With COVID-19 safety protocols in place and an information-packed agenda, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) is ready for its first in-person Exchange since 2019.

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 show initially was postponed and then canceled. The 2021 event originally was scheduled for February, when the Exchange traditionally has been held, but was postponed to Aug. 6-9 due to the pandemic and the flu season.

“The event is going to look very similar as it would have in winter,” Adrianne Fjerstad-Miller, conference and expo director, said of the event, which will be at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, US. “We actually get to have a social event outside, which we normally wouldn’t be able to do in February and March in a lot of those locations. As far as what we’re planning schedule wise, it will be very similar to past Exchanges.”

Five weeks out from the show, registration was on pace with previous Exchanges. Fjerstad-Miller said they will have a better idea of any attendance impact closer to the early bird registration deadline in mid-July.

“We know that it’s not going to look like KC Exchange in 2017,” she said. “People are still easing back into it, but I think we’re going to have a good showing.”

While a virtual option will not be offered, the education sessions will be recorded and likely offered to membership at some point in the future, she said.

COVID safety measures will still be in place, but the requirements did lessen on June 8 and are expected to ease further in July. Initially, the list of precautions was pretty long and included 10-foot one-way aisles in the Expo, six-feet of spacing everywhere, booth worker limitations, temperature checks and more.

“All of that has gone away, which is nice because we won’t have to worry about turning anyone away from education sessions because we’ve reached capacity,” Fjerstad-Miller said. “But we are still going to be operating under best practices.”

That will include wearing facemasks, more intensive cleaning by the convention center, hand-sanitizing stations and use of a separate set of doors for entering and exiting the Expo. In addition, during registration all attendees must provide information for contact tracing purposes, complete a short questionnaire and sign a waiver of liability.

Lunch still will be offered for three hours each day and will be served using practices for safety and will not include the traditional buffet. Seating will be available for attendees in the expo hall and exhibitors may eat and drink in their booth space if they wish.

“Logistically, it’s going to feel more back to normal but with a focus on cleanliness,” Fjerstad-Miller said. “We’ve heard a lot of people say this is what they’ve been waiting for. So many groups have done virtual conferences and events. They helped bridge the gap and they certainly have value, but they just don’t replace what can be gained from an in-person conference and trade show. We look forward to facilitating that organic exchange of ideas and networking that happens when people from the same industry gather again in one place.”

Education programs

As in the past, GEAPS Exchange will feature 30 hours of education, an opening and closing workshop and the Idea Exchange, highlighting new products.

The opening workshop on Aug. 7 will focus on a Commitment to Safety with a discussion by a panel of experts. Industry leaders and safety professionals will provide a first-hand account of real-life safety situations and the methods they have implemented to correct hazards and prevent injuries. It will be presented by Dee Jepsen, professor, agriculture safety and health, Ohio State University, with additional speakers to be decided.

The closing workshop on Aug. 9 will cover how owners can avoid costly project problems even when working with a general contractor. Jim Gales, capital project consultant with CHS, will examine some case studies of project disasters and probable root causes. Consideration will be given to what transpires after the disaster and the relationship between the owner and the contractor. It will include a discussion on how to prepare for lawyers and insurance companies, and the heavy involvement between the owner and project stakeholders.

Idea Exchange, planned on Aug. 7, will feature a variety of participants with short presentations on what’s new in the industry. Topics for the What’s New segment include:

  • Barge Stowing Exam Camera System – Seedburo
  • Self-Learning Custom Stroke Electric Actuator – LINAK
  • TSS2 – Anderson Engineering
  • SureTrack PRO – AGI
  • Guardian Positioning System – JMI Covers, LLC

The Small Changes…Big Impact portion includes Chain Advancer for Changing Paddles on Box Conveyor Chain by Michigan Agricultural Commodities. More will be added later to both parts of the Idea Exchange.

Education sessions on Aug. 7 and 8 will cover a variety of topics, including getting inside a control panel, reducing injuries from belt conveyors, FDA audits, silo design, OSHA and EPA regulatory updates and remediation of existing structures.

The Expo will feature more than 300 exhibitors along with training pods, which this year will focus on confined space solutions. Oklahoma State University will again be demonstrating grain entrapment rescues with its training trailer.

Several special events also are planned, including the Get-Acquainted Party from 7-10 p.m. on Aug. 6 themed as Aug-tober Fest.

The Welcome Reception is planned from 4:30-6 p.m. Aug. 7 in the Expo Hall and provides an opportunity to network and explore the hall on the first day of the Expo.

Exchange concludes with the President’s Reception from 4:30-6 p.m. on Aug. 9. Unlike previous years, this event will be held outside. The event will include networking opportunities and a short awards ceremony, hors d’oeuvres and drinks.

“We’re really excited we get to see everyone again, and hopefully some new faces as well,” Fjerstad-Miller said.