Episode 005: Smart Storage Systems
Grain is at its highest quality at the instant it comes out of the field, and if that grain is stored it is at risk of significant degradation in quality. Excellence in grain storage management can enable better market opportunities through conditioning of the grain to market standards or allowing the grain to be sold at locally maximal values. Excellence in grain storage management, however, is difficult to maintain. Digital technologies have enabled advancements in grain storage management systems, with modern systems like the OPI Blue which includes functionality like remote bin monitoring, automated fan control, and integrated pest detection. This episode features Dave Crompton, CEO of OPI Systems, a grain storage management company based in Calgary, AB, Canada. Dave has been at the helm of OPI Systems since it was first established 36 years ago out of a simple need to measure the performance of drying systems that Dave was selling. Since OPI Systems was first established, it has grown through experience to be one of the leading grain storage management companies in the world serving over 30,000 private and commercial customers in the U.S., Canada, and 38 other countries. Dave begins this episode by telling the story of OPI Systems' founding and describing the function of OPI's storage management systems. From there, the conversation turns to the cutting edge of grain storage management enabled by digital technologies. Dave shares about how those technologies have revolutionized the landscape of grain storage management specifically for OPI Systems. Additionally, Dave shares about the prospects and technological implementation opportunities surrounding an exciting new partnership with fellow Canadian company FarmersEdge. The partnership seeks to link precision ag data and storage data to enable traceability of sustainable practices and increase grower exposure in high-value plant-based protein markets. As digital agriculture pushes forward, grain storage management technologies are certainly not being neglected, and may well be a crucial part the most critical digitally enabled improvements in the agricultural industry.
"The really cool thing about data is this is one of the rare commodities where the more you use it, the more valuable it becomes. So the more things we learn about the data, the more things we can do with the data." - Dave Crompton, CEO, OPIsystems Inc.
OPI Systems Contact Info:
Twitter: @OPIAgSolutions https://twitter.com/OPIAgSolutions
OPI Systems Dealer in Nebraska:
Mr. Shane Stutzman
Podcast Contact Info:
Samantha's Twitter: @SamanthaTeten
Jackson's Twitter: @jstansell87
Opinions expressed by the hosts and guests on this podcast are solely their own, and do not reflect the views of Nebraska Extension or the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
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[00:00:10.240]Welcome to the FarmBits podcast: a product
of Nebraska Extension digital agriculture.
[00:00:15.040]I'm Jackson Stansell, and I'm Samantha Teten. And
we come to you each week to discuss the trends,
[00:00:20.320]the realities, and the value of digital
agriculture. Through interviews and panels
[00:00:25.280]with expert, producers and innovators from all
sectors of digital technology- we hope that you
[00:00:30.880]step away from each episode with new practical
knowledge of digital agriculture technology.
[00:00:38.720]Welcome to the fifth episode of the FarmBits
podcast. For this episode, we are joined by Dave
[00:00:43.840]Crompton CEO of OPI Systems. OPI Systems is a grain
storage management technology company based out of
[00:00:50.960]Calgary, Alberta, Canada. OPI Systems has been
in the grain storage industry for 36 years
[00:00:56.480]and they primarily service customers, whether
farmers or commercial operators, through dealers
[00:01:01.520]and grain service outfitters throughout Canada,
the United States and 38 other countries worldwide.
[00:01:08.240]You'll hear Dave describe his founding of
the company in more detail during the episode.
[00:01:12.560]But, OPI Systems was founded out of a personal
need he had for measuring the performance of
[00:01:16.960]drying systems that he was selling. OPI Systems
has always provided temperature and moisture
[00:01:21.360]measurement through in-bin sensors. Over 36
years in the industry, these sensors have grown
[00:01:26.000]into automated control systems that integrate with
weather data and other information to turn on fans.
[00:01:31.280]Ultimately resulting in optimized grain moisture
management. Through his years of experience in
[00:01:36.160]the grain storage industry, Dave has developed
a breadth of knowledge and insights about the
[00:01:40.960]industry. At the end of the episode, we will discuss
Dave's perspective on the future opportunities
[00:01:45.760]for grain storage and marketing, particularly how
growers can get more value out of their products.
[00:01:51.440]Here's our interview with Dave Crompton,
the founder and CEO of OPI Systems.
