Grain dryer upgrades have become very popular among farms looking to increase their energy efficiency. The Agriculture Clean Technology Funding Program (ACT) has green energy and energy efficiency listed as one of the top priorities for projects and more specifically, upgrading grain dryers to maximize efficiency is a category of its own.
As technology advances, Elite Agri Solutions has seen a number of farms looking to upgrade their old grain dryers for newer, more energy efficient ones. Projects seeking funding from the ACT range from small upgrades like additions of heat recovery systems, heat pumps, and switching fuel sources to larger scale projects looking to replace entire grain dryers, eliminate truck usage from transportation, and rethinking the farm’s entire processes.
The main goal of the agricultural sector is to provide nutritious, safe, and high-quality food to consumers at a standard price – with the current and growing population, this cannot happen without grain dryers. In order to store grain and minimize spoilage, the moisture content should be below 15%. Grain is usually harvested at a moisture content around 25% and depending on the dryer, bushel amount, and harvest conditions, the grain will be dried either 5 or 10 points to reach the desired moisture content.
Grain drying is a very energy intensive practice. According to OMAFRA, in Ontario alone, 2,100,000 acres of corn are grown each year. Assuming the initial moisture content is 25% and the desired moisture content is 15%, with a cross-flow dryer with propane as its fuel source drying all this grain would release approximately 450,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. Reducing that fuel usage by even 20% would result in significant reductions in the amount of CO2 released annually.
There are a number of different types of grain dryers but the most common types are either batch dryers or continuous dryers. Bin dryers are the most commonly used batch dryers in Ontario and many like the GSI series have been improved for energy efficiency. Batch dryers’ dry grain in batches and require loading and unloading of the grain. These dryers can be very efficient when the initial moisture content is around 20-23% and can actually dry grain with just ambient air as long as the fans are providing enough airflow. Bin drying can also be done using heated air which then becomes less energy efficient as propane or natural gas will be used to heat the air. In continuous flow dryers, grain is continuously moving while air moves across it in either a counter-flow, mixed-flow, or cross-flow. The two formers are more efficient than the latter but cross-flow continuous dryers are still the most commonly used in Ontario.
Grain dryers hold a lot of potential when it comes to reducing on-farm GHG emissions because of how energy intensive the process is. Grain drying requires both thermal energy, typically in the form of propane or natural gas to fuel the burner and heat the air and electricity for fans, augers, and other parts of the system. There are various ways to upgrade your grain dryers and reduce on-farm emissions, aside from solely upgrading to a new grain dryer. Most new dryers come with heat recovery systems, but some existing dryers can be retrofitted with this feature. Heat recovery uses heated air that would typically be exhausted and recirculates it through the dryer. Heat recovery can result in a 32% reduction in GHG emissions.
Low-temperature drying has been recognized as a possibility for significantly improving energy efficiency. Low-temperature drying can be realized in a few ways and depends mostly on the season’s conditions. For some farms that we’ve submitted applications for, a goal of theirs is to harvest their grain at a later date, allowing for more field drying, which would mean a lower temperature of air is required to heat the grain in the system. This is all possible because of an upgrade to their grain dryer to one that has a higher capacity. This example shows a number of benefits from one project. Low-temperature drying can be done on-farm in a grain storage bin where air is heated slightly above ambient conditions and moved through the grain using a blower until the grain reaches safe storage moisture. The fan requires electricity to be continuously blowing but depending on the province you’re in, the electricity grid may have a higher or lower carbon intensity.
Renewable energies can be used for grain dryers as they are other technologies. This is not as popular in our applications thus far, but research shows there is a clear reduction in GHG emissions when switching over to renewable energies. In the report, it was also determined that hybrid drying techniques using infrared, microwave, and ultrasound in conjunction with drying can significantly reduce emissions. Again, this is something we haven’t come across in our applications but moving forward, we are aware of these possibilities and can help farms that may be able to implement them. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have studied green ammonia as a fuel alternative that is a production of 100% renewable and carbon-free ammonia. Grain dryers can combust green ammonia opposed to fossil-fuels and other renewable energies like wind and solar can be used to supplement electricity usages. Green ammonia resulted in a 78% reduction in energy for corn production where 42% of that is from grain drying. The cost analysis of using green ammonia also shows competitive pricing when compared to other combustible fuels in the near future.
Lastly, there are also practices that can be taken to optimize your grain dryer that are listed by James Dyck here: https://farmtario.com/news/grain-drying-and-energy-efficiency-the-basics/.
Elite Agri Solutions has helped a number of farmers secure funding to upgrade their farms’ grain dryers. Not only does it have a significant reduction in GHG emissions, energy efficient technology can save you time, money, and safeguard the quality of your grain.
Thinking about upgrading your grain dryer? Need help securing the funding you need? Call us today!