The BinTechCO2 sensor is inserted through the bin roof and suspends down into the headspace. The sensor’s default setting will take automatic readings every hour; however, the interval can be changed to take readings more or less frequently if needed.
Installation and start-up are simple whether the bin is empty or full. The installer simply cuts a small access hole in the roof for the sensor, feeds the sensor through, mounts the box, swivels the solar panel to face south and flips the “on” switch. Lastly, BinTech calls the customer to verify identifying information about the sensor and its location, such as bin number, serial number, etc. Registered users can then log into BinTech’s data viewing website, click on the bins they want to see, and view any bin’s CO2 trend data over the last few days, weeks or months.
The data is also closely monitored by BinTech’s staff. “A key convenience feature of BinTechCO2 is that we monitor here the CO2 levels in each bin and, using proprietary software, determine which bins have normal conditions, which should be watched more closely and which should have an alert sent to the customer to advise them about the concern,” says Fromme. “Customers have found this information very useful and have confirmed the problem by inspecting the bin and used the knowledge to make real-time grain decisions. We’ve seen CO2 spoilage detection to be very effective in many sizes and types of bins, as well as with many typical stored grain types including corn, wheat, soybeans and sorghum.”
Once installed, the system is completely self-sufficient. The Andersons’ Marlow says the system is very user-friendly. “It’s not intrusive to our day-to-day operations at all,” he says. “It’s like a grain temperature monitoring system that sits in the background, continuously collecting data for you.”
But when it comes to predicting grain quality, the return on investment is more important than the investment itself.
Why monitor CO2?
So how can monitoring CO2 levels help increase your bottom line? It allows users to compare information from one bin to another to determine how best to use the grain in each bin.
“If something indicates there may be a problem in one bin, but no foreseeable problems in another bin, that can help make some real decisions that will pay back immediately,” says Maier. “If you’re going to be selling, shipping or processing some grain, you can now have the knowledge to take it first out of the bin that has quality concerns and hold on to the more stable quality grain for longer periods of time. That’s how companies will make money off of this system.”
Marlow recalls the benefits his facility reaped from the first time he used CO2 monitoring technology.
“We had built a corn pile in the fall during a period of heavy rain,” says Marlow. “The uncovered pile got about 6 to 8 inches of rain on it while we were building it. We knew we had problems just from walking on the grain surface and within a week we started looking at CO2 levels with Purdue. The readings were in the 3,000 to 4,000 ppm range and Dirk suggested we immediately do something about it, so we reclaimed the pile as quickly as we could. Had it not been for the CO2 monitoring, I can’t say how long we would’ve left it out, because without temperature cables we didn’t have any other indicators to go by, except for odor and visual cues.”
Some of the benefits of CO2 monitoring can be achieved by using hand-held sensors instead of, or in addition to, permanently fixed sensors like BinTechCO2.
An alternative sensor
Two of The Andersons’ 500,000-bushel wheat tanks at Delphi are equipped with the BinTechCO2 monitoring system. On the remainder of Delphi’s bins and grain piles, and at two other Indiana facilities, on-site employees take weekly CO2 readings using a Telaire 7001 model hand-held CO2 sensor.
The facility supervisors enter the data, such as which bin and which fan the reading came from, the temperature, the background CO2 level and the CO2 level from the exhaust, into a spreadsheet and carefully analyze it weekly. They keep an eye out for any major inconsistencies between the background CO2 level and the exhaust fan CO2 level. Marlow and his staff review the information and use it as a grain quality management tool.