[00:02:03.200]Dave, we really appreciate you joining us this
morning. Would you mind just giving us a little
[00:02:07.200]bit of a background on OPI Systems? You know if
we go to your website, a customer would see that
[00:02:12.000]you guys have been around for more than 30 years,
started with on-farm bin monitoring systems in
[00:02:16.720]Western Canada. And now you've moved into automated
monitoring and alarm systems and also have a lot
[00:02:23.360]of different sensing technologies available for
growers and co-ops whoever might be needing some
[00:02:29.280]sort of sensing technology for grain management. So
what else can you tell us about the history of the
[00:02:34.320]company, we'd love to hear it. Yeah Jackson thanks
for inviting me to your podcast.
[00:02:44.080]And the reminder that we have been around seems
like forever. OPI actually officially started
[00:02:48.960]in 1984, so it's been over it's 36 years now.
Yeah we have the fortunate um we're very
[00:02:56.560]fortunate having survived you know to see a whole
generational change. We first started the business
[00:03:03.200]it was the advent of like fax machines.
It was just a novel idea about how you would
[00:03:07.680]send in documents across the ether and the
personal computer was just coming around. And so
[00:03:15.280]now we're still here to be seeing the next
transition into the whole area of you know
[00:03:22.960]cloud-based technology and uh you know all the
technologies coming to the agricultural space. So
[00:03:29.440]we uh have been at the forefront of developing
storage monitoring storage management technology
[00:03:36.000]pretty much since we started. We brought digital
based sensing technology to agriculture in the
[00:03:42.480]late 90s, and that's basically the backbone
of our platform now. It's all digital based.
[00:03:47.680]Which allows us to do a lot more things and
make for a lot more simplistic installations,
[00:03:52.400]not having to deal with a lot of wiring in the
old analog systems they will thermocouple analog
[00:03:56.480]systems. And we've also been able to get
our technology into about 70 countries.
[00:04:04.320]Both farm and commercial around the world. So we've
had a lot of experience we've actually brought
[00:04:09.360]monitoring and management technology to countries
such as India and China. So we're quite proud of
[00:04:15.760]um of that you know transitioning them from
a bagged system you could imagine all the
[00:04:20.560]friction in a in a bag versus a bulk system.
Both in you know managing the prop as well
[00:04:26.400]as getting it to market. So yeah we have a long
history. Can you also expand then like what
[00:04:31.760]is going on today with your technology- what
technologies are really offered by OPI systems?
[00:04:39.040]Right so our forte is storage management so
monitoring and control systems. Our two legacy
[00:04:45.280]products that we've had for quite a long-couple
decades now- is the storemax handheld monitoring
[00:04:50.400]system. So first smaller on-farm storage you walk
up to the bin take a reading it stores the data
[00:04:55.680]it shows you the trends. But you have to go and
get the data as opposed to our other legacy system,
[00:05:02.080]we call the integris platform that does automated
monitoring alarms and automated controls. So if
[00:05:08.480]you want the system to turn your fans on and
off automatically it's the integris platform.
[00:05:14.000]And we have about 30,000 customers on those two
platforms, and now where all of our energy is going
[00:05:20.720]into our new blue cloud platform. And we use
we basically build uh off the existing cabling
[00:05:29.760]systems so you don't have to replace. You can just
add on to your existing legacy systems.
[00:05:37.120]But you get once you get in the cloud it
really opens up a lot of opportunity as far as
[00:05:44.851]how to access the information it's is is on any technology on your phone, your laptop. It's you know storing all the
data so then we start to look at how we
[00:05:53.680]actually use that data both up and down
the value chain on from the production side
[00:06:00.240]and precision ag, down to the marketplace side.
Since you've been in this industry for a while,
[00:06:05.600]and as the founder and ceo of this-
can you talk a little bit about
[00:06:09.920]how you changed the design over time? And I don't
know- the function of the remote monitoring and why
[00:06:17.440]that's so important. So what were the priorities
as you work through the design of your products?
[00:06:23.840]Well in the early days it was a little bit more
you know evolutionary than intentional. I
[00:06:29.280]mean we just brought products into the market
in the foreign market and we modified them
[00:06:32.960]beefed them up for the larger scale, commercial
storage. And then over time we evolved into the
[00:06:39.680]the automated side of monitoring
and then alarms and control.
[00:06:43.440]So it's been a progression and you
know over the years, for instance,
[00:06:48.560]you know- developing the digital based technology,
which is now the backbone. So we actually can
[00:06:53.200]put a lot of different kinds of sensors into a
system on a single twisted pair of wires. So you'd
[00:06:58.560]be measuring temperature, the humidity, moisture
level. All on a one twisted pair. So we've really
[00:07:10.240]built on that technology technology platform.
