SHEFFIELD, IOWA, U.S. — Sukup Manufacturing Co.’s intermediate sump gate warning system for grain bins was recognized by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) as one of the 50 outstanding innovations of 2018.

The patent-pending system shuts off grain bin unloading equipment and warns the bin operator if an unloading gate is open when it shouldn’t be. The system protects against off-center unloading, which is a top cause of damage to large grain bins, Sukup said.

The warning system will be featured in the January/February special issue of ASABE’s magazine Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World.

“We’re very pleased to receive this prestigious award,” said Charles Sukup, president of Sukup Manufacturing Co. He said the award highlights the company’s emphasis on finding ways to make grain handling and storage more safe, profitable and efficient. The company has won 21 AE50 Awards.

The annual competition is sponsored by Resource magazine, published by ASABE, which is an international scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food, and biological systems.

To be eligible for an award, products must have been introduced and made commercially available in calendar year 2018. Products or systems nominated must be intended principally for use in the production, processing, research, storage, packaging or transportation of agricultural and food products, and have the potential for broad impact.

Safe operation of grain bins has become a greater concern as bins have gotten bigger to keep up with higher yields and enable operators to take advantage of grain price fluctuations, Sukup said. Large commercial bins can have upwards of 20 intermediate sumps. Usually they are opened and closed independently of one another using manually controlled gates.

Besides risk from the higher number of intermediate sumps, the potential for off-center unloading is greater due to larger amounts of grain, the company said. Sukup’s 156’ diameter bin can hold nearly 2 million bushels of grain.

Warning operators about improper use of intermediate sumps greatly reduces the likelihood of off-center unloading, which can occur when intermediate sumps are opened before grain has stopped flowing through the center sump.

Off-center unloading puts excessive downward pressure on the bin sidewalls and can lead to buckling or catastrophic failure. If an intermediate sump is opened prematurely, the warning system shuts off the unload system and alerts the operator with a horn, voice, and/or flashing lights. Text-message warnings are optional.