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Title:
GRAIN STORAGE SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/207817
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Grain storage system (2) for storing grain (1) directly after harvesting, comprising one or a plurality of silo containers (4), a sensing system (6), and a grain conditioning system (8). The sensing system comprises a plurality of sensors (42) disposed in the silo container configured for measuring at least humidity and temperature, at least one sensor configured to be disposed within grain (1) stored within the silo container. The sensing system further comprises a control unit to which the plurality of sensors are connected. The grain conditioning system comprises an air distribution network (50) arranged at a bottom of the silo container and a blower (54) connected to the air distribution network and configured to blow air into the silo container through the grain stored in the silo container. The silo container comprises a roof (12), a sidewall (14), and a floor (16), wherein the silo container is provided in the form of a kit of parts configured to be assembled together at a chosen location proximate a site of harvesting.

Inventors:
GUAZZELLI, Octavio (Voie du Chariot 3, 1003 LAUSANNE, 1003, CH)
Application Number:
EP2017/063607
Publication Date:
December 07, 2017
Filing Date:
June 05, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
ARANDEE SA (Voie du Chariot 3, 1003 Lausanne, 1003, CH)
International Classes:
A01F25/16; A01F25/22; B65D88/16; B65D88/74; E04H7/24; F26B9/06
Foreign References:
US8806772B12014-08-19
US20140360045A12014-12-11
US4930229A1990-06-05
US4053991A1977-10-18
US20100257125A12010-10-07
US4583300A1986-04-22
DE3624964A11988-02-04
FR2461443A11981-02-06
US2907261A1959-10-06
US4364205A1982-12-21
DE202014105868U12015-02-20
GB1401424A1975-07-16
GB1008418A1965-10-27
GB301531A1928-11-30
Other References:
OTTO J LOEWER ET AL: "department of agricultural engineering Layout of Grain Storage and Handling Facilities", 1 June 1974 (1974-06-01), XP055285711, Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20160704]
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
REUTELER & CIE SA (Chemin de la Vuarpillière 29, 1260 Nyon, CH-1260, CH)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1 . Grain storage system (2) for storing grain (1 ) directly after harvesting, comprising one or a plurality of silo containers (4), a sensing system (6), and a grain conditioning system (8), the sensing system comprising a plurality of sensors (42) disposed in the silo container configured for measuring at least humidity and temperature, at least one sensor configured to be disposed within grain (1 ) stored within the silo container, the sensing system further comprising a control unit to which the plurality of sensors are connected, the grain conditioning system comprising an air distribution network (50) arranged at a bottom of the silo container and a blower (54) connected to the air distribution network and configured to blow air into the silo container through the grain stored in the silo container, the silo container provided in the form of a kit of parts that may be assembled, disassembled and relocated, comprising a roof (12), a sidewall (14) and a floor (16) each as separate components or separate groups of components that are configured to be assembled together at a chosen location proximate a site of harvesting, the grain conditioning system also forming a kit of parts configured to be assembled to the silo container at said chosen location.

2. System according to the preceding claim, wherein the sidewall comprises a sidewall frame and a supple sheet sidewall lining (34) mounted on an inner side of the sidewall frame.

3. System according to any preceding claim, wherein the sidewall frame is in the form of a rectangular rod mesh (21 ).

4. System according to the preceding claim, wherein the mesh is assembled in the form of a cylinder whereby ends of the mesh are fixed in an overlapping arrangement together by fixing elements (61 ).

5. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the roof comprises a roof frame (22) and a supple sheet roof lining (33) covering an outer side of the roof frame, the roof frame comprising radial support beams (24) coupled together by at least one concentric support ring (26) and comprising anchor portions (60) at free ends of the radial support beams configured for resting or fixing to a top edge (35) of the sidewall.

6. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the floor (16) comprises a supple sheet floor lining (35).

7. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the air distribution network comprises a plurality of tubes (52) having orifices or a porous material allowing air to be blown out of the tubes but to prevent grain from entering the tubes, for instance the tubes comprise a support structure for instance in the form of a rod frame mesh (64) covered by a grain filter (66) in the form of a layer of porous fabric.

8. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the air distribution network comprises a distributor (51 b) coupled via an inlet (51 a) to an outlet (55) of the blower (54), the distributor connected to a plurality of tubes of the air distribution network.

9. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the air distribution network comprises a plurality of tubes in a spaced apart manner extending from one side of the silo container to a position proximate the other side of the silo container, the spacing between the tubes preferably in the range of 100 cm to 300 cm and a diameter of the tubes preferably in the range of 8 cm to 30 cm.

10. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the grain conditioning system comprises a heater (56) configured to heat air blown by the blower (54) into the air distribution network.

