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A Closer Look at Managing Australian Grain in Storage

By Matt Coleborne

Summary

In a part two follow on from my highlights summary of Andrew Freeth’s research, I look more closely at his findings of managing grain in storage in Australia and where the opportunity for innovations exists.

Article

The report ‘On Farm Storage and Grain Supply Chain – Unravelling the Logistics and Marketing Puzzle’ was prepared by Andrew Freeth over 2 years as a Nuffield Scholar with funding support from the Grain Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

If you take the time to read the full report, you’ll quickly realize Andrew knows his stuff, and it shouldn’t be a surprise he and his family run a sizeable farming enterprise in the New South Wales region of Gilgandra.

In Chapter 2 of the report, Freeth details that Australian growers are following the trends in the US and Canada to store greater quantities of grain on farm, and are storing the grain for much longer periods of time.

If the grower can do it well, the commercial upside for them can be significant, by allowing them to control and time the sale of product to the market, even who it is sold to.

However, with this comes a much higher level of responsibility on the grower to better manage the grain for that period of time, so it’s in the best saleable condition.

Fumigation with Phosphine is pretty much the only commercially available option for controlling grain insects in stored grain under the Australian conditions. In fact, the use of Phosphine has been looked at closely in Australia by a number of people.

Known in Australia as the authority in gas tight storage and the use of Phosphine, Mr Peter Botta is published as saying that Phosphine is still an effective fumigant, but it must be used in a sealed, gas-tight storage or silo.

Botta emphasises the importance of Phosphine and its lasting effectiveness on the Grain Research and Development Corporation’s website: “It is inexpensive, easy and safe to use when done correctly, and can be accessed by growers.”

However, doing it correctly can be easier said than done.

That’s where a solution like the one the team at Centaur has developed can come into play and give the farmer more than just the peace of mind that levels are correct, but the confidence in their roles as part of the total supply chain from farm to fork. Rather than using a decade old monitoring technology (or sometimes no monitoring at all), there is now an affordable and accurate solution with the Centaur platform. First and foremost, it’s a cloud-based system, so you can access it from anywhere – there is no need to be physically next to your storage asset and manually perform the test.

Furthermore, the sensors are intelligent (and wireless), meaning they can continuously transmit data back to the platform, giving the grower or user a real-time ongoing data feed and insights. (If you’d like to hear how the team has overcome the transmission of data within confined spaces, please get in touch).

The real value from the Centaur platform comes from its cognitive analytics. This removes the guesswork and effectively de-risks pest management. Almost sounds too good to be true, right? Well behind the scenes, entomological models are being applied to the data stream, and predicative analysis guides end users with actionable advice.

This can include the prescribing of correct dosages and the durations of treatments to be undertaken. The predication of fumigation success or failure is with warning and alarms, so actions don’t get missed.

I’d like to think it gives us the ability to predict the future and act before you lose value from your crop. It’s about getting tomorrow’s hindsight and using it today. When you have meaningful and detailed trajectory projections, you can see what the future holds and come back to change the course of your crop and storage management.

There are already a number of innovative, technology savvy growers ready to participate in our on-farm storage pilot, and some market leading grain handlers looking closely at how to integrate this innovation into business as common practices. If you’d like to join this select group in Australia and participate in a pilot, please contact me directly in Australia by email at matt@centaur.ag.

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