Increased arable drives need for Dunecht Home Farms to work with McArthur BDC and Sellars Agriculture to update grain processing plant

Needing to handle more grain due to an increase in arable hectares coupled with the increased capacity of today’s combines, Chris Lovie, Farms Manager, Dunecht Home Farms, Aberdeen, knew that he needed to upgrade and streamline the Farms’ existing grain handling system.

Dunecht Home Farms currently farms 6,500ha of land between the Dunecht Estate and Edinglassie Estate, and is owned by the Hon Charles Pearson. The Lowground operation, approximately 1,000ha, grows a mixture of arable crops: spring barley for the local malt whisky industry, winter wheat and barley for livestock feed (100 cows, 20 breeding heifers, and 400 ewes – the hill farming operation has 2,000 ewes) winter oats for milling and oilseed rape for the vegetable oil industry. 

“Our drier was aged and the drying facility consisted of small bins which were very labour intensive. To completely empty the last ton from each, we had to manually sweep the grain across the bottom of the bin to the outlet,” explained Lovie. “With limited storage capability adjacent to the drier we also had to triple handle grain to and from the drier and into storage at other locations, which again meant there was a lot of labour involved.”

Lovie initially looked at constructing a new grain handling plant but as the price of steel began to increase the cost became prohibitive. The focus moved to converting three adjoining Atcost under-utilised cattle sheds which had been constructed in the mid-1970s. 

Having conducted extensive research around the choice of drier Lovie, following conversations with farmers who were using Mecmar batch grain dryers, and understanding the high residual value of the Mecmar should there be a need to reduce the arable, was keen to install a Mecmar of his own.

His research had revealed that McArthur BDC through its partner, Sellars Agriculture could supply the drier and so he made contact.

Working closely with McArthur BDC on the design of the new grain processing plant Lovie was advised to install Mecmar S35T electric, automatic batch drier which incorporates an aspirator grain cleaner, and Skandia Elevator AB handling equipment.

A Skandia 60tph wet grain chain and flight intake conveyor feed the Mecmar drier and once the grain is dried and cooled it is transported to three grain storage sheds via five additional 60tph chain and flight conveyors.

Each shed has a conveyor running along its length, one of the conveyors leaving the drier feeds sheds numbers one and two, whilst the other conveyor feeds shed number three. The positioning of the drier between sheds one and two and shed three means that there is only ever the need to run two conveyors at any time. The destination of each batch of grain is determined via the Mecmar’s control panel.

“The new plant has transformed harvest,” said Lovie. “We have increased our drying and storage capability and reduced the need for additional harvest staff and associated labour costs. The automation of the Mecmar means that labour around drying and putting the grain into store is virtually non-existent and grain leaving the store can be easily handled with a telehandler.”

“The team needed little training as the system is simple to operate and maintenance is minimal,” added Lovie. “With the all-important return on investment in mind, we have a much larger grain plant than we had envisaged when considering building a new one, for significantly less investment.”

Lovie’s advice to others looking to build a new grain plant, convert existing buildings or upgrade an existing plant, is to carefully research the options and engage with proven grain handling experts.

“Working with the right people, on the right designs meant that our initial planning application was made in April 2021 and the plant was up and running for harvest 2022,” Lovie concluded.

About McArthur BDC:

McArthur BDC is a specialist engineering firm which designs and installs grain processing and storage systems. The company develops, builds and maintains the food and feed processing systems that are a critical step in the food supply chain. McArthur BDC works closely with its customers to deliver equipment and turnkey projects that strengthen their businesses and ensures peace of mind. McArthur BDC has been a McArthur BDC Ltd partner for over 10 years.

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