1 1 . System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the sensing system comprises a plurality of sensors (42) configured to measure at least humidity and temperature at a level positioned within the grain when the silo container is filled with grain, the plurality of sensors preferably arranged at different heights with respect to the floor within the grain stored in the silo container and optionally within the air space in a roof portion of the silo container above the grain.

12. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the plurality of sensors are connected by cables (44) to the roof (12) and are suspended at different heights by said cables and/or the sensors (42) are mounted on an inner side of the sidewall of the silo container at different heights with respect to the floor.

13. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the sensing system further comprises a telemetry system (48) configured for wireless network communication with a remote server system, and optionally a power supply (8) comprising an autonomous power supply supplying power to at least the control unit (43), the telemetry system (48) and the sensors (42).

14. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the roof comprises vents (36) in the form of flaps that open under positive pressure within the silo container.

15. System according to anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the grain storage system comprises a plurality of silo containers for arrangement around a grain supply point (9), the system further comprising a grain feed system (10) configured for feeding grain from the grain supply point (9) to the plurality of silo containers (4) arranged in a concentric manner around the grain supply point (9).

Description:
GRAIN STORAGE SYSTEM

The present invention relates to a system for temporarily storing grain directly after harvesting, in particular before long distance transport of grain or processing of the grain.

Harvested grain needs to be transported from the farms on which they have grown to storage sites by land or by sea, and may need to be stored for many weeks or months prior to processing into flour and other processed foods. As grain is a natural product, the conditions in which it is stored and transported, in particular humidity and temperature, affect the quality of the grain and unsuitable storage conditions may spoil the grain. The grain also needs to be protected from other factors that may spoil it such as insects and vermin. Grain that is harvested on farms is often transported to silos that are many hours drive from farm, the grain then being stored in the silos for weeks or months depending on various market conditions and the production supply line. Grain may also be transported by truck or train to sea ports for loading in containers of ships for overseas transport. The various stages of transport and storage adversely affect the quality of the grain and care needs to be taken to ensure that the grain is not subject to excessive humidity and temperatures and that is well protected from the external environment. One of the problems grain producers face, is that they transport their grain after harvest overland to a grain storage facility that may be an intermediate storage system for further overseas transport by ship or waiting for supply to food processing plants on demand. Freshly harvested grain however has a high water content and is particularly sensitive to spoiling by micro-organisms (bacteria, yeasts) and thus if there are problems in the transport chain by road or rail the grain may spoil before it reaches a grain storage facility in which the environmental conditions for storage of the grain are controlled.

In view of the foregoing, it is an object of the invention to provide a system that reduces grain producers' loss of grain during transport and storage, as well as to increase the efficiency of handling and storage of grain that has been harvested.

It is advantageous to provide a system for storing grain temporarily prior to long distance transport or long term storage that can be disposed close to the harvesting site and that is economical, easy to install, and ensures a well-controlled grain storage to avoid spoiling of grain and ensure high quality grain.

It is advantageous to provide a system that allows grain to be stored temporarily close to the harvesting site and released therefrom for further transport and processing at variable moments (i.e with flexible variable storage durations) in order to benefit for instance from optimal market conditions for the commercial sale of the grain.

It is advantageous to provide a grain storage system that can easily be adapted to the location of harvesting sites or the amount of grain harvested in an economical and flexible manner.

It is advantageous to provide a grain storage system that allows monitoring and control of the condition of the grain and its environment in an economical and easy manner.

It is advantageous to provide a grain storage system for local storage of grain near the harvest site that can be quickly set up and quickly put into operation in an efficient and economical manner. It is further advantageous to provide such a system that can easily and economically be disassembled and relocated if needed.

It is advantageous to provide a grain storage system that allows pre-processing of grain, in particular drying of the grain prior to long distance transport or long-term storage in order to reduce the risk of the grain spoiling.

Objects of the invention have been achieved by providing a grain storage system according to claim 1 .

Disclosed herein is a grain storage system for storing grain directly after harvesting, comprising one or a plurality of silo containers, a sensing system, and a grain conditioning system. The sensing system comprises a plurality of sensors disposed in the silo container configured for measuring at least humidity and temperature, at least one sensor configured to be disposed within grain stored within the silo container, the sensing system further comprising a control unit to which the plurality of sensors are connected. The grain conditioning system comprises an air distribution network arranged at a bottom of the silo container and a blower connected to the air distribution network and configured to blow air into the silo container through the grain stored in the silo container. The silo container is provided in the form of a kit of parts that are configured to be assembled together at a chosen location proximate a site of harvesting.

