Jason Schultz of Bashaw, Alberta, says he’s made a practice of harvesting his crops when they’re a little on the tough side, not only to get an early start on harvest operations, but perhaps more importantly to maximize grades — and, therefore, revenue per acre.
“We want to start as early as we can. I want tough grain. If I have it I know we’re close to No. 1 quality if the crop has matured evenly; I’m saving a grade,” he told Grainews. “And getting harvest completed in these timelines that have been stretched out in the last couple of years. We’ve had four absolutely miserable harvests in the last four years. I’ve combined wheat flat off the ground from all the snow. We’ve pushed the window almost until November. It’s crazy.”
But with four combines running in the field, keeping up to the stream of damp grain coming into the bin yard became a challenge, so last year Schultz decided to build a grain drying and handling system that could handle the job.
“When you’re chasing four combines, you need something that will dry (grain) quickly,” he continued. “It was definitely a capacity problem. We needed to keep up. We tend to take off a lot of tough grain. My limitations were I couldn’t keep up with that moisture with my small dryer, and I only had one or two wet bins.
“I thought a stack dryer would give me the capacity and the ability to keep grain in the dryer longer to dry it all in one pass. Now we have a bigger system to accommodate more combines running at capacity. I think I sized it right for today and the future. I think this will last me a long time.”
Schultz has 22 Meridian bins and a double-stacked GSI quiet dryer all connected via a VersaLoop chain conveyor are ready to receive this year’s harvest. The system should be able to reduce the moisture content of about 1,200 bushels per hour by five per cent.
Schultz acknowledges that preparing for the set up took a little planning, and he included an electrician in the planning process to make sure the infrastructure was adequate to handle the power demands. He decided to purchase a GSI system from Western General, a GSI dealer in nearby Wetaskiwin, who also helped with the design.
Although Schultz believes the setup he now has will be adequate to handle his current needs, he ensured it could be expanded to handle all possible future demands.
“I have another 26 hopper bins that I can tie the VersaLoop system into,” he said. “We designed it to eventually integrate that, but I don’t know if my pocket book will ever allow it. This system will allow me to blend. I have five bins that are wet, and that can be expanded in the future. Then, I could blend 100 per cent.”
Adding the upgrades
Including a comprehensive lighting system that makes working after dark much easier and has been an important part of the design. With the bin yard fully illuminated, it is also much easier to work in it. And it’s safer.
“Especially for OHS (Occupational Health and Safety),” he said. “It’s one of those things. They want you to make a safe work environment. It’s a small add-on, but it’s big when it comes to safety.”
Another electrical upgrade included in the design was a variable frequency drive system (VFD) for the conveyor.
“We did the best we could to give the equipment longevity with the VFD and soft starts,” he said. “They give more torque on start up and you can set your speeds. Instead of running bucket elevators 100 per cent wide open, you can dial that back to 50 per cent capacity. It makes the electrical more efficient and gives me options for slower speeds.”
The choice of GSI’s quiet dryer system has also reduced the noise levels, making the working environment in the area a little more comfortable. And Schultz thought that fan model also offered other benefits.
“We ran quiet fans on the stack dryer,” he said. “That was kind of a big cost, but it’s 30 per cent quieter and we can push more air through canola.”
The dyers run on natural gas, and Schultz cautions farmers considering similar systems to make sure their service is adequate to handle the large demand from high capacity systems.
“Make sure you can get access to gas and lots of it, especially for the big set ups he said. “That would be a huge miss if you didn’t plan for the main component. I’m going to be very close to running the gas co-op short if I have all the burners going. Unfortunately, we’re on a line that was sized back in the ’60s. If I fire the dryers up, I’d pretty much take it right to capacity. I have to be conscientious of my neighbours and my own yard that we don’t run dry.”
Although some farmers might opt to drop one combine and rely on the increased drying capacity of a system like this to get the same level of production, Schultz isn’t planning on that, at least not right away.
“Could I drop a combine?” he pondered. “I probably could, but I’m not willing to do that until the system runs to expectations. It’s very compact and tidy. It puts a grin on my face knowing this fall I’ll be able to use it. I think we got it right the first time around.”