Supervisory control and data acquisitions (SCADA) and remote monitoring systems don’t immediately come to mind when you think of agricultural cooperatives. However, the large Mid-Kansas Cooperative (MKC) serves both farm and urban customers across 14 counties in Kansas. Recently, MKC constructed a new facility near Canton, Kansas to manage large volumes of delivered grains from farmers and, ultimately, distribute to agricultural processing centers.
In effect, the cooperative stores grain and transports it to Gulf of Mexico mills that eventually produce flour from the grain.
“The facility itself is a 1.15-million bushel cement slip form elevator,” Eric Lange, vice president of Southern operations for MKC. “It's designed to receive 60,000 bushels an hour with 3 legs at 20,000 bushel an hour each. It's also designed to load out 110 rail car shuttles at 100,000 bushel an hour.”
The large, industrial clearinghouse now includes an automated double-scale system for incoming and outgoing trucks and trains, and remote monitoring of grains in storage vessels via a SCADA platform.
MKC called on Salina, Kansas-based KASA Controls and Automation to install and integrate the entire SCADA solution for this new facility via its custom industrial software division, Konnection. Konnection customizes Inductive Automation’s Ignition modular, web-based SCADA platform to track inventory and, most importantly, provide remote monitoring and control for the large volume of grain coming into the facility.
With many moving parts falling under the SCADA platform, one essential function is storage. Keeping grain at the correct temperatures before delivery to blending facilities is a challenge for a large sprawling facility.
“The SCADA system controls all the fans for the aeration system in the storage area of the facility,” says Lange. The system controls and monitors outside temperature, humidity, internal bin temperature and humidity to control the moisture and the temperature of the grain.”
The aeration system uses a formula that results in an equilibrium of moisture content, so that the quality of the grain remains high. Operators want to avoid grain shrink, and the control system allows air to be added back to the grain before shipping, if necessary, according to MKC. The system will also warn and notify employees of hot spots in order to prevent spoilage.
The database-driven SCADA can be configured to delay, escalate, consolidate or select a set of alarms to be delivered for a multiple group of contacts. Ignition is a modular platform that allows users to “bolt-on” the automation features needed for commissioning or for later use. The web-based SCADA platform offers many additional modules, including mobile, alarm notification, SQL bridge, tag historian, vision and OPC-UA to connect to programmable logic controllers on the plant floor.
At the Kansas facility, the SCADA platform provides overview and monitoring screens, alarms, and reports into one location for diagnostics; and review of the system. Many times, the status of a remote piece of equipment, such as a bucket elevator, can be reviewed at the control center.
“Mainly, I use it for monitoring, says Emily Jackson, operator at Mid-Kansas Cooperative. We can control everything from the office, so if anything ever was to happen, we can shut everything down from the control center.”
This web-based platform is now providing control and monitoring for not only grain moisture, but also automating dump trucks, train bins and preventive maintenance.
Kasa Controls and Automation, Connection Software Div., www.kasacontrols.com, 800/755-5272
Inductive Automation, www.inductiveautomation.com, 800/266-7798