In an advantageous embodiment, the kit of parts forming the silo container comprises a roof, a sidewall and a floor, each as separate components or separate groups of components. In an advantageous embodiment, the grain conditioning system also forms a kit of parts comprising the blower and separately the air distribution network configured to be assembled to the silo container and together at said chosen location.

In an advantageous embodiment, the sidewall may comprise a sidewall frame and a supple sheet sidewall lining mounted on an inner side of the sidewall frame.

In an advantageous embodiment, the sidewall frame may be in the form of a rectangular rod mesh.

In an embodiment, the mesh may be assembled in the form of a cylinder whereby ends of the mesh are fixed in an overlapping arrangement together by fixing elements.

In an embodiment, the roof comprises a roof frame and a supple sheet roof lining covering an outer side of the roof frame, the roof frame comprising radial support beams coupled together by at least one concentric support ring and comprising anchor portions at free ends of the radial support beams configured for resting or fixing to a top edge of the sidewall.

In an embodiment, the roof is supported by a central pillar.

In an embodiment, the floor may comprise a supple sheet floor lining.

In an advantageous embodiment, the air distribution network comprises a plurality of tubes having orifices or a porous material allowing air to be blown out of the tubes but to prevent grain from entering the tubes.

In an embodiment, the tubes comprise a support structure for instance in the form of a rod frame mesh covered by a grain filter, for instance in the form of a layer of porous fabric.

In an embodiment, the air distribution network comprises a distributor coupled via an inlet to an outlet of the blower, the distributor connected to a plurality of tubes of the air distribution network.

In an advantageous embodiment, the air distribution network comprises a plurality of tubes in a spaced apart manner extending from one side of the silo container to a position proximate the other side of the silo container. In an embodiment, the spacing between the tubes may advantageously be in the range of 100 cm to 300 cm.

In an embodiment, the diameter of the tubes may advantageously be in the range of 8 cm to 30 cm.

In an advantageous embodiment, the grain conditioning system comprises a heater configured to heat air blown by the blower into the air distribution network.

In an advantageous embodiment, the sensing system may comprise a plurality of sensors configured to measure at least humidity and temperature at a level positioned within the grain when the silo container is filled with grain.

In an advantageous embodiment, the plurality of sensors may be arranged at different heights with respect to the floor within the grain stored in the silo container and optionally within the air space in a roof portion of the silo container above the grain.

In an embodiment, the plurality of sensors may be connected by cables to the roof and may be suspended at different heights by said cables.

In an embodiment, the sensors may be mounted on an inner side of the sidewall of the silo container at different heights with respect to the floor.

In an embodiment, the plurality of sensors may be arranged in a spiral formation.

In an embodiment, the sensing system further comprises a telemetry system configured for wireless network communication with a remote server system.

In an embodiment, the system further comprises a power supply comprising an autonomous power supply supplying power to at least the control unit, the telemetry system and the sensors.

In an embodiment, the roof may comprise vents in the form of flaps that open under positive pressure within the silo container.

In an embodiment, the grain storage system comprises a plurality of silo containers for arrangement around a grain supply point, the system further comprising a grain feed system configured for feeding grain from the grain supply point to the plurality of silo containers arranged in a concentric manner around the grain supply point.

Further objects and advantageous features of the invention will be apparent from the claims, from the detailed description, and annexed drawings, in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic partial cross-sectional view of a grain storage system according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figures 2a is an exploded perspective view of an embodiment of a silo container of a grain storage system according to this invention;

Figure 2b is a schematic top view of a silo container according to an embodiment of the invention, shown without a roof;

Figure 2c is a schematic cross-sectional view through the embodiment of figure 2b;

Figure 2d is a schematic perspective view of the embodiment of figure 2b;

Figure 2e is a schematic detailed view of a portion of a tube of an air distribution network of the grain storage system according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figure 2f is a schematic cross-sectional view of a coupling portion of an inlet of the air distribution network and an outlet of a blower of the grain storage system according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figure 2g is a schematic cross-sectional view of a portion of sidewall of a silo container according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figure 3a is a schematic detailed view showing an embodiment of a coupling of a mesh of a sidewall of a silo container according to an embodiment of this invention;

Figure 3b is a detailed perspective of an embodiment of an anchor portion of a roof frame of a silo container according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figure 4 is a schematic side-view of an embodiment of a silo container according to this invention (depicting the grain inside); Figure 5 is a schematic perspective view of a silo container according to an embodiment of this invention being filled with grain;

Figure 6 is a schematic perspective view of another embodiment of a roof frame of a silo container according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figure 7 is a schematic perspective view of another embodiment of a silo container according to this invention;

Figure 8 is a schematic layout view of an arrangement of silo containers of a grain storage system according to an embodiment of this invention; and

Figure 9 is another schematic perspective view of an arrangement of silo containers of a grain storage system according to an embodiment of this invention.

