Two systems for automating the complex process of drying grain will enable farmers to hit moisture targets accurately with greater consistency, and thereby cut fuel use.
The Intelligent Dryer Control (IDC) has been developed in a partnership between Allmet and Tornum, while the Dryer Master system from Kentra Grain Systems was developed by a specialist manufacturer in Canada.
Both systems use sensors to measure the moisture content of incoming and dried grain, and software that adjusts the flow rate of grain through the dryer to achieve the target.
“This proven technology can save valuable time otherwise spent monitoring and managing a dryer manually and can bring about significant savings in energy use,” says Kentra managing director, Barry Higginbottom.
It also avoids unnecessary weight loss, resulting from over-drying.
“The ability to predict when, say, wetter incoming grain will fill the dryer takes all the guesswork out of managing the system and results in more accurate and consistent drying,” he adds.
“With manual monitoring and control, you are always working behind the curve, altering settings after the event.”
This could be when the combine opens up in damper crop around a field boundary, for example, or as crops lose moisture after a dewy morning.
Costs of inaccurate drying
Allmet director Charles White highlights the costs and penalties of inaccurate grain drying.
“Overstepping the mark by drying to 13% moisture instead of 14% can add up to 20% to your energy bill, give you an additional 1% loss in weight and reduce your dryer’s capacity by up to 16%.”
The company’s Intelligent Dryer Control is available in four standard kits comprising a sensor positioned in one of the upper drying sections to measure incoming moisture and another in the cooling zone, close to the dryer outlet.
The control unit sets the speed of the dryer discharge to obtain the desired moisture content, regardless of outside climatic conditions.
The Dryer Master DM510 control unit and software can be retrofitted to most continuous-flow crop dryers or embedded into the control panel of a new Kentra dryer.
The sensors are at the intake and in the conveyor carrying grain from the dryer. Calibration requires nothing more than pressing a button on the control panel, putting a couple of samples through a moisture meter and entering the readings.
“We don’t advocate a ‘set and forget’ approach; it’s good practice to have someone supervising the drying operation and we recommend repeating the sensor calibration two or three times a day as a check,” says Mr Higginbottom.
“But the accuracy of this automated control system will give the store supervisor confidence to attend to other aspects of harvest management without neglecting the dryer.”
The Dryer Master display provides a quick view of drying status and settings, a manual option for operators who prefer to make their own discharge rate decisions, a number of alarm alerts and a print-out for records.
Where internet access is available, the display is duplicated on a web browser accessible on a farm office computer or remotely via a smartphone or other mobile device.
Similar remote access is provided by Allmet’s IDC, says Mr White: “You can change the grain type and drying recipe wherever you are, at the touch of a button from a PC or tablet computer.”