GrainSense has developed the world’s first hand-held device for grain quality measurement. Farmers will be able to measure the key parameters of their crops in the field.
The increasing demand for protein and the economical sustainability of farms are two important challenges that agriculture must address. Current projections indicate that world population will increase from 6.9 billion people to 9.1 billion by 2050. The demand for protein is predicted to nearly double by 2050. Meeting this demand within environmental limits while preserving the sustainability of farms is one of the biggest challenges for the global food system in the 21st century.
Cereal grains are the most widely grown crops globally, especially wheat, barley and maize. In Europe, farmers grow more than 300 million tonnes of cereals (mostly wheat and barley) annually, valued at more than €40bn (~£35.83bn). European farmers also grow more than 20 million tonnes of rapeseed and over three million tons of soya.
In the grain business, the quality of the harvest, particularly the protein content, is of paramount importance as it determines for which applications the harvest can be best used: human consumption or animal feed. Moisture content is also an important parameter as it triggers the onset of the harvest and defines the drying conditions for the silo and its management. For oilseeds such as rapeseed and soybean, the oil content is one of the most important quality criteria.
Quick and easy analysis of cereals and oilseeds
Near-Infrared spectroscopy is a method widely used in the agricultural sector to rapidly measure the quality of commodities. This technique has been used in laboratory instruments for years, but GrainSense is the first to realise such an instrument in a handheld format and for an affordable price.
Contrary to conventional grain analysers, the GrainSense device is truly hand-held and battery-operated and it can be used anytime and anywhere, by anyone. The GrainSense hand-held device measures the protein, moisture, oil and carbohydrate contents of grains cereals and other crops. The sample size is only around 3g and the measurement takes only a few seconds.
All measurements are saved instantly to a secured cloud database via a Bluetooth connection through a mobile application. Personal data can be accessed at anytime from anywhere with a GrainSense cloud account. The GrainSense account gives access to cloud-based value-added services. When measuring the samples on the fields, the GPS coordinates of the samples are stored as well.
In-situ analysis: better harvest planning, better silo management, better margins
Farmers are right at the start of the food value chain and GrainSense is the first device that brings the grain quality measurement practice to the farm level for two reasons: smaller sample sizes and an affordable price for farmers.
GrainSense gives an insight into the field and their harvest. It allows organising the daily operations of the farm, to control quality and improve decision making based on real data.
Achieving greater competitiveness and profitability through the use of new technology and big data are, indeed, key challenges to make the farms more sustainable economically. GrainSense makes the following available:
Enables early harvest planning based on crop quality
GrainSense measurements can be started about 10 days before the harvest. It allows prioritising the harvest of high quality crops, and harvesting in good conditions. A focused harvest plan can help negate the impacts of difficult weather.
Enables better silos and bins management
Real-time sorting of the harvest can be realised at the silo and in the storage bins with the GrainSense device, thereby increasing revenue (protein optimised batches). Accurate moisture measurements saves energy at the dryer and improve margins. GrainSense also allows to optimise operations through more frequent protein/oil measurements.
Improves marketing and commodities transactions
GrainSense gives negotiating power to the farmer when selling because protein, moisture and oil contents are the critical factors that determine the selling price and premiums. This includes inter-farm trading, which is a growing trend.
Enables constant improvement of farming practices
Harvest after harvest, based on real data to which big data analysis methods can be applied.
Acting on animal feed with feed analysis
Livestock farmers will also find great benefits in using the GrainSense system as they will be able to know at any time the composition of the grains that they produce or buy to adjust the animal intake with optimal protein content. Every time the farmer opens a new silo, they can measure the protein content of the grains and adjust the feeding according to this collected data. Optimising the feeding of the animals gives maximum growth, minimises the nitrogen loss through faecal matter and increases the profitability of the farm.
An improvement of the whole supply chain
Agriculture is rapidly changing, and farm operations need to adapt quickly to keep up. The increasing demand for better food could be met better just by fostering data-based decision making on farm level in order to optimise the growth and the use of protein across the food supply chain.
Nevertheless, If the GrainSense device was designed by and for farmers, the last two years has shown that also big companies could benefit from such technology. Big food companies generally already have a thorough specific quality assessment procedure in their raw material procurement chain in place. Unfortunately, most of the time, the quality control starts when raw materials are bought or delivered rather than before lots are made or raw materials harvested from the fields. Tools for early value chain decision making are missing. GrainSense allows everyone that operates in the field to manage early operations on real data. Extending quality control from the lab to the field should become a must to solve the global environmental and food challenges.
GrainSense participates to a resource-efficient, secure, transparent and trustful food ecosystem that integrates all players of the value chain from the small-scale farmer to the big industry player and the consumer. Max Schulman, Finnish farmer and co-founder of GrainSense, foresees Grainsense as a beneficial input for farmers and for the entire food system: “One important usage of GrainSense is the segregation of commodities according to quality from the beginning, from the harvest. It will enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of farms and also serves the entire food system, especially concerning food waste. GrainSense brings one more valuable tool to the smart farming tool-box, very important indeed both for the digitisation of agriculture and the whole supply chain and for improving sustainability in general.”
Distribution and partnership
In the EU, the GrainSense device is retailed for an international price of € 3,900 (+VAT), which includes the device, a carrying bag, and a set of measuring spoons. It also comes with a one-year warranty. “GrainSense is at least three times less expensive than the closest alternative”, says Edvard Krogius, CEO of GrainSense. “We believe it will pay for itself after one harvest season.”
The annual cloud service fee is €250. It includes updates and calibrations, unlimited data storage, and the possibility to share measurement results. Five species are available currently: wheat, barley, oats, rye, and rapeseed. Though the species offering is country specific.
Sales started in Finland in May 2018. To date, the GrainSense device is sold by local distributors in 12 countries: Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Turkey, UK, Ireland and France. Many companies showed interest in the device from the US to Asia.
GrainSense is looking for suitable distributors and partners on the European market in 2019 and beyond.