Referring to the figures, a grain storage system 2 comprises one or more silo containers 4 for storing grains after harvesting, a sensing system 6 for measuring and controlling parameters in the silo container system that are relevant to the condition of the grain in the silos, and a grain conditioning system 8 for conditioning the grain in the silos, in particular for drying the grain, and for controlling the humidity and temperature of the grain within the silo container. The grain storage system 2 may further include a grain feed system 10 for feeding grain into the silos or out of the silos. The grain feed system 10 may however be provided separately by equipment that does not form part of the grain storage system 2 per se.

Each silo of the silo container system 4, in a preferred embodiment of the invention, may be formed from a kit comprising a roof 12, a sidewall 14 and a floor 16 that may be assembled together in a location in proximity to the place of harvesting of grains and optionally that may be disassembled, moved and reassembled at another location if needed.

The silo container system is provided in the form of a kit of parts that may be assembled in situ near a harvesting or local storage site within a short transport distance from where the grain is harvested, preferably less than 8 hours or more preferably less than 4 hours transport time away from the site of harvesting. Grain may for instance be harvested by a grain combine harvester and supplied directly onto lorries that follow the combine harvester. When full, the lorries may transport the grain directly to the grain storage system 2 that may typically be a few minutes' drive to a few hours' drive from the site of harvesting. The grain may be transported to a grain collection point 9 as best illustrated in figures 5, 8 and 9, and from the collection point 9 fed by a screw feed system, conveyor belt, elevator mug system, or a pneumatic conveyor system from the collection point 9 into the containers. The collection point 9 may be a fixed container system or may comprise the lorry that positions itself in the collection point and into which the grain feed system 10 collects the grain from the ben of the lorry and feeds it into the respective silo container 4.

In an embodiment, grain may be fed into a silo with the roof 12 removed from the structure formed by the sidewall 14 and floor 16. In another embodiment, the grain may be fed into the silo with the roof positioned on the sidewall, through a hole 28 in the roof, for instance a central hole positioned at the apex of the roof. Once the grain has been loaded in the silo container 4, the hole 28 may for instance be closed by means of a roof cap 36.

In a variant, the roof 12 may be partially assembled to the sidewall 14 when grain is loaded in the silo container 4, for instance the roof may comprise a support frame structure as illustrated in the embodiments of figures 2a and 6, however without the roof lining 33 positioned thereover, the grain being poured through the frame structure while it is in place. In another embodiment, the grain may be fed into the silo container while the roof is in place by means of a feed tube connected to the roof and extending through the roof lining at least during the grain loading process. The grain may be supplied into the silo either by gravity and/or by means of a blower (not shown) that blows the grain into the silo.

Referring now mainly to figures 1 and 2a, embodiments of the silo container 4 will be described in more detail. In the embodiments illustrated in figures 1 and 2a, the silo container is generally formed of a support frame 18 and supple sheets forming a cover or lining 32 in and/or on the support frame to hold in the grain and to keep out rain, wind, dust and insects and animals. The support frame 18 may comprise a sidewall frame 20 that in a preferred embodiment may for instance be in the form of a screen or mesh 21 , in particular a wire or rod screen or wire mesh that may be supplied in the kit as a rectangular sheet in its developed state, but that is supplied in a tightly rolled state. The term "mesh" hereinafter employed shall also encompass the notion of a screen, grill or other similar structures. The mesh may for instance comprise a galvanized steel screen, for instance of perpendicularly arranged steel rods welded together at the intersections of the rods. During assembly the roll of mesh structure may be unrolled and then connected together at free ends to form a cylindrical tubular shape as best seen in figure 2a. The ends of the mesh may overlap, each edge being then coupled to the mesh of the corresponding end by means of a fixing system. The fixing system may for instance comprise clamps 61 engaging opposite sides of the overlapping meshes and tightened together by means of bolts or other mechanical tightening systems. Other tightening systems or fixing systems may be used, for instance tie-rods, wires wound or crimped around mesh junctions, or a feed through rod that weaves through the overlapping mesh. The cylindrical side wall structure made from a rectangular steel screen is particularly economical to produce and easy to assemble and provides high resistance against the pressure of grain loaded in the silo pushing against the sidewalls. It would however also be possible within the scope of the invention to provide a non-cylindrical silo, for instance a polygonal shape formed of flat panel sections of screen or mesh forming container wall sections that are connected together along opposite edges. The advantage of the latter variant is to enable providing the sidewall grill or mesh panel in the form of a plurality of identical rectangular or square flat panel shapes that may be piled upon each other in a flat stack for transport and storage.