We brought other technology out as well. So in
[00:07:14.480]sector for instance electronic
detection system, so really beefing up all of the
[00:07:20.160]sensing inputs and control outputs. We put a lot
of work into the grain management side as far as
[00:07:26.000]developing the control strategies, so that you
can do different things whether you want to
[00:07:30.640]dry with air dry with uh supplement air with
something like heat whether it's conditioning
[00:07:35.360]whether it's you know taking the last couple
points out of the grain when it comes off the
[00:07:39.120]dryer so that you can um you know increase dryer
throughput. Instead of using the bottom you know
[00:07:44.640]core of the dryer for for just for cooling. And
then of course aeration for longer term storage. So,
[00:07:49.440]all those control strategies- we continue to
build on just making it simpler to be able to
[00:07:55.440]hit specific targets instead of you know having to
be an expert on you know grain management per se.
[00:08:01.760]We want our customers to be focused on what
really matters to them as far as their market
[00:08:07.840]opportunities are concerned. So they download the
market opportunities and then we help make sure
[00:08:12.880]that the system is going to work effectively
um to to hit those targets in that time frame.
[00:08:22.720]Who is your target customer for your technological
solutions right now and and what are the biggest
[00:08:29.040]opportunities for them to realize savings
uh in your eyes. From the technology that
[00:08:34.720]that OPI systems offers? You know we work with any
grain storage practitioners whether it be farm or
[00:08:42.000]commercial. But, I come out of the farm side
that's how we started the business. I was uh
[00:08:48.480]as a sideline selling aeration and
drying system, natural drying was really just
[00:08:53.760]taking off in the early 80s, in western
Canada. And it became very popular as a
[00:09:00.880]more simplistic lower cost you know your
drying system for taking safe five points off of cereal grains.
[00:09:08.272]So, I've got a sweet spot for the
farm market. We really enjoy working in farm space. It's the broader number of folks that
are out there managing grain. But you know we
[00:09:18.800]like to work with anyone that wants to enhance
the value of their store crops. So if it's the
[00:09:26.240]they give us department that's selling out
to the commercial elevator we want to make
[00:09:30.400]sure that they're selling at at the optimum
value. Which gets to your other question about
[00:09:38.000]what you know where what's the biggest savings
or what's the biggest return on investment. And
[00:09:42.800]there's basically three major pillars to our value
proposition. First and foremost, it's insurance okay.
[00:09:48.720]So you want to protect the quality once the
grain comes into the storage, you can't really
[00:09:54.240]enhance the quality. All you can do is hold it. And what we want to make sure is you don't lose it.
[00:10:01.200]Because downgrading um you know having problems
around trusting. We hear about you know issues
[00:10:07.840]around entrapment with confined space entry. Well
that gets the second point around best practice
[00:10:13.440]you don't want to be going into the bin if you
don't need to be going into the bin. So bringing
[00:10:18.160]the information out, being able to readily see that
information- manage it- really helps optimize the
[00:10:24.240]quality and in in the safest manner. So that really
quality is probably the biggest driver as far as a
[00:10:32.080]return on investment from the from the technology.
And then we start talking about moisture is
[00:10:37.040]probably the next biggest driver. Because you
know grain is sold by weight, so water is money.
[00:10:42.000]That's one of our old saws and as a farmer you're
not optimizing your moisture um take it to the
[00:10:47.680]highest level that's a permissible for sale. Then you're being taken advantage of because you're
[00:10:52.800]either going to be discounted for being over
dry or you're going to be penalized for being
[00:10:58.320]tough. So you know you don't want someone else
blending and getting to that moisture you want to
[00:11:03.920]be able to hit yourself and get the maximum value.
So quality first, moisture optimization second.
[00:11:10.560]Being able to store longer with confidence because
you've got a quality grain and you've got a good
[00:11:16.080]monitoring and management tool. It's really
important and there's two elements to that.
[00:11:19.600]One of them is around um being able to hit
market targets. So thinking of storage as a
[00:11:25.040]profit center, think about storage as a
market maker. Whereas, you know you can hold
[00:11:29.040]and get target markets instead of having to
get rid of your grain at the low prices. So with
[00:11:36.160]that comes the opportunity for carry. So you can
actually be paid on particular contracts to store
[00:11:41.120]grain longer with confidence into the next spring,
summer. So that you can hit those premium markets.
[00:11:47.680]And then after that, I think the biggest part
you've actually asked specifically about savings.
[00:11:52.000]But the you know around savings we're talking
about electrical savings. You can imagine you
[00:11:56.400]know if you um have storage spread around a couple
different locations, and you know you're having to
[00:12:02.480]jump into truck and drive out to the storage to
turn on a fan and then you forget to turn it off.
