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Q&A: How one farmer upgraded his grain dryer and storage

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When it got here to changing and upgrading an outdated grain drying arrange, one Midlands farmer noticed it as a chance for a gorgeous new revenue stream similtaneously fixing a key pinch level throughout harvest.

Alan Cottrell, of J A & D Cottrell, not too long ago invested in a brand new grain retailer on his 866ha arable farm – Priors Court docket Farm, West Hanney, Oxfordshire.

He opted to ascertain a brand new central retailer, changing the outdated one on a brand new greenfield web site.

We converse to him to seek out out what’s concerned. 

See additionally: eight recommendations on early OSR drilling to beat the flea beetle menace

What’s within the shed?

  • three Skandia elevators
  • 11 Skandia conveyors
  • 1 Aagaard 120t/hour heavy obligation aspiration pre-cleaner
  • 1 Svegma SVC9/6, 60t/hour steady circulation grain drier
  • Giant quantity consumption reception pit with a 120t/hour Skandia consumption conveyor with self-regulating inlets

© Alan Cottrell

Why did you go for a greenfield web site moderately than improve the present system?

The present retailer was largely outdated and had minimal capability; with combines rising in dimension, the grain retailer was the weakest hyperlink.

Both we would have liked to purchase house in different shops or chunk the bullet and construct a brand new one – that’s what we did.

We had been additionally changing a variety of items on the time, so we determined to show the outdated grain retailer into industrial items. 

Why did you determine to go for a bigger, central retailer?

Range is vital for us and we wished to lease house out to native smaller farmers.

Lots of the authentic shops are a minimum of 40 years outdated, and the inefficiency of these methods is more and more evident.

We thought there could be an inflow of farmers eager to lease storage versus renovating older shops.

However the quickest method to fall out along with your neighbour is if you happen to encounter an issue – say, their moisture meter says 17% and mine says 18%.

All crops delivered into our retailer by particular person farmers have already been bought by Frontier Agriculture; we provide the storage providers for Frontier, which additionally ship crops to us utilizing its personal transport.

What had been your must-haves? What specs did you need?

Our considering was that if we may provide one thing higher, faster and extra environment friendly, there was no purpose why any of the large firms may flip us down as a central retailer – we may provide a service that’s second to none.

We are able to tip 100t/hour – the turnaround could be very fast and environment friendly.

There are a variety of hoops to undergo if you happen to’re going to retailer grain for others. You’ve acquired to tick all of the packing containers, together with having to be Commerce Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops and Pink Tractor compliant.

We wished all of our equipment, dryers and adjusters to be simply accessible. We even have blockage sensors, so if there’s a drawback, they may shut every part down till it’s mounted. 

Installation of Hopper

© Alan Cottrell

How did you determine what system and capability to go for?

Trevor Nash, director at Nash Grain Providers, recommended we speak to BDC Programs, who mentioned we should always improve our authentic specification – a pedestal answer – to an underfloor aeration system.

This permits us to retailer wheat, barley, oats, beans and oilseed rape as much as 6m in depth, which we will assure to chill.  

We assessed the finances to get it up and operating, and agreed to the quote of £450,000 on the primary set of buildings.

How tough was it to get planning permission? Any suggestions?

It must mix in to the countryside, so we took our time with the planning.

We went in with a pre-application, and took recommendation on what the council wish to see and took their ideas on board.

Then once we put the planning software in, we didn’t have any issues; it’s necessary to work with the council. 

Initially, we utilized for simply the one retailer and the dryer. We took the view that if we utilized for all three shops on the identical time then the planners would flip it down.

So we did it in phases, which made it extra manageable. We additionally wished to have the primary retailer up and operating for folks to see earlier than increasing.

Mr Cottrell

© Alan Cottrell

We are able to now retailer almost 16,000t of grain. With every part nowadays, it’s about dimension and numbers – there isn’t a lot cash in agriculture, it’s all about amount and effectivity.

We did should have a noise monitoring session – somebody got here to examine what number of decibels the dryer would make when it was drying, to make sure it wasn’t too intrusive.

The planning price a good bit of cash, as this stuff do, however it was price it.

What did you do to future proof the shop?

If the brand new Environmental Land Administration (ELM) scheme is available in and there are reductions within the quantity of grain accessible, so the shop not works for us, we will look to show it into industrial items.

You’ve acquired to at all times have a back-up plan. We may convert the shed fairly modestly.

Storage buildings

© Alan Cottrell

We now have the electrical capability – so, if anybody is trying to do the identical, be certain that the buildings are excessive sufficient to transform and add a flooring, so you may diversify if wanted. 

How did you keep on with finances? 

The package that was put in remained inside finances. The one factor that went over was further concrete to increase aprons for lorries to show round.

That went manner over finances – we spent an additional £58,000 on concrete. However it’s price it – when you have prospects like Frontier, you need to have knowledgeable method. 

Some other suggestions? 

We’d advocate being acutely aware of your water tables. We now have a large tipping pit and wanted a drain spherical the underside of it to take off the strain. 

Additionally, the electrical energy was a giant drawback. For the primary two years, we used our personal generator to run the positioning as a result of we locked horns with our electrical energy supplier.

They charged us £62,000 and now we’ve acquired sufficient electrical energy to double the dimensions of our capability.

Storage buildings

© Alan Cottrell

We don’t assume placing in a brand new retailer and dryer would stack up with a farmer of 120ha – if it might, everybody could be doing it.

We self-funded most of ours utilizing income from present industrial items. On the finish of the day, we took a broader image.

If issues do go incorrect, now we have some good buildings that we will change using – and it’s far simpler to get planning for something agricultural than industrial.

What are your future plans? 

There may be one factor that we’re contemplating which wasn’t accessible on the time – BDC’s Moisture Monitoring System – which takes grain samples from each the incoming elevator and outgoing elevator.

If grain is getting dried to 14%, it detects if it goes above or beneath 14%, and sends a textual content message alert permitting us to remotely change the management on the dryer to swimsuit what’s required.

It’s an effectivity factor – you’re not utilizing gas and electrical energy that you simply don’t want. 

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