The sidewall 14 may be completed by a tarpaulin or supple sheet lining 32 that lines the inside of the sidewall frame 20.

A lining sheet may optionally also be provided to cover the outside of the sidewall frame 20. The sidewall lining may also be provided with a floor lining that constitutes the floor of the silo container or at least that forms part of the floor of the silo container. Preferably however, the floor comprises a separate lining 35 and may be further provided with a ring shaped border portion that allows to position and fix the floor lining as well as position the sidewalls with respect to the floor lining.

The supple sheet linings are waterproof and may for instance be in the form of a plastic sheet or a reinforced plastic sheet, for instance reinforced with a textile fiber layer (e.g canvas or cloth). Typically such sheets may comprise a textile sheet layer with double sided plastic covering layers.

The sidewall lining may be fixed by various means to the sidewall frame 20. In the example illustrated in figure 2g, the lining is folded over the top edge of the sidewall frame and coupled via a hook 37 to the mesh 21 .

The floor may further be provided with a support structure to contribute to the rigidity and shape of the sidewall frame 20, however various configurations are possible depending on the size of the silo and also the ground on which the silo is assembled. A floor, for instance in the form of a concrete base may also be provided in situ on which the silo is then positioned, in which case removing the need for a floor that provides structural stability to the silo container. The floor lining may also be configured to be placed directly on the earth ground or on a prepared sand layer on the earth ground. The ground should preferably be relatively flat with an inclination preferably of less than 10°.

In the embodiments illustrated in figures 1 and 2a, the roof frame 22 comprises radial support beams 24, that may for instance be in the form of tubes that are connected together by one or more concentric support rings 26. In the embodiment illustrated in figure 2a, there is a top concentric support ring 62 that forms a top hole 28 at the apex of the roof. The other end of the radial support beams may be anchored to a top edge 35 of the sidewall 14. The anchors 60 may for instance be in the form of U-shaped plates that are welded or mechanically coupled to the end of the radial support beams 24 and that are inserted over the edge of the sidewall. An embodiment of a U-shaped anchor portion 60 is illustrated for instance in figure 3b. The anchor portions may rest freely on the top edge 35 of the sidewall, or may be fixed thereto by means of bolts or other mechanical fixing means (not shown). In the latter variant, the roof frame 22 provides greater stability to the overall support frame 18 of the silo container 4 if this is needed.

In the embodiment illustrated in figures 1 and 2a as well as in figure 4, the roof frame is covered by a roof lining 33 that is positioned over the roof frame and that may be tied down to the sidewall by means of tie-down fixing members 40. The tie-down fixing members may for instance comprise straps or a cord attached to the edge of the roof lining and that is hooked to hooks that are provided on the sidewall, or that are provided as loose coupling members that are hooked to the mesh of the sidewall and over the cord. The cord may be an elastic cord or a cord that is tightened and provided with a strap that allows it to be pulled and then held in the tightened position. Various other tie-down straps and mechanisms that are per se known in the art for fixing a supple roof lining to a sidewall or a structure may be used. In the variant of figure 6, the roof frame comprises a plurality of concentric support rings that may for instance be welded or mechanically coupled with removable clamping elements to form the roof frame. Anchor portions, may for instance be provided by inserting ends of the radial beams into corresponding tubes welded or fixed to the edge of the sidewall frame (not shown).

Different sized silo containers can easily and economically be manufactured by changing the size of the kit parts, for instance the length and height of the mesh structure, and the length of the roof frame beams (tubing). Tarpaulins for the roof, sidewall and floors may be made to a range of different sizes and supplied accordingly to the corresponding sidewall and roof frame sizes. Referring to figure 7, in another embodiment in particular for silos of smaller volumes for instance for containing ten cubic meters of grain or less, the roof may be in the form of a single conical rigid or semi-rigid sheet (in the form of a so-called "Chinese hat") that forms a single structural element that may be removed for loading grain and put back after the grain is loaded in the sidewall container structure. In such case, the sidewall may also be of a substantially rigid or non-mesh sheet that forms a cylindrical shape, or may comprise a mesh frame with a lining as previously described.