[00:12:08.320]You have both- you have waste you know both in
in terms of electricity as well as um shrink.
[00:12:14.880]Because anytime you run the fan- typically you're
going to drive a little bit more moisture out of
[00:12:18.560]the grain. And it's really a lot harder to get
the moisture back into the grain once it's
[00:12:23.120]over dried. So you don't ever want to get it down
to that place where you're inadvertently removing
[00:12:28.800]more moisture. So electrical labor fumigation. Less
fumigation, with confidence again when you store
[00:12:34.960]you don't need as much. So I would say
those are the biggest drivers as far as savings
[00:12:40.240]and return on investment. That is an awesome
overview of how important these systems are.
[00:12:45.920]What about on the inventory management side so is
this helping farmers make a decision on if whether
[00:12:51.920]they should store it on their farm or whether
they should take it straight to an elevator?
[00:12:56.960]How is this technology potentially helping
a farmer make those decisions at harvest?
[00:13:01.360]Great question, Samantha. So this
gets into the whole area of um supply chain.
[00:13:08.400]Which is more towards the commercial side like
the co-ops um for the farmers to understand what
[00:13:14.160]their inventory is. Of course, they know both the
quality and the quantity of the of the commodities
[00:13:19.200]they're storing. They can make they can share the data,
they can make better market decisions. They can you
[00:13:24.320]know capture a better market opportunity. But when
you start working with, for instance, your local
[00:13:28.160]co-op. Now all of a sudden you know you know the
co-op could be looking at going hang on a second. We
[00:13:35.760]know that that that the best quality of storage
is gonna be on farm. You know the farmers could
[00:13:40.400]do the best possible job, typically smaller bins
better air systems, better there on-site. You
[00:13:46.880]know they've invested interest, you can't get
better quality than that. So when we keep the grain
[00:13:55.200]on farm longer and then we can route directly.
So for instance if it's accordance going to an
[00:14:02.480]ethanol plant. Why should it go through the
handling and then the loss? You know half a
[00:14:08.320]point or point loss every time grain is handled.
So when you take it out of the bin at the farm
[00:14:13.200]and you move into the co-op or the commercial
elevator- there's going to be losses and costs.
[00:14:19.840]And then you turn around and ship that grain out
to say an ethanol plant why not just have a drop
[00:14:24.560]ship why not just have the contract for the farm.
Farmer to have direct shift to the ethanol plant.
[00:14:30.800]And it saves everybody, it frees up
the capacity in the system.
[00:14:35.360]And it allows for efficiency in supply chain. I
mean the bottom line is that you know the better
[00:14:42.000]the information systems, the more readily
available that information is
[00:14:46.640]like for example on your phone on your combine.
The better the decisions you can make is that
[00:14:51.200]is that bin full? You know what's what's
the condition of that uh is it dried yet?
[00:14:56.560]You know can I actually sell grain
the way it's sitting right now.
[00:15:00.400]That came out of the dryer got pinched in the bin.
You know you can make decisions way better than
[00:15:07.920]than guessing or having to go and check
the bin, which is really not going to happen.
[00:15:12.560]Given you know, what all is going on at harvest.
So you know the more available you think about
[00:15:20.960]these these are what we call real-time systems.
I mean, basically the information's you know
[00:15:27.280]some measurements being made and information being
shipped up the cloud, and then it's instantaneously
[00:15:31.120]available. And so to be able to turn your fans on
and off and to be able to see what the condition
[00:15:37.760]and the level the bin is. You know to
be able to share that data if someone is
[00:15:44.800]someone's looking to find markets and it's a
buyer or someone helping you sell the grain.
[00:15:49.840]If they have access to the information, they can
leverage that information to you know identify
[00:15:54.080]and capture opportunities that come up. Where
do you envision the biggest growth opportunity
[00:16:00.160]when it comes to grain storage management- is it
the connecting you know what you have stored to
[00:16:05.680]a customer or is there something else that you
really think we should be looking forward to
[00:16:11.360]in the future of grain storage? Yeah you
know there's there's the evolution of
[00:16:17.520]of sensing technology and there's CO2 sensors are
coming out now. And there's even you know um
[00:16:26.080]wireless technology that it's supposed to be
able to measure the moisture across the bin. But
[00:16:31.360]the biggest win is is in applying
the technology for better management.
[00:16:37.920]You know having the automated controls
that I just alluded to a moment ago.
[00:16:42.880]And then having connectivity to the broader value
chain, I think that's really where it's going.
[00:16:47.840]How all these different systems are connecting.
