Given that technology and innovation are changing every part of agriculture, it’s not surprising that there have been big strides in a potato storage’s design and technology too.
We’re now able to build bigger buildings than ever. Over the past 10 years, leading manufacturers have been able to significantly increase the tensile strength (KSI) of steel buildings and build in heavier gauge due to improved manufacturing technology and equipment. Because of the stronger steel, we’ve been able to stretch buildings longer and wider, overcoming previous concerns about snow load, wind damage, or potatoes pushing walls out. Three hundred, four hundred or five hundred feet or more is no longer a challenge for some building manufacturers. That’s great news for potato producers, since it is much more cost-effective for farmers to construct and manage fewer, larger storage buildings than a greater number of smaller buildings.
Potato storage buildings now come in innovative shapes and designs too. While arch style buildings are fairly common, a brand-new option is a large span arch design with fan houses and walkways through the centre. The benefit of the large span arch is three-fold. The centre position of the fan house changes the dynamics of air, allowing easier aeration throughout the stored product and achieving really good penetration of fog or nip sprays. The double bay design allows double the volume of storage within a single structure. And, the central walkway means inventory can be comfortably seen and easily assessed without anyone stepping on the stored product.
Speaking of, I’m very happy to see that central walkways, catwalks and viewing platforms are becoming increasingly common across all bin styles. Walking across the potatoes is a significant safety risk to the individual and introduces all kinds of contamination risk to the product. Just think: if you or one of your staff happens to accidentally have a screw in a boot from being in the mechanic shop five minutes before, that screw could lodge in a tuber and become a liability come processing. It’s not surprising that processors are becoming increasingly concerned about this and other kinds of contamination and are pushing growers away from walking on their piles.
One other area of building design that has really changed in recent years relates to building and environmental codes. We are seeing much tougher codes virtually across the country, which occasionally limits options for some farmers. Turn to any experienced building manufacturer to help you navigate the revised and tightened codes.
While I understand that not everyone gets quite as excited about potato storage and design as I, the whole industry should celebrate the important steps forward our storage manufacturers are making every day!