Referring now in particular to figure 1 , figures 2a to 2f and figure 4, an embodiment of a grain conditioning system 8 will be described in more detail. The grain conditioning system comprises an air distribution network 50 that is positioned at a bottom of the silo container 4, in particular on the floor 16 inside the silo container. The air distribution network 50 in a preferred embodiment comprises a plurality of tubes 52 connected to a blower 54, the tubes comprising orifices or being porous to air. The porosity or orifices are sufficiently small to prevent grains from falling into the tubes 52 but allow air to be blown out of the tubes into the grains surrounding the tubes and stored within the silo. A plurality of tubes 52 may be connected to an air distributor 51 b that has an inlet 51 a which, for instance, may comprise a coupling portion extending outside of the silo container configured to be removably coupled to an outlet 55 of the blower 54.

The coupling portions may for instance comprise flanges 59 and further comprise a ring seal 57 that may be compressed between the flanges in order to seal the connection between the blower outlet 55 and the air distribution network inlet 51 a. The inlet 51 a of the air distribution network, in a variant, may also not extend beyond the sidewall of the container system, configured for coupling of a blower comprising a tube inserted into the inlet orifice. Various removable coupling arrangements and configurations of the blower outlet and complementary inlet of the air distribution network may however be configured.

The blower 54 may optionally, in certain variants, comprise or be connected to a heater element 56. The heater element may for instance comprise a resistive heater element inserted in the outlet portion of the blower in order to heat air that is injected into the air distribution network 50. Heating of the air may also be performed by an inlet heating device coupled to the blower. Heating of the air may also be performed passively by the compression of the air by the blower, and cycles of heating and cooling of air injected into the grain may be performed passively by using variations of air temperature between night and day. The air during the night and early hours of the morning may be injected into the grain to cool the grain down, and the air injected during day time into the grain being used to heat and dry the grain. The blowing of air, passively or actively heated, through the grain allows to dry the grain in a process that takes place shortly after harvesting, thus improving the quality of the grain and reducing its susceptibility to degradation for instance by microbiological or enzymatic processes, or germination processes of grain seeds. The blowing of air through the grain also allows to maintain a somewhat controlled temperature and in particular also a homogeneous temperature through the grain. The ventilation of air through the grain may also assist in maintaining more uniform temperature through the stored grain for instance to take into account the effects of sun and external environments that may heat the grain more on one side of the container than on the other side. Accumulated hot air in the roof of the container may also be evacuated by the ventilation provided by the grain conditioning system.

In an advantageous embodiment, the air distribution network 50 may comprise a plurality of tubes 52 that extend in a spaced apart manner from one side of the container to the other side, along the floor, as best seen in figures 2a and 2d, the spacing between the tubes being configured such that the grain that is on the floor or close to the floor and positioned between the tubes, is also ventilated by the air blown out of the side of the adjacent tubes. The spacing between the tubes will depend on the type of grain to be stored and the power of the blower, in particular it's air flow rate. The optimal spacing between tubes, and the diameters of tubes may be determined by empirical tests with various grain types and blowers.

For typical silo diameters between 2 meters and 10 meters and typical blowers providing an air supply rate of 30 to 200 m3/min (cubic meters per minute). For example, for a 500 ton silo one can use a flow rate of around 100 to 1 10 m3/min with for instance between 550 and 580 mmwc pressure (mmwc = millimeters of water column). Typical diameters of the tubes 52 would be between 8 cm and 25 cm and typical spacing between tubes would be between 100 cm and 300 cm. For example, for a 500 Ton silo one may use for instance 25 cm diameter pipes, with five pipes spaced by around 2,25 to 2,4 m between the center line of the pipes.

In a preferred embodiment, the tubes may be made of a rod frame mesh structure covered with a fabric lining that provides the porous separation between the grain and the inside of the tube allowing air to pass through. The porous structure may for instance be a fabric such as jute fabric that is typically used for providing bags for containing grain. In variants, other tubular structures are possible, for instance the tubes may be in the form of plastic tubes that are used in many applications such as conduits for water or underground cables, these tubes being perforated, at least on the upper half of the tubes if not fully around, with a plurality of orifices along their length. The size of the orifices are configured to be smaller than the typical smallest harvested grain size intended to be stored in the silo.

As best seen in figure 4, air that is blown into the air distribution network 50 on the floor of the container ventilates through the grain and exits through vents 36 provided into the roof 12 of the silo container 4. Vents 38 may be in the form of flaps, or fixed vents, are oriented downwardly in order to prevent rain entering the silo container through the roof, and may further comprise a roof vent 39 at the apex of the roof. The vents 38 may be closed passively by gravity or may be provided with elastic means that close them in the absence of positive pressure within the silo container.

Referring now mainly to figure 1 , a sensing system 6 comprises a plurality of sensors 42 installed inside the silo container. The sensor system may optionally also comprise one or more sensors positioned outside the container in order to measure ambient temperature, humidity and optionally pressure outside the container. The sensors outside the container may comprise meteorological sensors, including a barometric sensor in order to anticipate weather changes, in particular in view of forecasting possible rain or absence of rain. Temperature sensors outside may be used to determine the temperature and humidity of air that is then vented into the silo container.

