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Cutting-edge innovations unveiled at GEAPS Idea Exchange

From autonomous railcar loading to precision barge drafting and microbial fumigation systems, new innovations aim to reshape grain handling operations.

Elise Schafer headshot Headshot
Computer Technology
Frankelly Franco Ureña |

The annual Idea Exchange at GEAPS Exchange 2024 features short presentations from a variety of speakers on some of the newest and most innovative products and ideas to the grain industry. This year, 14 companies took the stage to highlight their services, equipment and technology, ranging from automation to safety to transportation solutions.

Among the presentations, three stood out for their groundbreaking potential.

1.   RAYHAWK Technologies Inc. unveiled an autonomous railcar loading system designed to revolutionize grain handling operations. Addressing key industry challenges such as safety risks, labor shortages, and production efficiency, this technology eliminates the need for human presence on top of railcars.

Utilizing cutting-edge vision and LIDAR technology, the system precisely opens and closes hatches, ensuring secure loading while reducing insurance costs and operational risks. With features like cavity inspection and seal cutting, it offers a comprehensive solution to streamline the loading process and enhance workplace safety.

“We train the computers using image classification and recognition to identify what a latch looks like, what a lid looks like, what a hinge looks like, so it doesn't matter where the rail car is,” said Tom Boehm with RAYHAWK Technologies Inc. “Whether it comes in one direction or another direction, if it's slightly higher, slightly shorter or perhaps if there's latches on both sides, we will make sure the latches are all closed because you don't want the rail car lid falling off down to the ground.”

2.    Bargetender introduced its Automated Drafting System, a game-changing solution for barge loading operations. By leveraging real-time monitoring and data visualization, this system provides operators with precise draft measurements, reducing loading times and improving efficiency.

With over 20,000 barges loaded to date, the system has proven its effectiveness in optimizing load distribution and minimizing errors. Offering remote monitoring and comprehensive logging features, it enables operators to track loading progress and identify potential issues in real time, ensuring smooth operations and maximizing productivity.

“We have seen greater than a 75% reduction of time on the barge, which is fantastic because that was the problem we were trying to solve,” said Dave Comisky, co-founder of Bargetender. “Through the course of developing this, we were able to get our draft within a quarter of an inch across an entire barge that back-annotates to plus or minus 150 bushels on a 70,000-bushel barge.”

3.    Ecolab presented a novel approach to food safety with its chlorine dioxide gas-based antimicrobial decontamination solution.

“Globally, 600 million cases of foodborne illness occur annually,” said Alex Luce with Ecolab. “And 420,000 deaths occur. You may say, ‘That doesn't happen here in the US.’ Well, that's not true. One out of every six people or about 48 million get sick from foodborne illness in the United States and 128,000 of those result in hospitalization. Unfortunately, 3,000 people per year lose their lives to foodborne illness, so it's a serious subject.”

In response to the alarming rate of foodborne illnesses worldwide, this innovative fumigant targets microbes throughout the food chain, offering a sterilizing effect that eliminates viruses, bacteria, and mold spores. Recognized by the FDA and integrated into sanitation plans, this solution provides a holistic approach to food safety, ensuring thorough decontamination from field to packaging. With its ability to penetrate bio loads and sanitize difficult-to-clean areas, it offers a reliable and effective solution for protecting consumers and preserving food quality.

The 2024 GEAPS Idea Exchange showcased a diverse array of innovations poised to transform the grain industry. From autonomous loading systems to advanced decontamination technologies, these solutions represent the cutting edge of grain handling, safety, and food sanitation. As the industry continues to evolve, these innovations will play a crucial role in enhancing efficiency, reducing risks and ensuring the highest standards of safety and quality.

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