New measuring equipment helps farmers
Thanks to AU research and to development work by the firm of WEBSTECH, farmers can now prevent their stacks of grain, silage and feed from rotting. The secret lies in small balls that measure temperatures within the stack, and communicate the information to the farmer.
Normally, a farmer has no way of knowing what is going on in the middle of large stacks of silage, grain or feedstuffs – for example, whether rotting has begun. Where once a farmer could only cross his fingers and hope that nothing was amiss, now he has the possibility of discovering any rotting process in time. Ole Green, research coordinator at Aarhus University and Director of WEBSTECH, has developed a new, wireless sensor system that can monitor temperature – and thus detect the beginning of rotting – in large stacks of agricultural biomass. The sensors are contained in small coloured balls that the farmer places in the stack.
"These small balls contain advanced sensor equipment. Not only can they measure temperatures deep in the stack, but they can also communicate with each other. The measuring equipment in the balls is linked to a server, providing constant online monitoring of the material in the stack. If the temperature suddenly starts to rise in one part of the heap, the farmer receives a warning text message," explains Ole Green.
The farmer is thus alerted in good time, before any significant losses occur. In Denmark alone, errors in making silage from grass or maize and in drying grain and seeds cause losses of around DKK 350 million (EUR 45 million) every year. Losses for an individual farmer can total up to DKK 250,000-750,000 (EUR 35,000-100,000).
Research for users
Ole Green got the idea for the new sensor technology in 2006, while he was a researcher at Aarhus University. He contacted the TTO, where a patent application was then drawn up. When the patent had been granted, the first investors appeared on the scene, including the innovation incubator Østjysk Innovation. In 2009 Ole Green set up the spin-out firm WEBSTECH, which today develops, produces and markets the patented wireless sensor equipment for agricultural biomass. He cannot imagine just having remained working at his desk with his research.
"I find it really motivating to see my research being put to practical use, and to see users deriving benefit from it," he says. "I want to be part of the process of taking our research into the wider world," he says.
Ole Green is one of the three finalists in the competition "Væxtfaktor" at DR1. The show will be broadcasted June 20.