So you don't have all you know a different
[00:16:51.600]you know precision system, in a different inventory
management system, in a different marketing,
[00:16:57.120]accounting system. Where everything is whether
it's under one umbrella or whether it's just
[00:17:01.520]interconnected. Such that the data is flowing. That
you've got the traceability, so that you can um
[00:17:10.160]stand that data and allow um stakeholders such as
you know grain brokers or buyers or people who are
[00:17:19.120]supporting you with your grain management. We're
bringing a module out in our platform now that
[00:17:23.120]we have a you know really solid platform we can
build onto it with you know bringing sample grain
[00:17:27.520]management services. So if a farmer wants to take
a holiday or if he doesn't want to be climbing
[00:17:32.240]the bins or checking the grain himself. He can
outsource that component. Because farmers are
[00:17:37.200]are challenged. I mean they got you know it's hard
to find really good help sometimes. And or um you
[00:17:43.360]know to keep up with all the different demands of
a very complicated business when you think about
[00:17:50.800]farming. How many moving pieces there are.
To manage effectively. So you know be able to have
[00:18:00.800]someone else watching over your brain for example.
In general just having connected systems allows
[00:18:07.840]us to do a plethora of different things. And
I see that's the direction that we're heading.
[00:18:15.520]I think you hit the nail on the head
with the it's more important it's not just about
[00:18:19.600]collecting all this data, it only matters if
you're using it and applying it. So I think
[00:18:24.080]that's awesome. We talked about that all the time
in digital agriculture. So I'm really glad you have
[00:18:28.080]you know talked about that. Yeah the biggest thing
now though is that I mean included earlier is our
[00:18:33.440]cloud-based platform. Which is really
exciting because that opens up endless
[00:18:37.680]possibilities as far as connecting us into
the overall agricultural value chain. And so
[00:18:43.920]we have one project that uh um
multi-year project that we're just running with
[00:18:50.720]uh precision company by name of Farmers Edge up in
Winnipeg. Whereby, we're specifically focusing
[00:18:56.240]on protein-based crops so if you want to dial
in specific uh characteristics and you want to
[00:19:01.680]sell into protein markets, for example. But really
it's as much about it's sort of a precursor to
[00:19:07.040]traceability and uh you know being able to
know exactly what um kind of conditions the
[00:19:16.960]grain was grown in and um what the main
quality parameters are whether it be
[00:19:22.160]protein normal starch you're going to get
specific market opportunities. So connecting
[00:19:27.280]producers with with buyers, processors. You
can do that a lot of that.You know the storage
[00:19:34.880]itself has been a bit of a black hole. You've got
a lot of technology a ton technology upstream on
[00:19:40.000]production agriculture. With precision ag you've
got a lot of emerging um interesting things
[00:19:45.280]happening on the marketplace side. But storage
itself has been somewhat disconnected component.
[00:19:52.560]And so by having a cloud-based offering we can
connect into the overall value chain, so we can see
[00:20:00.240]that whole piece as far as pulling data up and
across and moving it downstream to the marketplace.
[00:20:07.600]So we can do it with partnerships. I mentioned
Farmers Edge. We're developing a large ecosystem
[00:20:14.080]of partners, whether it be you know from the
grain cart getting the actual yield and volume
[00:20:22.240]right out of the field. And
tying that directly into the bin.
[00:20:26.080]And the more that we can actually pull data in
an automated fashion, the more reliable this is
[00:20:31.280]going to be. Because of course you know relying on
manual intervention for data entry especially when
[00:20:36.480]you know producers are really busy for example
at harvest. The more automated we can get,
[00:20:44.160]you know the more accurate, the more calibrated the
sensors, the better the information, the better the
[00:20:49.120]management that comes with that. So building
up our partner ecosystem with this cloud
[00:20:54.480]blue cloud program is really where we're
going forward over the next couple of years.
[00:20:59.120]So when you think about you know trying to have
traceability with fields and working with farmer's
[00:21:04.640]edge- I imagine one of the biggest challenges there
is is trying to match the grain and and the field
[00:21:09.520]that that grain is coming out of to the actual bin
that it's being stored in, and and kind of tracking
[00:21:15.200]that grain over time, so how have you all been able
to overcome that challenge- I know you're talking
[00:21:18.720]about automation, but I imagine that's a big a big
challenge still? Yeah excellent question Jackson.
[00:21:25.920]I mean that's that is the challenge and that's
you know we're just early days in this project.
[00:21:29.360]So that's one of the goals the longer term goal
of this project over the next couple years is to
[00:21:33.120]really look at what kind of technology we can tap
to be able to um automate that as much as possible.
