A glance at the latest news is enough. Whether it is extreme weather or supply chain disruption, there’s plenty to remind us that we need to make the very best of our valuable grain.
Ever since the introduction of rapid testing with near infrared in the 1970’s rapid tests on key quality parameters have provided a foundation for decision-making when, for example, receiving grain and segregating based on protein and moisture. More knowledge equals more power to act in meeting targets more closely with less waste and higher overall quality.
To date, this knowledge has been based on tests with benchtop analysis instruments such as the well-known Infratec™ grain analyzer. The Infratec has become very popular due to the ease of use and reliable performance. However, just like any benchtop solution, the Infratec is naturally limited by the need to take a sample and pour it into the top of the instrument. As a result, tests are typically performed on a truck-by-truck basis or, as in the case of loading ships for export, a few periodic tests need to cover many thousands of tons of grain.
Grain analysis goes in-line
In the high-volume flows involved in giving and receiving grain a lot can change in terms of quality in a few minutes. A common wish has therefore been ‘if only we could get more of this great quality test data more frequently’. It is here that the concept of ‘in-line’ analysis becomes relevant.
Gains to be made
Across the grain industry, there are many examples of how in-line analysis can make a difference to quality and profit. Just one example is in the blending of grain shipments as they are loaded onto the ship at port.
For example, assume that a 20,000 ton ship load of grain is being built to a target of 10.5% protein. Two grades of wheat are being used and there is a price difference of EUR 10 between the grades. The real-time data offers insight that allows 15% more wheat from the lower grade wheat to be taken so saving 15% of the higher quality wheat. Given the 20,000 ton load, 15% equals 3,000 tons of grain at EUR 10 higher price, resulting in a saving of EUR 30,000.
Another example is at grain receival. During drying, continuous measurements ensure the right moisture level in the grain before storage. Energy savings can be found in the drying process and food safety concerns related to storage conditions are reduced.
Likewise when receiving grain for flour milling, the continuous measurements can help to determine moisture level during tempering. The result is minimum use of water, optimized milling yield and avoidance of rework in the milling process. Further, in malting, a major challenge is to ensure that barley is homogenous. The in-line tests help to understand and control grain variations, allowing more precise segregation against protein specifications.
Handle with care
Whether the job is to meet specs with least cost or to make a premium quality blend for optimal results in milling and malting, knowing more about the grain will always give more power to achieve better business results.
By providing continuous measurements of moisture and protein in whole grain in real-time, the new in-line analytical technology opens a new world of possibilities for those standing on the front line of quality control.