Australia’s grain industry is quite dissimilar than other countries in the world. Despite being relatively small on the world scale in terms of production, the large majority of the grains we produce are exported, with a small quantity being sold and consumed in the county. Players in the grain industry are usually family operations that continue for generations, rather than large corporations with a great deal of capital behind them controlling the industry. Add that to the fact that Australia has a notorious harsh climate in certain parts and you can see why grain storage a challenging and potentially quite costly endeavour. This article will go into a few of the most widely used grain storage solutions in Australia and why they are effective.
The most popular grain storage structures are modern grain silos, which can come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the grain it is being used to store, the location and climate and other practical details. Many silos are constructed offsite and relocated to farms, though those that exceed 140 tonnes capacity are usually built on the site.
While they are usually the most costly grain storage solution to set up, a quality, well-maintained silo can have a lifespan of 20 or more years. While there are better and more cost-effective options for short-term storage, sealed silos offer perhaps the best protection from pests, as aeration cooling helps to regulate moisture in the silo and keep it at less than ideal levels for insects. Provided the silo is sealed and gas-tight, there are also a number of fumigation options available to kill off any insect life in the silo.
In fact, the benefits of a fully-sealed silo are considerable to the point that farmers will often invest in retro sealing for older silos, which is a costly and intensive process. Further, a retro-sealed silo can cost a lot in terms of regular maintenance. However, the price is often lower than a new silo.
Bunkers and Sheds
The main advantage of storing grain in bunkers or sheds comes from the fact that they allow for easy unloading and packing and can be used to store other materials as well. This makes them the ideal short-term storage solution for bulk handling companies, where grain is coming in and going out within a relatively short amount of time. However, they are generally not recommended on farms due to the fact that there are usually more convenient and cost-effective short-term storage solutions. One drawback is the fact that generally building a grain storage bunkers is a costly undertaking that requires ample planning and preparation, and once it is set up trucks and other machinery can be required to deposit and take grain from the bin. Sheds, of the cause, can be more convenient on farms however like bunkers, they are generally open and cannot be fumigated, meaning they tend to have problems with insects and pests. This means that on farms, they can be effective for harvest logistics, when combined with another long-term storage options, like a silo.
Grain Storage Bags
Becoming increasingly popular in Australia over the past decade, storage bags are now often the preferred short term storage option (a period of 3 months or less). The quality of bags can differ, and there is a clear difference between grain storage bags and silage bags; mistaking the two can result in considerable losses. But when managed correctly and stored in a location with ideal conditions, storage bags – which can store upwards of 200 tonnes worth of grain – are convenient and effective.
While they may sound like a cheap option – and indeed it is usually more cost effective than the alternatives – grain storage bags require a reasonable investment in their own right. As well as the cost of the bags themselves, the equipment used to pack and unpack storage bags can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Where the bags are stored can be a large determining factor as well. There are instances in which mice and/or birds can cause problems, so storing bags in a clear, vegetation-free and protected area is of up-most importance. Ideally, the surface will be well drained and provide easy access for trucks and large machinery.
There are pros and cons of every grain storing option and each requires careful and ongoing maintenance in order to be effective. For more information about grain storage solutions and other tools that can improve cost effectiveness and efficiency, contact the team at Advantec.