Necessity may be the mother of invention, but discomfort and irritation are her sisters. At least that was the case with Shawn Gengerke and the Load Judge.
Gengerke, a South Dakota farmer and CEO of Leading Edge Industries, recently spoke with Delta Farm Press about the new technology, how it solves a long-time problem, and what’s coming down the pipe. Among his comments:
Problems with loading a grain truck properly…
“Most people don’t realize that loading a grain trailer out in the elements is tough. People think, ‘Oh, you just put grain in a trailer and send it down the road.’ Well, as producers and commercial haulers, we can tell you that isn’t how it works.
“First, you need to get the grain placed correctly. Second, you need to get the proper volume in — and that changes for every commodity and situation you’re loading in.
“The big problem with those things is it requires you to get out of the truck and climb the trailer six or eight times so you know when to move at the correct time. Not doing that can lead to spilled grain or overloading the trailer on an axle or two.
“So, you get out of the truck and stand in the dirt and dust. Often it’s also extremely cold, because 70 percent or 80 percent of grain is hauled in the wintertime. The other 30 percent of the time, it’s often extremely hot. So, it’s an uncomfortable and miserable job.
“Of course, you can have a second guy standing outside the truck the whole time, breathing the dust in and coughing it up. That’s not only unhealthy, it’s an expensive option. It’s just a terrible job. Imagine doing that for six months out of the year.”
The genesis of Load Judge…
“We tried to use cameras and other technologies to help with these issues. But dust and dirt defeat the camera. Either the billowing dust means you can’t see with it, or a morning dew gets on the lens and then dirt sticks to it. We couldn’t find anything that would help.
“I woke up one morning and said, ‘Enough. I’ve had it. It’s costing me a $50,000 to $60,000 salary every year just to have a guy standing outside checking trailers. There’s got to be a better way.’
“We wanted to be able to monitor where the grain was from a remote location. That’s how the Load Judge (http://loadjudge.com/) came to be. We built a new technology that wouldn’t be defeated by dust and dirt.
“It’s patent-pending globally and provides real-time positioning of the grain. We can build graphical imagery on an iPad or any ‘smart’ device that will show you exactly, to the inch, where the grain is on the trailer.
“We’ve added several other features. One is a ‘Save load line,’ so once you save it you’ll know exactly where the line is on your screen. When the grain level hits that line, it’s time to move the trailer. That line can be repeated not only for volume or height, but for placement in the trailer. That’s unique.
Moisture sensor added
“For logistical reasons, we’ve also added a moisture sensor. Most farmers blend wet grain with dry to get the average to acceptable levels. There’s always a wet spot that you couldn’t dry out, or you ran out of room. Having a real-time moisture sensor while you’re loading the truck helps manage the consistency.
“At harvest, if we know where they’ll probe and what the moisture is, it helps direct traffic to the elevator or wherever. That allows extra efficiency and will make us more money.
“Lastly, there’s an estimator built into Load Judge. It will give you, real time, the pounds and bushels of the commodity while it’s being loaded. That way if you want to change your load — increase or decrease the second load out, say — then you can change it.
It’s a nice tool. It’s isn’t a certified scale but an estimator. However, it’ll get you very close, within 1 percent to 4 percent.”
What about a learning curve?
“It’s incredibly easy to use. Once it’s installed, all you have to do is turn your trailer lights on to power up the system then open the app on your smart device.
“The apps are free. You can go to the apps store and download them to see what it does. You’ll make use of a power module box on the trailer — part of the kit — that builds its own wifi network.
“That private network pushes the data from our system to your phone. As long as you’re within range, you can see what’s going on in the trailer.
“We’re just trying to make life easier for farmers and help their bottom line.
“We’re in nine states already. We just won three national awards for the Load Judge in the last few months.”
Are you working on anything else?
“We sure are — multiple products are in research and development. We need two or three years to get close to launching a product. That’s much quicker than the national average.
“We launched a new product, Operation Harvest Sweep (http://harvestsweep.com/), about six weeks ago. It’s a very simple solution — plastic and metal — to an old problem. In six weeks, we’ve sold out three times. We can’t keep them in stock; we’re trying to gear up our tooling for more volume.
“What Harvest Sweep does is allow the harvester to retain 80 percent to 85 percent of all the corn shatter loss out of the heads. This solves a 60 year-old problem that every farmer running a combine will understand.
“We lose, on average, between 3 bushels and 5 bushels per acre because of corn shatter loss. It’s been a problem since 1954.
“We have drones flying in our fields and GPS tracking equipment. Yet, we couldn’t stop corn from falling out of the corn heads. That made no sense to me, so we came up with a way to revolutionize how these headers work.
“And it also helps stop volunteer corn when you rotate to soybeans. Volunteer corn in a soybean field is a terrible weed. It costs extra for chemicals to kill it, and causes a yield reduction in the beans. That is a huge cost to the farmer. I got tired of it, and decided to tackle the problem.”