The latest technology, including equipment used in grain entrapment prevention and rescue, was on display at the 2019 Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) Exchange March 9-12 in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.

The uncertainty surrounding trade policies, most notably the conflict between the United States and China, has affected many of the 407 expo exhibitors who displayed the latest products and services for grain industry. Both China and the United States have imposed tariffs on various products from each country, including a 25% tariff on steel and aluminum being imported from China.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the market today,” said Randy Marcks, material handling and sales director for Sukup Manufacturing. “People just don’t know what direction things are going to hit politically and that has certainly impacted our business. The steel tariffs — we use a lot of steel in a week — so that definitely has impacted our business along with the end-users not knowing exactly what they are going to have for programs and things available.”

For others, the trade uncertainty has sparked increased business in other markets.

“I think what’s been happening in the world with different trade issues going on, we’ve seen a lot of business in Brazil and Argentina in the last 12 months,” said Johnny Wheat, president of 4B Components. “We are very fortunate because we are an international company. We have a set of subsidiaries around the world, so we are geographically diverse, so it has not impacted us too bad.”

Another area of concern is competing in and working to expand into other markets.

Tapco Inc., a manufacturer of bucket elevators and bolts, is focused on expanding its global footprint, but there are obstacles to overcome

“For our industry specifically, increased competition worldwide has made it tougher to compete,” said Jon Rux, territory sales rep for Tapco. “There are more companies every day that are manufacturing buckets, so we need to find a way to get our product into the world market while still being competitive in every way possible. We do ship internationally, but there are certain markets that are harder to get into like China and India where there are a lot of domestic manufacturers who can manufacture in such volume that it makes competing there very difficult.”

Despite the challenge, Tapco continues to ship internationally and keep an inventory of 1 million buckets and 15 million elevator bolts.

Grain entrapment discussed 

The annual gathering included 2,836 attendees from 19 countries, and it opened with a workshop entitled: “Why Are They Still Entering Grain Bins?” Also, throughout the three-day event, grain entrapment rescue demonstrations were conducted to show proper techniques for rescuing grain entrapment victims along with nearly 40 hours of education in a variety of formats.

The reason for the emphasis on grain entrapment is simple: each year dozens of farmers and employees at grain storage facilities around the world die when they are engulfed by grain inside bins. Sadly, these deaths are preventable.

“We lose about 30 people per year (in the United States) and twice that number are involved in non-death entrapments,” said Carol Jones, an Oklahoma State University professor who specializes in grain condition and safety. Jones was one of the opening workshop’s featured speakers.

Jones said the first line of defense in preventing these incidents is keeping the stored grain in proper condition. Most grain entrapment deaths and injuries occur because employees enter the bin to break up clotted or crusted grain that interferes with the unloading of the bin.

“Zero entry sounds good, but the answer to why are they still entering grain bins is we either have to have equipment deal with crusted or clumped grain or we have to have someone go in the bin and deal with it,” Jones said.

She said aeration is the biggest factor in keeping grain in good condition. But doing this requires an investment in aeration equipment and grain monitoring equipment such as temperature cables, air quality monitors and grain probes and samplers. She also recommended marketing poor quality grain quickly.

“Get it out of the bin before something bad happens,” she said.

How the grain is loaded into the bin can also have an impact on the condition of the grain, which in turn reduces the need for bin entry, she said.

“If you level the top off, the aeration system is going to work better,” Jones said.

Jeff Decker, president, Decker Consulting & Investigations, provided an update on the latest equipment and procedures that can prevent grain entrapment and help employees execute rescues.

Decker, who nearly died in a farm accident as a teenager, said lock-out, tag-out procedures that ensure machinery is shut off before employees enter a bin, and not able to start up again until they exit, must always be used.

He said the No. 1 cause of grain entrapment was rodding clumped or crusted grain while an unloading conveyor is running.

“If you do that you are at risk of going with the flow of the grain and it won’t be long before your head is under the grain,” he said. “With the increased unloading capacities, that doesn’t take long to happen.”

Decker said it takes only 10 seconds for a person’s entire body to submerge in grain based on a 10-inch auger unloading at a rate of 4,086 bushels per hour.

Another common cause of engulfment is trying to break up columns or towers of crusted grain while standing on the bin floor. Amazingly, most “grain avalanche” deaths involve less than 3 feet of grain, said Decker, noting that being buried in just 1 foot of grain is the equivalent of 800 pounds of pressure.

“This is an increasing reason for engulfment,” Decker said. “Whether it’s in the middle of the bin or up against the wall, it is very dangerous to try to break up that grain while standing in a bin.”

Decker highly recommended the use of bin coring equipment, zero-entry bin sweeps, compressed air and grain vacuums as ways to deal with out of condition grain without bin entry.

If prevention fails, Decker said it’s important that rescue equipment is always stored on a grain facility’s property and that employees are properly trained to execute a grain engulfment rescue, along with local emergency responders.

He said about 30% of the grain entrapment incidents in the United States occur at commercial facilities while 70% occur on farms. A few years ago, the ratio was 50-50, so it appears that commercial grain storage facilities are making some progress in preventing these incidents.