The plurality of sensors 42 installed inside the silo container may be positioned at different positions within the silo container, and in particular at different positions within the height of the grain, comprising a position close to the floor, a position mid-way in the height of the grain or at various positions within the grain. Sensors may also be positioned above the level of the grain to measure conditions in the roof environment. The sensors comprise at least a humidity sensor and a temperature sensor. Other sensors may optionally be included for instance a gas sensor in order to detect possible microbiological activity, for instance a carbon dioxide sensor. Various temperature and humidity sensors are per se known in the art and do not need to be described herein.

In a first variant, the sensors may be connected to the roof 12 and dangle down from the roof by means of cables 44 at different heights within the grain. In this embodiment, the sensors will typically be in position during the filing of the grain within the container for instance by feeding grain into the silo container 4 while the roof frame is on or through an orifice such as the top hole of the roof.

In addition, or alternatively, sensors may be positioned on the inside of the container along the sidewall forming a spiral or simply at different angular positions around the cylinder and/or at different heights along the sidewall, connected together by cables. In this variant, the sensors may be in place while the roof is off and the silo container is filled with grain with the roof being removed or the roof being on. In another alternative embodiment or in addition to the other embodiments, sensors may be provided on rigid rods that may be for instance inserted into the grain once it is loaded within the container. The sensors may be connected by cable to a control unit 43 of the sensing system for instance via connectors 64a, 64b. In a variant, the sensors may be wireless, comprising a battery and a wireless modem according to various known wireless standards to transmit information to the control unit wirelessly.

By measuring the temperature and humidity of the grain at different positions, the grain conditioning system 8 may be controlled by increasing or decreasing the amount of air blown or increasing or decreasing the temperature of the air blown into the air distribution network. Meteorological conditions may be measured locally, and additionally or alternatively obtained from a remote meteorological station via the telemetry system. Forecasted data may also be obtained in order to anticipate conditions.

The blower 54 and heater may be controlled inter alia by the measured temperatures and humidity as well as meteorological conditions around the silo containers.

In an example of the control process conditions:

The level of humidity in the silo may be a principal, but not necessarily sole, parameter used to control the operation of the blower. For instance, a level of humidity within the silo container greater than a humidity level in a range of 10 to 20%, preferably in a range of 12 to 14%, for instance about 13% (humidity>13%) forms a threshold that may be used to switch on the blower. The switching on of the blower may also be dependent on other factors such as inside or outside temperatures even if the humidity level is below the predefined threshold value, on the difference between the inside and outside temperatures.

Meteorological conditions, in particular external (ambient) humidity outside the silo containers may be a principal, but not necessarily sole, parameter used to control the operation of the heater, in order to reduce the humidity of the air inside the silo container relative to the ambient air outside the silo container. For instance in a situation of

• a humidity level in the silo container above the defined threshold (for instance of 13%), and

• a temperature in the silo container higher than a defined threshold temperature, for instance 25°C, and

• a temperature difference greater than a defined threshold difference with the ambient (outside) temperature, for instance + 5°C, the control signal may be to switch on the blower 54.

The control of the heater may depend then on the ambient (outside) humidity level.

For example, with low internal silo container humidity (<13%) and a low silo temperature (<25°C) there is no need to blow. With low internal silo container humidity (<13%) and a silo temperature difference between the ambient and internal temperature below the defined difference threshold of for instance 5°C, there is no need to blow.

An example of a portion of the control algorithm for the blower and heater is presented below for illustrative purposes: siloAvgHum: Average humidity in the silo [%]

siloAvgTemp: Average temperature in the silo [°C]

meteoHum: Meteo station humidity [%]

meteoTemp: Meteo station temperature

[°C] PSEUDOCODE if ((siloAvgHum > 13%) OR

((siloAvgTemp > 25) A D (siloAvgTemp > meteoTemp+5 ) ) ) then

blowerOn = true

end if

if ((blowerOn == true) AND (meteoHum > 70))

then heaterOn = true

end if

C code

blowerOn = (siloAvgHum > 13%) |

( (siloAvgTemp > 25) && (siloAvgTemp > meteoTemp+5) ) ;

heaterOn = blowerOn && (meteoHum > 70);

True table

Condition

1 and 2: The silo humidity (>13%) enables the blower but heater depends on meteo humidity.

3 and 4: On any case of silo humidity, with a silo temperature higher of 25°C and higher than the meteo temperature + 5°C there is a need of blower, where heater depends again on meteo humidity.

