Before the new Russian grain network started up at the beginning of 2016 there were differences in protein measurements from different grain testing instruments across different sites and little cross-company transparency in the supply chain. Now the protein measurements provided by the 18 instruments currently included in the network are fully aligned, providing a solid platform for trading and export.
Russia has seen a huge increase in exports in recent years with around 36 million tons of grain exported during 2015 to countries such as Turkey, Eygpt, Saudia Arabia, South America and others. But exporting places requirements on the companies involved. “They need to control quality and have a transparent system because they do not want to cheat each other. They want the same calibration for all instruments,” says Elena Kultysheva, Sr Sales Manager, FOSS Russia.
Positive experience from the members
The network came about after a trial with Agricultural commodities group, Agro Terra followed shortly afterwards by inclusion of Louis Dreyfus Commodities and SGS Vostok Ltd as the reference laboratory.
Even though the network has only been in operation for a few months, the results are already noticeable. Natalia Arkhipova, Director of Quality and Technoloqy, Louis Dreyfus explained the benefit. “We bought our first Infratec in 2004 and then added more units each with new calibrations. Over the seasons, results varied a lot, up to 0.5%, and we were working hard to figure out what we should do. After a trial with the network, the variation decreased to 0.11% for wheat.”
Nataliya Shakhanskaya at Agro Terra reports a similar story. “The variation of results for soybeans on different instruments was up to 2 %,” she says. “But now that instruments are standardised, I can just sit at my desk and see the quality control performance on all instruments on my laptop.”
Previously, she had to standardise instruments manually by sending a standard sample to sites, collecting the results via email and then doing a so–called slope/intercept adjustment that the local sites had to implement themselves. It was time consuming and prone to human error. The transparency and connectivity provided by the network has changed all that: “Now it is very simple, because all the work is done by FOSS service engineers,” she says.
From left to right: Mikael Persson, Project Manager, FOSS, Nataliya Shakhanskaya, Director of Quality, Agro Terra, Elena Kultysheva, Sr Sales Manager, FOSS Russia, Natalia Arkhipova, Director of Quality and Technoloqy, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Andrey Tolcheev, Laboratory Manager, SGS Vostok Ltd
No opportunity to cheat
Project manager, Mikael Persson explains how the pre-network difference between instruments was due to a combination of factors. Partly it was due to the age of calibrations on different instruments acquired over time, but the individual instruments were also open to local adjustment of, for example, protein content, with the aim of getting a higher price for deliveries. “Since we now have the same platform, there is no possibility to cheat,” he says.
Natalia Arkhipova concurs, adding “It is not possible to adjust the calibration to falsify results. Now all the members trust each other and the results are really transparent.”
Overcoming data-security fears
Initially, the project got bogged down in fears about data security. Agro Terra had been working with FOSS on the idea for some time, but concerns from the company IT department prevented a direct connection to the central network server at FOSS headquarters in Denmark. They were simply too concerned that the grain test data could be stolen. Alternative systems were tried, but were plagued by communications issues.
Eventually, the connection to the Danish server was tried. The technical issues were instantly resolved and fears about data security dissipated as the network model, as already used for over 20 years in many major grain producing countries, had a chance to show its worth.