Tool of the Month: Grain bin monitoring system

Photo credit: BIN-SENSE®

Name: Grain bin monitoring tool

Cost: Contact your system provider to get the quote based on the size of your operation

Available at: Manufacturer’s website

Intended use

Grain bin monitoring tools are used to monitor the temperature, moisture content, and CO2 levels in stored grain. Using grain bin sensors, we can control the bin’s fan manually through a mobile app or desktop browser to optimize the storage conditions and prevent grain spoilage. Some advanced grain bin monitoring systems incorporate automation features, including a weather system that measures barometric pressure (the weight exerted by air molecules at a given point), dew point (water vapor), temperature, and other relevant factors. This information helps the system determine the optimal times to automate the fans for efficiency.  

What causes the grain to heat up and why is this problematic? 

Grain self-heating is primarily caused by molds, with spores carried from the fields. These spores remain inactive when the relative humidity is below 65% to 70% but become active above 80%. In grain bins, humidity within the grain mass depends on grain moisture, temperature, and type. The majority of the molds thrive in warm temperatures, 77°F to 95°F (25°C to 35°C), and some can even grow in freezing temperatures. Favorable conditions lead to spore multiplication, consuming starch, generating heat and carbon dioxide (CO2), and potentially resulting in grain crusting. Severe mold growth can lead to mycotoxin contamination and grain spoilage. It’s important to monitor and control the temperature, moisture, and carbon dioxide levels in stored grain to ensure its quality remains high. 

How does it work?

Temperature and humidity sensors, placed on cables and inserted into stored grain, are often used to monitor the temperature and moisture levels inside the grain. Carbon dioxide sensors can be positioned both below and above the stored grain to detect the early signs of spoilage caused by biological activity from molds and insects. Temperature sensors for monitoring stored grain come in two main types: thermocouples and thermistors. Manufacturers often use type “T” thermocouples to make temperature cables designed to monitor stored grain. These type “T” thermocouples are made up of a copper wire and another wire made of constantan, which is an alloy mostly composed of copper and nickel. The point where the two wires meet is where the temperature is measured. Sensor points can be spaced at intervals of 3, 5, 6, 7, or 8 feet based on factors like strength requirements and customer preferences. Temperature cable manufacturers determine the placement of cables within the grain based on the size of the storage bin. For instance, the installation instructions from Boone Cable Works & Electronics, Inc. (BCWE) outline specific placements, such as one cable in the center of a 20-foot diameter silo, three evenly spaced cables positioned 9 feet from the center in a 36-foot diameter bin without a central cable, and four evenly spaced cables positioned 14 feet from the center in a 42-foot diameter bin, with an additional central cable.

Using the tool

Here’s a guide on how to use the BIN-SENSE® grain bin monitoring system:

  1. Open your preferred web browser and navigate to
  2. Log in by entering your username and password in the top right corner of the website.
  3. Once logged in, you will see a screen displaying all your monitored bins along with the specific details you have provided for each bin. This includes the latest temperature, temperature trends, and the approximate percentage of inventory stored in each bin.
  4. If the grain bin monitoring system detects a potential issue in your bin, it will automatically send a text message and an email to your cell phone. You can also control basic functions by responding to the alerts with specified text responses. Additionally, you can manage your alerts through your online IntraGrain account.

It is worth noting that the aeration system of grain bins can be controlled to maintain optimal storage conditions.


CALIAN® website (link)

D. Maier and J. J. Wright. 2022. Grain Operations: Catching spoilage with temperature sensors. (link)

ROLFES Boone website (link)

About the author(s)

Research Associate at Poultry Innovation Partnership | + posts