Keeping the Farmer- with a Shovel - out of the Grain Bin - Iron Solutions

Keeping the Farmer- with a Shovel – out of the Grain Bin

By Mary Herring Posted in Farm Equipment Value Guides

August 17, 2021

Cover Image by Cecil Smalley Photography

Grain bins are dirty, dangerous workplaces.

Grain needs to be managed manually during the storage process. Farmers, and often their children, must ensure that the grain is level and aerated by entering the bin with a shovel or other tools. Unfortunately, this has led to 20 entrapment deaths in 2020 alone, with one out of every five grain bin accidents happening to teenage boys, according to a Purdue University study.

Two University of Nebraska Omaha recent graduates came up with a solution to deter grain bin entrapment and were awarded a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their invention designed to keep grain farmers safe.

Benjamin Johnson and Zane Zents of the Grain Weevil team created a grain bin safety and management robot that keeps farmers safe, and grain stored efficiently. The team’s work, which started out as a personal favor to help a farmer friend who did not want to climb into grain bins, led to their creation of a device with the potential to transform the agriculture industry. The Grain Weevil is a novel solution that addresses key issues on farms across the U.S. and the world. The team was awarded the 2021 $10,000 “Eat it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their inventiveness.

The Grain Weevil is a 30-pound remote-controlled robot that uses augers and gravity to level grain and redistribute it throughout the bin. It is portable, waterproof and dustproof. If it is accidentally buried, it can dig itself out of up to five feet of grain.

“We keep that farmer with a shovel out of the bin by leveling, breaking crusts, doing inspections and feeding grain into the extraction augers. The robot impacts the quality of stored grain and the quality of farmer well-being. We are an ag robot doing the work that no farmer should,” said Chad Johnson, Grain Weevil CEO.

“During our trials, we had a 13-year-old out here driving a robot,” Johnson said. “My goal is that he never grabs a shovel and goes into a bin again.”

What started out as a personal favor to help a farmer friend who did not want himself or his kids to climb into grain bins, led to the creation of a robot with the potential to transform the agriculture industry. Johnson said they hope to start a controlled early adopter release next summer, with a goal to be on the market in 2023. 

Quick Stats

  • 13,500,000,000 bushels of grain can be stored on US farms {US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service}
  • Over 1,000,000,000 grain bins in the US {US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service}

If you stay out of the bin, you can stay safe:

  • From the time the auger starts, you have two seconds to react
  • In four seconds you are trapped
  • After eight seconds, you are completely covered

Checkout this video to learn more!: Grain Bin Robot | Grain Weevil

Video Credit: Jacob Schlick, Saturn’s Lens


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