supply.
“And the carbon footprint from cereal storage losses equates to 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions from food waste,” he added.
Once commercialised, each one of the new robotic devices is expected to be able to save a total of 380t of grain every year.