- Woburn Farms’ farm manager, William Haupt, recent winner of the 2023 Farmers Weekly Award for Farm Manager of the Year, has worked closely with BDC Systems Ltd and its partner Thurlow Nunn Standen Ltd (TNS) on the design and installation of a future-proofed grain processing plant, that will continue to meet in-farm and contract drying and storage requirements. The new plant has excellent road links being strategically located close to Junction 13 of M1
Woburn Farms, part of the Bedford Estates, owned by the Duke of Bedford, consists of 1880ha, of which 1480ha are arable plus grassland and stewardship schemes. The farm grows feed and milling wheat, malting barley, milling oats, beans, peas and OSR. Additionally, the farm has contract farming agreements across a further 660ha.
“The Estate had previously worked with BDC Systems on the installation of a grain processing plant in 1993. Now 30 years old, it was too small and in recent years had worked very hard to handle our larger acreage and high output combines,” explained Haupt. “The increasing amount of high-quality grain and the pressure of completing timely harvests has been creating a bottleneck at the drier.
“The farm could only store 60% of our grain, forcing harvest sales of the remainder or the need to invest in external storage. Storing grain on farm also meant lots of double handling as we utilised multiple smaller buildings across various sites, resulting in inefficient cooling capabilities and high labour costs around handling and monitoring the stored grain.”
Having taken the decision to build a new future-proofed plant, Haupt worked with another provider of post-harvest equipment who had submitted a design and quote. An encounter with BDC Systems’ Technical Manager, resulted in Haupt meeting with Andrew Lee, BDC’s Technical Director.
“Andrew arranged for me to visit another plant designed by his team and I quickly realised that BDC’s grain handling expertise meant that it operated in a completely different league to other providers, in terms of design capability,” said Haupt.
“In particular I understood the value of a design that incorporated a twin intake system over one large grain pit as the PLC control panel from BDC would provide the ability to switch between crops without needing to stop the plant. The twin intake system also gives us wet storage capability and the automated functionality provided by the control panel meant we could batch dry and clean grain on a contract basis, without having to drop grain into the main bunkers.”
BDC introduced TNS to the Woburn Farm team and working together the two companies, using specialist teams of suppliers and subcontractors, were able to manage the entire project from design, build and commissioning.
Regular site meetings and good communication across the different teams, the ability to cope with wet weather, a harsh winter, a 300mm high pressure oil pipeline running through the site and local authority challenges, allowed TNS to complete the new plant, delivering an additional 8,800t of storage (excluding an intake capacity of 500t), in time for harvest 2023.
The new plant consists of four Skandia 60tph intake chain and flight conveyors, a Skandia aspirator pre-cleaner, a Zanin rotary drum cleaner – also fitted with a Skandia aspirator – a Svegma 68tph continuous flow drier and two Skandia belt conveyors. Haupt also elected to install BDC’s Moisture Monitoring System (MMS). All equipment is housed within a specially constructed building which, with roof mounted PV panels, was designed with sustainability in mind.
Grain entering the plant follows one route with a drier bypass so that it can be taken in and processed through the pre-cleaner and soon to be installed optical sorter, without going through the drier. The drier feed conveyor overflows back to the intake.
From the drier or cleaner there are three routes the grain can take. To stores 1 and 2 via a Skandia belt conveyor, or to stores 3, 4, 5, and 6 via a different belt running in the opposite direction, or to bulk out on a Skandia chain and flight conveyor. All routes from the drier can include the Zanin rotary drum cleaner.
“We are installing the optical sorter so that we have the capability to remove any ergot from grain, which adds value to the site,” explained Haupt.
The plant has been designed with 30+ years in mind and without further development Haupt is looking at a return on investment through efficiency gains and increased marketing strength, within 20 years. He believes that the optical sorter will deliver a return in five years.
“The new plant, plus the addition of the optical sorter, allows us to grow a much larger percentage of high-quality crops with the associated premiums,” said Haupt. “We now have the capacity for timely harvesting and the ability to clean and dress grains to meet exact market specifications, adding value to our own and our clients’ grain.
“Working with BDC and TNS has allowed Woburn Farms to benefit from a future-proofed grain processing plant that allows us to not only set, but to achieve, the highest standards of grain handling and storage for both ourselves and our clients. We are in a strong position to maximise today’s markets and those of the future,” concluded Haupt.