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Published May 02, 2014, 11:17 AM

Entrepreneur develops unit for aeration fans

Rick Bergenheier has spent a lot of time around grain bins and aeration fans. He says he’s seen “the trials and tribulations that farmers go through” with grain storage management.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Rick Bergenheier has spent a lot of time around grain bins and aeration fans. He says he’s seen “the trials and tribulations that farmers go through” with grain storage management.

Now, the Sharon, N.D., entrepreneur has developed GrainSight, an Internet-based grain storage monitoring and control system. GrainSight monitors conditions inside and outside a bin and runs the aeration fan accordingly to cool or dry binned grain for long-term storage.

Bergenheier is proprietor of Sharon Electric Motor Repair.

He started the business in 1992. He describes it as a “store front” and says he’s been involved with many things besides repairing electric motors. For instance, he’s provided electrical controls for paving machines used in home construction. Weakness in the home construction market encouraged him to pursue GrainSight, a product he’d thought about for years.

Five years ago, he began developing a prototype, which he tested and improved. GrainSight “is pretty bullet-proof. It’s ready to go. I’m 100 percent confident in it,” he says.

GrainSight allows a user to monitor and control fans from any device with an Internet connection, he says.

Price tag

Each unit costs about $3,000 (the price varies slightly depending on bin size). Bergenheier says similar devices from other companies cost much more.

GrainSight can accommodate up to 16 bins at one location. Each bin would need its own unit; a 16-bin location, for example, would carry a $48,000 price tag. The price of multi-unit jobs at one site might be negotiated, however, Bergenheier says.

He describes GrainSight as “one-size-fits-all. It would fit just about any application.”

Bergenheier will install the units himself, starting as soon as a customer wants. He says he’ll travel anywhere in the Upper Midwest on a job.

Installation time depends on the number of bins, but two to four bins typically will take one or two days, he says.

Bergenheier, who describes himself as “90 percent self-taught,” designed and built the unit and wrote all the software for it.

“The whole thing is my creation over the past five years,” he says, adding that he’s farmed out some work, such as custom extrusion, to companies that specialize in it.

Controlling fans is a crucial part of effective grain storage management, says Ken Hellevang, grain drying specialist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

The question is, should farmers control the fans manually or turn over the job to a control system?

The answer is complicated by the willingness and ability of a farmer to personally monitor grain and weather conditions and then to manually adjust the fans accordingly, he says.

Bergenheier says lower grain prices will make his product less attractive. Nonetheless, there’s a strong case that GrainSight can help farmers’ bottom line, he says.

More information: www.grainsight.com, (888) 524-1602 or info@grainsight.com.

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