[00:21:40.160]Because you have to you know at the end of the day
you have to rely on the manual component to say
[00:21:44.640]yeah sure I know exactly that that bushel of grain
came out of uh you know that part of that field,
[00:21:50.800]at that moisture content uh et cetera et cetera.
But you know at the end of the day when you're out
[00:21:56.080]that cart maybe even to um a truck that then
goes to the um to the bin. How do you know that
[00:22:04.160]that's the uh indeed um you know where that grain
came from? So we're looking at different there are
[00:22:11.520]different technologies we're always looking for
folks that are developing solutions like that.
[00:22:15.680]But that's one area right now where we have to
oftentimes have to consider the manual component
[00:22:20.160]to make sure that um that the grain did in
fact hit the target to be anything downstream.
[00:22:26.720]You know when when there's a contract um how
does the buyer know if they've made an agreement
[00:22:34.400]on a particular grain? How do they know
that that's where that grain came from?
[00:22:38.400]So these are the kind of things that we need
to solve um going forward. I have heard a
[00:22:44.000]few things about blockchain potentially being
an opportunity within you know grain logistics
[00:22:49.440]and marketing kind of locking in contracts and
having those on the blockchain. Is that another
[00:22:55.120]opportunity that may be available here in terms
of that automation to make sure it's traceable?
[00:23:00.080]Absolutely absolutely that's a big part of the
uh the surety the traceability blockchain will
[00:23:05.520]definitely be an element that we'll be looking
at and partnering with others that have that
[00:23:08.880]expertise. We want sure to think about it, I mean
if you have a a producer that um could contract
[00:23:14.480]directly to a buyer. You know they both want to
build up that trust. So you want to have mechanisms
[00:23:20.560]like blockchain and but other trust build systems
right like um you know the producer has a profile
[00:23:26.720]of being a trusted supplier. And that you
have the data to be able to actually show
[00:23:31.440]that linkage through the system. Can you kind of
talk about how you're planning on getting this
[00:23:36.560]technology to farmers that are trying to match
their protein levels and what that means for them
[00:23:42.160]as farmers? How is this technology
working for wheat farmers? Right so
[00:23:48.800]um you know coming from Canada of course,
we're into a lot of small grains right. So
[00:23:53.760]less of corn, a little bit of beans but a lot about
um you know canola, wheat, barley pulses etc. So the
[00:24:03.440]same basic tenets hold true no matter what the
grain type or the characters you're driving for.
[00:24:09.600]I mean, if you're specifically looking for protein-
that happens to be the sort of genesis of this
[00:24:14.560]program that we're involved with. But really it's
it's about um you know traceability, blockchain
[00:24:20.880]what you know is it's any any type of grain any
kind any kind of characteristic that you're trying
[00:24:24.960]to drive for. If specifically you're looking
at protein you might want to have a protein
[00:24:30.720]meter on your combine. There is that technology
out there today that you can actually literally
[00:24:34.960]drive through your field and cut out you know
specific um protein if that's if that's what you
[00:24:40.720]know you're after. You know with your wheat. But
it could be anything. You could be you know
[00:24:47.680]getting barley to a malt. It could be
any characteristic that you're really wanting to
[00:24:52.400]hone in on on for a particular value added market
opportunity. When we were at the American society
[00:24:57.680]of agronomy conference last year there were
several presentations with people talking about
[00:25:02.560]basically protein mapping in wheat fields. Which
I thought was really interesting because I was
[00:25:08.160]not aware of that capability. And I think there's
actually a project right now that is trying to get
[00:25:12.400]started doing some wheat protein mapping here in
Nebraska with one of our extension educators. So
[00:25:18.960]that's an exciting opportunity if you're really
able to get high resolution on on that that data.
[00:25:24.160]You know it'll tie right into what's I guess
planned with farmer's edge.
[00:25:28.441]I mean at the end of the day it's uh it's the old saw right.
And great data. And we're amassing so much data and there's a real question about what what is
the value of that security that your data is not
[00:25:39.600]going to be used against you. That you know
there's a value there and if you're gonna be
[00:25:43.200]investing in systems whether it be precision
or otherwise you you've got to see where that
[00:25:48.960]roi really really makes sense. But we're making
more sense of the data and the more data that we
[00:25:54.320]store, you know the more that we can go back
and back flash and apply things like ai you
[00:25:59.840]know artificial intelligence. Or to to or machine
learning to to actually mine value out of the data.
[00:26:06.880]So the nice part about our technology is that
we're not putting the systems in for the data.
