Harvey Aberhart was impressed with how well a Fast Dry grain bin drying system worked last fall and winter on his eastern Saskatchewan farm and he’s even more anxious to see how new moisture-sensing cables now installed in those bins, will improve drying accuracy. He’s planning to add a third Fast Dry bin this fall.
Aberhart, who crops about 10,000 acres near Langenburg, in central Saskatchewan near the Manitoba border, set up two 50,000-bushel bins with the Fast Dry system last year.
Fast Dry, offered by Wall Grain Handling Systems at Winnipeg is a system that adds a high-capacity burner to the aeration system on a bin. Fast Dry has its pros and cons, as does a conventional free-standing grain dryer, but for considerably lower cost and with proper management Aberhart found the system worked well in drying a full bin of wheat to a marketable moisture level.
“When we set this up last year at the start I wasn’t sure if it would even work,” says Aberhart. “But it worked amazingly well. We’re still learning in this process. We installed the burners on these two bins, and we filled the bins with wheat. It worked in bringing the moisture down over about seven days. As we approach this year I think it will work better if we only fill the bins about three-quarters full.”
Aberhart was harvesting wheat in last year’s cool, wet fall at about 18 per cent moisture. Using the Fast Dry system, grain in the bottom of the bins got down to about 10 per cent moisture while some midway up and at the top was tougher. By augering the wheat out of the bin after seven days of drying, the mixing process brought overall moisture of the grain down to 14.5 per cent, which was fine for delivering to the elevator.
“In our situation we got moisture down with the Fast Dry system and then loaded the grain on the truck for delivery at the elevator,” he says. “But there is no reason if you had the bins and augers why you couldn’t move and mix it into another bin for longer-term storage.”
Outfitting each aeration bin with a high BTU burner, and using the same high-capacity CFM fans as used for straight aeration, he figures the overall cost was about $6,000 per bin. Last year he fired the burners with propane and has switched the system to lower-cost natural gas for this coming season.
“I had thought about buying a dryer but the cost of a dryer is considerably higher, and then they have higher maintenance costs too,” says Aberhart. “But I was really pleased at how well this system worked and I plan to add a third drying bin this year. The way it stands now I don’t think I will need a dryer anytime soon, as this is working well.”
Aberhart has been using OPI System temperature sensors on grain bins for years, but the company has now introduced moisture sensors. The new system actually combines moisture and temperature sensing on the same cable. He’s installed those moisture/temperature sensors in bins for this coming harvest season and says it should provide a more accurate picture of how the grain is drying.
In setting up the Fast Dry system in 2010, Aberhart credits the help of Greg Hudye who farms near Norquay, Sask., who has had more experience with the Fast Dry system.
“He gave us advice on how to fill the bins and to keep track of grain moisture as it goes into the bin,” says Aberhart. “And on average, with the burner going, you can plan on moisture dropping by .75 per cent to one per cent per day. With these large bins seven to 10 days of drying should do the job.”
The OPI System moisture sensors should considerably improve the accuracy of the Fast Dry system, says Dave Wall, president of Wall Grain. “These are brand new, a few people had them last year, but they have just come on the market,” says Wall. “With just a temperature sensor and perhaps a lot of figuring you can make a guess at where grain is at moisture-wise with a Fast Dry system, but these new moisture sensors should eliminate that guesswork.”
Wall, who worked with the Fast Dry system for many years, says there is still a place for conventional free-standing grain dryers. They have a higher capital cost ranging from about $50,000 to $200,000 and they also have maintenance costs, but depending on how many acres a person is farming and how much crop has to be dried, they still make economic sense.
FAST DRY FIT
However, he says the Fast Dry system can have an excellent fit for farmers if they don’t need a dryer every year, if they have lower volumes of crop to dry, and if a conventional grain dryer isn’t available. An earlier detailed article by Wall on the Fast Dry system can be found on the Internet at: www.allsize.com/article1.html.
“A lot of people are going to be thinking about drying grain this fall,” says Wall. “And in a year like this if a farmer hasn’t already lined up a grain dryer, it may be too late to get one now.” He expects grain-drying questions will be the top of the list later this month as farmers visit the Wall Grain booth at the Farm Progress Show in Regina, June 15 to 17.
Wall says the Fast Dry system can work on most grain bins that have full aeration floors and high air flow capacity. The high air flow capacity is key.
Using their most popular 36-foot-diameter bin, with 25,000-to 30,000-bushel capacity, as an example, he says a system with high air flow and a burner with sufficient BTUs can dry about 20,000 to 25,000 bushels in seven to 10 days.
By high-capacity air flow he means a 10-horsepower fan, with 1,750 r.p.m. that can push 9,000 to 10,000 cubic feet of air per minute (cfm). And he says, don’t confuse that with a 10-horsepower in-line fan with 3,500 r.p.m. that can only push 6,000 to 7,000 cfm. The higher capacity is better.
Wall says the burner has to produce sufficient heat to do the job efficiently. A simple formula he uses (in Imperial measure) is the airflow x temperature rise = BTUs.
“On a cool fall day, when you want to bring the temperature to 50 F, the example is 10,000 cfm x 50 = 500,000 BTUs,” says Wall. “There are a lot of systems out there with only 115,000 BTUs, so if you are trying to get the job done efficiently in a reasonable time, those smaller burners just don’t have enough capacity. You have a considerable depth of grain in a bin, and to get air through that grain to dry it you really have to sock the heat to it.”
Wall says the OPI moisture sensors should eliminate guesswork on drying efficiency and also be a useful marketing aid. “With these moisture sensors you will have a record you can take to the elevator and say, ‘look my grain is at 12 per cent moisture,’ or whatever, and be able to move it,” he says.
On a 25,000-bushel Fast Dry bin, Wall says a farmer should install two or three of the moisture/temperature sensor cables. The cables are suspended from the ceiling of the bin with a sensor every four feet — one should hang in the bin above where air is entering the bin, one in the centre of the bin and one against the other outside wall.
If there is already a high-capacity air flow fan on the bin, he says a high BTU burner will cost about $5,000, and each moisture-sensing cable is $1,000, so a bin can be converted for a total cost of about $7,500 to $8,000.
“Even if you set up three or four bins with the Fast Dry system that’s a cost of $25,000 to $30,000,” says Wall. “If you had four bins, with 20,000 bushels of grain that’s 80,000 bushels that could be dried in seven to 10 days.”
A farmer might spend $70,000 on the capital cost of a grain dryer, but then they are looking at two to three times that cost more to set up the bins and augers needed to put the whole grain-drying system in place.
“Again figuring out the most efficient system depends so much on how many combines you have, how many acres, how many bins you have and a host of other factors,” says Wall. “There certainly is an economic fit for grain dryers and there is also a fit for the Fast Dry system.
“And I have heard so many stories this year about how much canola was lost due to heating this past winter,” says Wall. “You start losing a bin of canola and it doesn’t take long to cover the cost of some type of drying system.”
LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsat Calgary.Contacthimat403-592-1964orby emailat [email protected]