‘The ideas keep getting better’ for Agri-Trade’s innovations program

This year’s trio of winners keep you safe, protect your fuel tanks, and prevent spoilage in the bin

Northern Strands' fall protection system.
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One of the highlights of Agri-Trade is the trio of innovative new products chosen by a panel of farmers and business people.

“It is always difficult to get it down to three winners — however, this year we reached new heights with the largest amount of applications received for this program since its inception,” said Rod Bradshaw, an Innisfail-area crop and vegetable producer and chair of the Ag Innovations Committee.

“The technology is diversifying every year, and the ideas keep getting better. We believe this year’s winning entries will have broad appeal and could be readily adopted by a lot of farmers.”

This year’s winners are Northern Strands Grain Bin Fall Protection System, IntraGrain Technologies-Fuel Lock, and GrainViz.

Fall protection

Northern Strands says its Grain Bin Fall Protection system is one of a kind.

“It is comprised of a user kit that features a fall protection harness and lanyard as well as a rope grab/traveller,” said Jesse Kope, the company’s sales and marketing manager.

Depending on the type of bins (smooth walled or galvanized) needing fall protection, the user purchases the appropriate bin anchor that is adhered to the top of the bin. From the top, a wire cable is attached to the chosen anchor and secured at the bottom of the bin. There is a rope grab that attaches to the cable and moves along as the bin is climbed.

“If the user were to slip or fall in any way, the system would catch them, preventing a potentially life-threatening injury,” said Kope.

It can be a long way down, which is one of the reasons this fall protection system from Northern Strands won one of three Ag Innovations awards at this year’s Agri-Trade. photo: Northern Strands video

The system, patented in 2017, has been subjected to extensive testing by the Saskatoon-headquartered company, which has been in business since 1970.

“Hundreds of hours have been spent (testing the product),” said Kope. “We have had to pull test the system on dozens of different types of grain bin configurations.”

In Saskatchewan, occupational health and safety laws require lifelines, personal fall arrest systems, full body harness, and snap hooks on fall arrest systems if the worker could fall three or more metres. Alberta’s new occupational health and safety regulations are very similar — requiring that a fall protection system must be in place when working at heights above 10 feet. In addition, Alberta has recently implemented required farm safety regulations where OH&S can be called to a farm to inspect if a claim is made, Kope said. Farms could incur fines if they have violations.

“Liability is a huge concern. If a worker fell off a grain bin the farm business could incur huge financial hardship.”

A Grain Bin Fall Protection System costs $135 for a 40-foot (galvanized or smooth wall) bin kit and $370 for the user kit (lanyard, fall protection harness, and rope grab). In addition to meeting safety standards (OH&S, CSA, and ANSI), wearing a harness reduces stress for farmers, said Kope.

Fuel Lock

Fuel Lock was founded out of practicality. While installing fuel tanks on their 7,000-acre family grain farm near Holdfast, Sask., Landon Fahlman was trying to find a better way to lock their fuel tanks without padlocks, fuel keys, or locking the electrical panel.

That led to the creation of a prototype of Fuel Lock — a device that allows users to access the fuel tanks by entering a four-digit PIN. The system then automatically locks when fuelling is finished. A revised system, launched last year at Canada’s Farm Progress Show, includes a mobile app.

“Fuel Lock is a keypad entry system that automatically locks power to and from your fuel tanks,” said Karissa Peterson with IntraGrain Technologies, manufacturer for Fuel Lock. “The Fuel Lock mobile app records which employee accessed the fuel, what time they accessed it at, and what type of fuel they accessed, all in real-time alerts.”

Fuel Lock allows users to lock fuel tanks without padlocks, fuel keys, or locking the electrical panel. photo: Fuel Lock

Fuel Lock has two tiers that users can choose from — personal or business. The personal version features an automatic lock that can be set in the event that you forget to lock your tanks. It has the ability to connect to new or existing fuel tanks, and runs off 120V power.

Fuel Lock Business is a fuel management system that comes with connectivity to the Fuel Lock app, recording employee transactions in real time so owners can keep track of their fuel storage from anywhere in the world, said Peterson. A third version for commercial users is set to launch in early 2019.

“It adds the element of level sensing, so you’ll know how much fuel each employee has accessed,” said Peterson.

As well, the level sensing information can also be shared with your fuel provider so fuel deliveries can be more efficient. More information on all three systems can be found at www.fuellock.ca.

Bin monitoring

GrainViz’s origins go back to breast cancer research done at the University of Manitoba. When a grain storage research professor saw the technology, he asked the research team if they could employ it for grain storage. In 2014, GrainViz began looking at using moisture mapping technology in agriculture.

“It’s when we really started understanding what causes grain bins to spoil, how do they spoil, and what are some of the big factors in grain storage that we can really help to mitigate,” said Boyd Koldingnes, VP of sales and marketing.

The technology evolved from there. GrainViz, which hit the market last year, provides real-time insight to every bushel of grain in the bin — from 5,000 to one million bushels. Regardless of size, the resolution of the technology is so precise that every bushel can be moisture mapped.

The ultimate goal is to reduce spoilage of bins altogether said Koldingnes.

GrainViz monitors the moisture content of every bushel in a bin and uploads the data to the Cloud to provide real-time alerts. photo: GrainViz

The system gives farmers notifications by text and email of conditions that could potentially cause spoilage. It uses 24 sensors that attach magnetically inside the bin in a clock-like formation. When the first sensor sends out a signal, the other 23 receive and continually broadcast and receive. The information from the sensors goes into the Cloud and that produces a 3D image in real time of the moisture content of the grain.

In addition, the GrainViz system can also detect insect infestations and measure bushel weight and volume, said Koldingnes. It can also integrate the data with existing precision agriculture platforms.

“It’s absolutely amazing at what it can do,” says Koldingnes. “It also has a safety feature so that if anybody is in the bin, it will shut down.”

Just because the GrainViz uses medical technology doesn’t make it a luxury item for the farm.

“We are a small premium in comparison to cable systems,” Koldingnes said.

Pricing is currently under review, but when the system debuted, the price was about $8,000 per bin (including setup) plus a bin fee of two to six cents per bushel.

All three winning entries will be on display at Agri-Trade, and three charities will also benefit.

“Instead of awarding a prize, as in the past, we now provide each of these winners the opportunity to choose a charity of their choice to donate $1,500,” said David Fiddler, Agri-Trade show manager.

About the author


Jill Burkhardt

Jill Burkhardt, her husband, Kelly, and their two children, own and operate a mixed farm near Gwynne, Alberta. Originally hailing from Montana, she has a degree in Range Management from Montana State University. Jill’s agricultural passions are cattle and range management but she enjoys writing and learning more about all aspects of farming.



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