[00:26:11.760]That's just sort of a very pleasant side effect of
the systems that we need that data to be able to
[00:26:17.520]monitor and optimize but and control. But by in so
doing we end up collecting a lot of data that we
[00:26:24.400]build up over time and it's cheap to store data.
So we have multiple years of historic data that
[00:26:30.560]we go back and look at. And the really cool thing
about data is that the this is one of the rare
[00:26:35.760]commodities where the more you use it the more
valuable it becomes. So the more things we learn
[00:26:41.360]about the data the more things we can do with the
data. So and then that helps sort of it's sort of a
[00:26:46.880]you know a self- prophesizing value driver
in the sense that that then you can justify
[00:26:54.400]you know spending money on systems that will
collect the data. But again, I mean it's a nice side
[00:27:00.160]effect because we're already pulling a lot of data
just in the virtue of the operation of our system.
[00:27:05.600]Is this with the idea that eventually farmers
won't have to just be price takers, that they'll
[00:27:09.920]be able to kind of leverage maybe specialty crops
or leverage different quality of their grain?
[00:27:16.080]In a way that they can kind of ask for
a higher price or a premium? Absolutely
[00:27:20.560]I mean anywhere you can find a value-added
opportunity anywhere you can differentiate.
[00:27:25.680]Anywhere where you can actually even maybe
could join like you know if you have other
[00:27:32.160]producers that have similar product
but you yourself don't have enough
[00:27:36.240]volume to fill the contracts. Whether it be farmers
getting together whether it be brokers that are
[00:27:41.120]organizing these activities again. Because you know
if you think about a grain of broker something
[00:27:46.640]that's helping you with your grain marketing.
They have access to the information you can let
[00:27:52.240]that you know uh information on particular bins
or or types of grain or whatever and help them
[00:27:59.600]try to find um market opportunities. So anywhere
you can differentiate and get away from
[00:28:07.280]the you know commoditized notion of uh you
know especially with you know crops like
[00:28:12.400]corn. The better off you are to identify
where you can find those kind of markets.
[00:28:16.720]I hate to say it as well, but the reality is if you look at when we talk about marketplace. I
[00:28:22.880]mean that's technically a word that's being banded
around around the whole disintermediation of the
[00:28:28.960]um system from producer to buyer.
And so if you can cut unnecessary
[00:28:37.360]steps out of that chain that the value can come
back to the producer. If the producer isn't having
[00:28:43.040]their grain commingled to
especially on export to a lower quality standard.
[00:28:49.760]You know they can enjoy the benefit of
the higher value with a higher quality product.
[00:28:54.880]Because typically the farmers are shipping
a really high quality product with
[00:28:58.960]really low levels of admixture of fm and uh but
that's not exactly what the buyers necessarily see
[00:29:07.920]once it's gone through the system. So who's
benefiting from that and who should benefit
[00:29:12.560]from that? So do you see the direct consumer-
direct to you know whoever the value adder is.
[00:29:19.840]Do you see that market growing quite a bit
right now and is that really enabled for the
[00:29:24.480]data? It is it already is through in in in real
you know niche uh market opportunity areas that
[00:29:34.480]we're connecting to more much more
directly. Absolutely, already happening.
[00:29:37.920]I don't know how meaningful is happening but
certainly the uh I believe the trend in that
[00:29:42.240]direction. So can we talk about how far out do
you think that this is to be like commonplace?
[00:29:48.720]Because like you're we're starting these
partnerships right or right now and it's
[00:29:53.280]getting there slowly but how far out do you think
we are from this being like really common practice?
[00:29:59.840]Common practice that's a great question you know
uh one of the biggest opportunities for us is the
[00:30:05.680]US on farm storage market. You know I would
think that some type of monitoring system is
[00:30:13.440]going into a better percentage of the new storage
that's going up. But historically uh you know
[00:30:23.520]the safe number is that less than 10 of US on farm
storage has any kind of monitoring system in it.
[00:30:30.640]And so you know we have to get we see that
as a huge opportunity. But then it's also a
[00:30:37.120]paradigm that we have to get beyond and say
well where do people see the value in better
[00:30:42.080]management. I think that ties back to do we
see better market value-added market opportunity.
[00:30:49.360]So it's sort of hand-in-hand had a
glove with um you know how we develop
[00:30:57.200]these markets and create the infrastructure to be
able to um capitalize on these types of
[00:31:02.640]opportunities. And, for instance, in the Canadian
system it's already kind of set up that way and
[00:31:07.040]said in the sense that we have smaller storage.
This this lends itself more easily to segregation.
