GIBSON CITY, Ill. — When Don Birky began making plans for a new grain system, he started with a checklist of what he wanted.
He did not want it on a farm where it would tie up the operation with bins and portable grain augers. He wanted it on a two-lane U.S. highway and wanted access to natural gas and three-phase electricity.
“Fortunately, we were able to find that here at Gibson City. It is not city property. We’re right next to that on farm ground. On the corner of the property is a six-inch 400-pound pressure natural gas line that feeds Rantoul and the cities around here, so we’re blessed with plenty of gas,” said Birky, whose son, Matthew, operates the farm.
Once all of the boxes were checked, the final planning and construction began in the summer of 2020 on a GSI chain loop grain system that features seven bins with a capacity of about 500,000 bushels, wet bin, dryer and two loading/unloading systems.
By combining the loading, transferring, filling and unloading process into one economical system, the chain loop system is designed to move large volumes of grain gently and efficiently. Grain can be easily transferred from one or more bins and move it to another.
“We do a lot of custom farming, so keeping the machines rolling is key. We can’t be sitting in line waiting to dump and so forth. We needed something that we could get our grain in and keep things moving,” Don Birky said.
“We also do non-GMO soybeans, so we wanted something totally separate so there’s no contamination between corn and the non-GMO soybeans. So, we have two separate systems back to back.
“For bin-size, I wanted to limit the risk of instead of having a couple of huge bins, I wanted more manageable bins in case there’s ever an issue that you don’t have over 75,000 bushels in one spot.
“I’ve been intrigued with loop systems. I’ve seen them in Canada and not much in this area, but I really like the idea of the versatility in that, and so that’s what we designed this around.”
He worked with Matt Beever, Automated Agri-Systems sales/design and project manager at the LeRoy facility, to finalize design plans and begin construction.
“I took the plan to Matt and said this is what I want. I designed it and he with GSI found fit for that plan. Matt was great to work with,” Birky said.
“They poured the bin floors. We did all of the ground work. We came in here with bulldozers and went to virgin soil level. We had no idea if there was a tile here, so I started level-trenching across and got down to one end and just grazed the top of a good field tile. We then trenched in 3,200 feet of tile.”
Pea gravel followed by a 6-inch layer of ground brick were put on top of the tile and it was the covered with soil.
Automated Electric and Service, LeRoy, an authorized GSI service provider, did the electrical work.
“The bins can be monitored though your phone, iPad or computer for temperature and moisture and all of that. The dryer can be run by your phone. The only thing you can’t do from your phone is start the dryer,” Birky noted.
The dryer can be started at the main control panel located in an adjacent building.
“All of the controls are here to run everything, monitor you’re amperage, where the grain is going and so forth,” Birky said.
The system has remote switches for loading trucks.
“You don’t have to get out of the truck. You can just use your iPad and watch the camera system to see how full you are and turn it on and off, so one person can do it,” Birky said.
“We have a drive-across scale. Every truck has a remote and as they pull in they hit the remote and a green light goes on the computer knows what truck they are.
“You can have it pre-programmed or go back and edit what farm that truck came from. It will automatically weigh it as the truck goes across the scale if you keep your speed under 5 miles per hour. If you want an empty weight, you can just drive back across. If you to just take your average empty weight, it automatically records that.
“Last fall it took six minutes from the time they came off the highway until they’re back on the highway.”
The facility has two separate systems for loading and unloading.
“We were able to utilize one tower to go both ways and there are two separate pits and overhead. That way there’s never any contamination. Being a loop system, the pits have to be above the bin floor so you’re not going to have a large pit. We have a 10-inch tube on the soybeans and a 12-inch tube on the corn. One is 10,000 bushels an hour and the other one is 6,000 an hour,” Birky added.
“One thing that’s different with a loop compared to a normal grain bin, you would have your center well where an auger takes it away and then you might have some drops into the auger toward your door. In the loop system there are drops all they way across through the floor because it’s running all the through.
“The sweep auger is literally a shaft coming in to run the sweep. It’s not an auger.”
On the corn system, the loop takes the corn from the pit to the wet bin and on to the dryer. The dry leg is strictly out of the dryer and will either dump directly into the first corn bin or dump into the loop.
“So, during the day while you’re dumping corn, you can actually have the wet corn coming up through the loop into the wet bin, the dry corn going back into the loop past that bin and on into the other bins,” Birky said.
“Any time you need to fill the other bins if you’re not running the wet corn in, then you just take corn out of your one bin and move it down to whatever bin or bins you want. You can utilize wet and dry corn both in the same loop.”
Birky noted the advantages of installing the grain system, including the flexibility and efficiency it provides.
“Especially with non-GMO soybeans it depends on when they have to deliver. So, here we’re able to deliver them on whatever time frame they want and that we market it at. We wanted to be able to dry the corn ourselves and deliver it when we wanted,” he said. “But the key is to keep things moving in the fall.”