All crop farmers know that safely storing your grain once it has been harvested is just as important to your bottom line as the harvest itself, and even the most mdoestly-sized grain farm will have at least one grain silo ready to store grain surpluses in a clean, dry environment. However, while getting your surplus grain into a silo is easy enough, getting it out again can be more challenging than you might think.
Without delving too deeply into the frequently baffling world of flow dynamics, two distinct phenomena can cause granular solids, such as barley, millet and dried corn kernels, to stop flowing freely as you empty out your silo. Ratholing occurs when the grains around the edges of the bottom of the silo cake together and become immobile. Arching is caused by individual grains locking together over the outlet of your silo and can stop your grains from flowing entirely.
These frustrating phenomena can make taking grain from your silo significantly more difficult and time-consuming, but fortunately help is at hand. The following mechanical flow aids are available which can effectively prevent ratholes and arches from forming, keeping your grain flowing freely and giving you far more control over the speed at which you empty your silo.
Vibrating flow aids come in all shapes and sizes, but all serve the same purpose. They are fitted against the exterior surface of your silo, usually close to locations where ratholes and arches frequently occur, and create strong vibrations when activated. These vibrations are transmitted through the walls of the silo and into the grain inside where they quickly and effectively break up clumps of grain which have caked together, allowing your grains to flow freely.
The most basic and affordable flow aid vibrators consist of a heavy ball held inside an enclosed circular track, which is pushed around the track using compressed air. The movement of this ball creates rhythmic vibrations that effectively break up ratholes and arches and can be adjusted to different speeds, depending on the size and nature of the blockage. These basic vibrators are cheap and easy to maintain but can be very noisy, so you may wish to upgrade to quieter, electrically-powered models if ambient noise levels are an issue.
These flow aids take a more direct approach to breaking up ratholes and arches and use powerful bursts of compressed air to blast apart conglomerated masses of grain. The cannons themselves are fitted through holes specially made in the sides of the silo at locations prone to arches and ratholes.
Generally intended for larger grain silos, air cannons are more expensive to purchase and install than vibrators, and modifying the silo to accommodate them can take some time. However, air cannons are capable of breaking up masses of grain that even the largest and most powerful vibrators cannot handle and are particularly useful for silos holding larger, heavier grains (such as barley) that tend to form particularly stubborn blockages.