[00:31:12.240]You know so you start putting grain into
a you know a quarter million half million
[00:31:16.960]bushel bin, and you know it's getting it's getting
blended down to its you know whatever the common
[00:31:23.200]quality denominator is. But the you know it's
where you can find these opportunities like,
[00:31:29.040]for instance, with farmers loading grain into
secants you know and back hauling secants to
[00:31:35.680]Asia. I said that said those are smaller lots we're
talking like 25 lots. But selling standalone
[00:31:40.960]monitoring systems but being connected into the
overall value chain, I think that helps too.
[00:31:48.240]Where producers can make sense out of how they
can, you know, not just get information on their
[00:31:53.520]phone as opposed to having these monitors. They
can't remember where you know where they left
[00:31:58.000]them or um you know that the information's
coming to them that it actually connects
[00:32:03.040]into a into a into a bigger system whatever
they're using for their farm management.
[00:32:08.000]So if a farmer like I said, say a farmer is
listening to this and they want to learn like
[00:32:15.040]how to get started how to reach out to somebody
at OPI Systems and think about getting started-
[00:32:21.200]what do they need to know? Like is this something
that they should think about for their new grain
[00:32:25.120]systems can they retrofit it onto their old
ones? But maybe more importantly like is this
[00:32:31.280]customizable for their operation or what do you
recommend? I don't know does this make sense of
[00:32:37.440]what should a farmer really know about getting
started with a grain advanced system? Yes it's
[00:32:44.960]not a um you know it's not a simple kind of a
product that you just got by off the shelf.
[00:32:52.240]It's got to be fit um to the bins. You
know all farmers have been to different sizes and
[00:32:58.720]whether the bin is um you know got a structural
roof or not whether it's a new construction.
[00:33:06.080]Which is much easier to install systems into
when the bin roof is on the ground you know the
[00:33:10.080]pin is being jacked versus a retrofit application
where you have to get in to figure out how to get
[00:33:14.640]installation done on a pre-existing bin. Sizing
the system up, how you're going to integrate into
[00:33:21.760]you know controls for for automated fan operation.
It's best to talk to someone um
[00:33:29.840]that is really um boned up. That's a you know
that is very conversant in the space. So you
[00:33:36.000]know we've got uh some great dealers like
uh construction out of southern
[00:33:40.320]Nebraska. Not to be excluding anyone
sorry but if I did. I would recommend
[00:33:47.120]that conversation both from a standpoint
of you know get somebody's knowledgeable
[00:33:51.200]they go through a bit of a consultative process
to say well really what are you trying to do with
[00:33:54.720]the system? What are you trying to do with
your grain? More specifically, you know what
[00:33:58.080]would you like to be able to accomplish, and
so that the writing system is matched up to
[00:34:03.760]the needs of the opportunity and then and then
logistically the right equipment is installed.
[00:34:12.240]Thank you, Dave, for joining us today on the
FarmBits podcast. Grain storage is often overlooked
[00:34:17.280]aspect of farming and digital technology, but
in reality plays a vital role in preserving the
[00:34:22.400]commodity that you worked all year round to grow.
And it directly influences your bottom line. So
[00:34:27.840]my favorite part was his comment that creating
all this data doesn't really matter. It's about
[00:34:32.400]the decisions that you make from that, so in making
those decisions in a way that the grower doesn't
[00:34:38.160]have to take the time to really think about
it. It's a system that really makes farmers
[00:34:43.440]and commercial operators lives easier. For sure.
And I thought you know one of the most interesting
[00:34:49.280]aspects of the interview is his discussion
of their new partnership with farmer's edge,
[00:34:54.240]and working to connect precision agriculture
data that's collected in the field
[00:34:58.960]to some of their grain bin management data that
they have. With the ultimate goal of creating
[00:35:05.680]greater value for farmers products through these
value-added market supply chains. I think that's
[00:35:12.480]going to be a really big opportunity in the future
of agriculture and precision ag specifically. I
[00:35:17.200]think that's something everyone can get behind
is a higher value commodity. No doubt. If you are
[00:35:22.560]interested in learning more about OPI advanced
grain management systems please check out the
[00:35:26.560]website and contact information included
in the show notes and podcast description.
[00:35:31.360]Thanks for joining us and hopefully we'll see you
next week. Thank you for taking the time to join
[00:35:36.640]us today on the FarmBits podcast. We would like
to thank Nebraska Extension for their support
[00:35:41.680]of this podcast and their commitment to providing
high quality informational material to members of
[00:35:46.400]the agricultural community in Nebraska and beyond.
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