“The problem is we’re still seeing about the same number of incidents overall,” he said.

New technology

With grain entrapment prevention and rescue being a key theme at the 2019 expo, many exhibitors featured zero-entry products or products that help prevent grain-related injuries by utilizing new technology.

Grain Systems Inc. (GSI) of Assumption, Illinois, U.S., debuted its new GrainViz product that gives operators advanced insight into the condition of stored grain.

“It’s a completely new way to manage grain masses inside the steel storage bin at this point,” said Jeff Cravens, director of North America Grain Dealer Sales — East, GSI. “It lets you get down to the individual bushel level where you will always know the moisture content for safe storage. It constantly monitors and it will alert you in many ways if there is ever a change within that grain mass. You can run a scan of the bin. Similar to an MRI, you get a physical image of what’s inside that grain mass from a moisture standpoint.”

He said GrainViz is an important tool for reducing grain bin entry.

“One of the problems within bin storage is when the grain gets out of condition, that generally can cause a person to enter a bin to clean up unconditioned grain,” Cravens said. “This hopefully prevents that without the need for those people in there.”

TORNUM recently introduced a new generation of grain cooler. The Tropical Grain Cooler provides safe grain storage regardless of ambient conditions.

Per Larsson, managing director at TORNUM, said there is a strong demand for this new product at grain facilities in warmer climates.

“It is a higher capacity and can perform in warmer climates,” he said. “If you are above 40 degrees Celsius, you will have problems, but this tropical grain cooler can go further.”

NORD Gear Corp. unveiled the MAXXDRIVE XT series of industrial gear units (IGUs) at the three-day expo.

The MAXXDRIVE XT series expands NORD’s line of IGU production. The new gear units achieve high thermal ratings as a result of a new and optimized housing design. Together with the increased surface design and optimized fan design, MAXXDRIVE XT gear units are ideal for continuous industrial conveying and bulk material handling applications. In many cases, additional cooling is not required.

The new generation of IGUs supplement NORD’s application-optimized right-angle gear units, and is especially suitable for conveyor belt systems.

“The gear units are ideal for continuous bulk material handling, mining and conveying aggregates (coal, copper, lithium, quarried materials),” said Hani Almoghrabi, product manager for NORD’s Large Industrial Drives.

The optimized housing geometry achieves maximum thermal ratings and effective fan cooling through an enhanced fan design and air flow.

“NORD’s new MAXXDRIVE XT series is achieving some of the highest thermal ratings in the industry,” Almoghrabi said.

The three-day expo wrapped up by recognizing and honoring members for their accomplishments in 2018.

Allan Tedrow of McCormick Construction received the Corbett award, the highest honor for GEAPS associate members.

Tedrow started in the industry in 1982. He joined GEAPS in 1999 and is an active member in his chapter. He first ran for the Associates Board of Directors in 2002 and served on the Associates Board for five years.

“Wow, as a sales guy, it is not very often that I am speechless, but this award leaves me with few words,” Tedrow said. “I am truly humbled to receive this award and am honored to be in a group of very distinguished recipients. I would like to thank my employer, McCormick Construction, for allowing me to participate on the education committee for so many years. They have been truly supportive of continuing the education into the industry.”

GEAPS noted that throughout his time in the organization, Tedrow has been a tireless recruiter and has a reputation for not only recruiting new members, but for also getting them involved in GEAPS so they in turn become advocates. He also has a reputation for connecting members and solving problems.

The Corbett Award is named in honor of the late John Corbett, Kansas City Chapter, who served three years as Associates Board president from 1980 to 1983. He was the first honoree in 1987.

Other noteworthy accomplishments included the 2018 GEAPS Safety Award Program. Of the 501 facilities that enrolled in the program, 410 successfully completed the year without any lost-time injuries or illnesses.

The top 5 facilities by cumulative hours were:

  • Bunge North America, Russel, Manitoba, 1,917,324 hours
  • Bunge North America Delphos, Ohio, 1,570,632 hours
  • Bunge North America Hamilton, Ontario, 1,552,838 hours
  • Bunge North America, Bellevue, Ohio, 1,454,346 hours
  • Bunge North America, Council Bluffs, Iowa, 1,262,699 hours

Top five facilities by cumulative years were:

  • First place, 40 years, Bunge North America DeSoto Landing facility in Arkansas City, Arkansas
  • Second place, 36 years, Bunge North America Fountain Bluff facility in Grand Tower, Illinois
  • Tie for third place, 32 years, Bunge North America facility in Blytheville, Arkansas; Bunge North America facility in Hickman, Kentucky; Bunge North America facility in LaGrange, Missouri; Bunge North America facility in Yazoo City, Mississippi
  • Fourth place, 25 years, Cargill facility in Lima, Ohio
  • Tie for fifth place, 23 years, Cargill facility in Cheyenne Wells, Colorado and Riceland Foods Inc. facility in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

Next up: Minneapolis

GEAPS Exchange 2020 will be held March 21-24 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., which has been the host city for the Exchange numerous times over the years and is near the organization’s headquarters in Golden Valley. For more information about next year’s event, visit