TempuTech Smartens Up Grain Management With GE Platform

By bringing both of its grain bin management products into a single cloud-based interface, the company has created a simpler, more responsive interface for its customers.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 09, 2015

Of all the things that could be added to the Internet of Things, grain silos may not be the first that come to mind. But, in fact, grain-management systems have been employing temperature and humidity sensors to monitor the condition of grain stored in silos for decades. Now, the industry is evolving, as data collected from those sensor networks is brought onto cloud-based platforms.

In October 2013, Mississippi-based grain-management technology provider TempuTech became a beta tester for General Electric's Equipment Insight platform, a then-new offering that provides original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with a path for pulling data from legacy industrial systems into a cloud-based format, complete with data-analysis modules and other tools aimed at improving asset utilization and maintenance and repair operations. At present, TempuTech has converted or is in the process of converting roughly 30 of its customers to the Equipment Insights platform, which it installs at all of its new customer sites (five new customers are currently coming online, according to Adrian Merrill, TempuTech's VP), as well as at the sites of any customers that are receiving software upgrades. For these customers, TempuTech can convey actionable information regarding the grain's condition more quickly and easily than before.

Adrian Merrill
"There are two sides to our business," Merrill explains. "There's the grain management, where we monitor the temperature and moisture of grain stored inside bins. And then there's the hazard monitoring, where we monitor the bearings, the motion of belts and the buckets that transport the grain into and out of the bins."

Environmental Monitoring
Tracking the moisture and humidity levels inside the bins is crucial to preventing pest infestations, seed germination or other factors that could reduce the grain's quality and, therefore, its selling price. Sensors—which are often wired into cables that snake around the bin interiors, but are in some cases wireless—transmit data to software that controls large aeration fans located beneah the bins.

The TempuTech software uses presets to make managing the environment within the grain bin straightforward for its customers. "We have a formula for each type of grain that is written into the PLC," Merrill explains, adding that the PLC (programmable logic controller) serves as the interface between the management software and the fans and sensors. In the software, he says, "the farmer or plant operator goes to a settings screen for each bin and selects the grain type from a drop-down list and the desired moisture content."

The software then runs a formula that factors in the temperature and humidity inside the bin, as well as the ambient temperature and humidity levels from nearby weather stations, and determines how to achieve and maintain a user's desired temperature and moisture levels. Based on this information, the software ascertains whether large fans mounted under the bins should be turned on, and whether cool air is needed to increase the moisture or dry air to decrease it. It's all about "targeting the desired moisture they program into the setting screens," Merrill says.

Some customers also add carbon dioxide sensors to the bins in order to track gases generated by bug activity and spoilage, Merrill adds, and the TempuTech software generates reports from these sensors as well.

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