5: With low silo humidity (<13%) and a low silo temperature (<25°C) no need to blow.

6: With low silo humidity (<13%) and a silo temperature below meteo temperature +5° no need to blow.

The sensors may provide information not only to control the grain condition system, but also to monitor the state of the stored grain and provide historical data on the storage conditions. The historical date may allow better management of grain storage and may also provide data to certify the quality of lots of the grain that is sold. The sensing system may advantageously comprise a telemetry system 48 with a wireless network communication system, for instance configured for communication via a mobile phone network such as a GSM network or any other protocol in the country concerned, for transmitting the telemetry data to a central server, and/or to a local server managing and monitoring the grain storage conditions. The control unit 43 may thus control the grain conditioning system locally or the monitoring and control may be performed remotely by a central server that provides instructions to the control unit 43 through the telemetry system 48.

When there are a plurality of silo containers in a grain storage system 2, data such as the date of filling and duration of storage, as well as the other environmental conditions, may be tracked. Tracking such conditions allow better management, for instance to determine which silos should to be emptied next for further transport and processing.

The sensing system may further comprise a power supply 1 1 that may comprise an autonomous power supply, for instance with a photovoltaic power source 1 1 a, a wind turbine (not shown) or a stand-alone fuel based power generator (not shown), connected to a battery 1 1 b. This allows autonomous operation of the sensor system and transmission of data by the telemetry system, in locations remote from a power grid. Of course where the sensing system is provided close a power grid, connection to the power grid may also be provided.

The telemetry system may advantageously also be connected via a local network to other telemetry systems installed locally at the harvesting site if applicable, and to a global communications network to other telemetry systems of other parties in the global supply chain for the grain from farm to market. For instance the telemetry system may connect the silo containers to grain transport companies (road, rail, or sea), to grain distributors and wholesalers, and/or to processing plants such as flour mills and food processing plants. The telemetry system may thus also provide information on grain quantities available for supply to the market by means of the sensors installed in the silo containers that may also comprise grain level sensors, for instance optical proximity sensors or other sensors that determine the level of grain stored within each silo container. The grain quantity measurement may be adjusted to take in account that in many filling methods there is a cone of grain at the top surface with a static rest angle that may typically vary from 20 up to 30 degrees and which may therefore have an apex that is higher than the height of the sidewalk Based on this information, and on the sizes of the silo containers, stored as information in a register of the control system, local server and/or remote server, the amount of grain in storage, as well as the state of the grain in storage, may be communicated to any interested and authorized party. The supply chain may thus be better managed, including transport volume needs and timing.

As best illustrated in figures 8 and 9, a grain storage system may comprise a plurality of silo containers 4 that may for instance be arranged around a grain supply point 9, whereby a grain feed system connects the grain supply point 9 to the respective silo containers 4. The grain feed system may for instance comprising a screw feed or conveying system 13, that can be rotated or repositioned in order to feed the respective silo containers with a single feed mechanism.

As mentioned earlier, the grain supply point 9 may be a fixed containing system into which grain transported, for instance by the lorries that collect grain from the harvesting machines in the field, is fed into the grain collection system. Alternatively, the grain supply point may simply be a space to allow a lorry to be positioned at the grain collection point and the feeder system draws the grain directly from the lorry into the selected silo container. As illustrated in figure 9, the arrangement of silos allows space for a grain distribution network 7 that may comprise a road f to allow a lorry to drive up to the collection point 9.

List of references used

grain storage system 2

silo container 4

roof 12

cap 58

side wall 14

floor 16

support frame 18

side wall(s) frame 20

rod mesh frame

supplied rolled up

fixing elements (clamps) 61

top edge 35

roof frame 22

tubular structure

radial support beams (tubes) 24

anchor portion 60

concentric support ring(s) (tubular) 26

top concentric support ring 62

central feed hole 28

pillar (central)— > large silo

supple sheet cover/lining 32

plasticized fabric

side wall 34

hook 37

vents 36

venting flaps (side walls) 38

tie-down fixing members (e.g. straps) 40

sensing system 6

sensors 42

humidity, temperature

cables 44

power supply 46

photovoltaic power source

battery

telemetry system 48

wireless network system

(mobile phone, satellite... network modem

grain conditioning system 8

air distribution network 50

tubes 52

support structure— > mesh (rod frame mesh) 64

grain filter 66

textile Cute)

blower 54

heater 56

Grain feed system 10

e.g. screw feed, conveyer belt, conveyor bucket, pneumatic conveyor systems 13 Autonomous power source 1 1

photovoltaic power source 1 1 a

battery 1 1 b

grain supply point 9

grain distribution access network 7