New moisture meters provide fast, accurate readings in a self-contained, portable unit.
Published: Aug 2, 2013
These days, Northwest Missouri State University’s campus in Maryville houses more than students. Since May, Missouri Moisture Analyzers, LLC, has called the recently constructed Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship its home.
“The CIE function is to bring in new companies and make it so they get a good start,” explains Stanley Sinclair, regional sales manager for Missouri Moisture Analyzers. “Most new companies will make it or break it in the first three years.”
The CIE is a mixed-use business incubator serving technology-based companies like Missouri Moisture Analyzers. The company was looking for a location to establish itself, and with its proximity to primary grain-producing areas in the Midwest, Maryville fit the bill perfectly. The rental agreement gives the company a place to assemble its product, and gives Maryville a new local business. Students can gain valuable experience with the company, and the company has access to offices, laboratories and equipment.
A new old company
The company’s product is the model 999 portable moisture meter that can read the moisture content of 250 different kinds of grain, from various kinds of wheat to different kinds of corn and soybeans. Missouri Moisture Analyzers is derived from Motomco Inc.
Founded in 1956 in New Jersey, Motomco was known for its model 919 moisture meter. In 1963, USDA adopted the 919 for all grain inspections under the U.S. Grain Inspections Act. Although the company ceased production of the 919 in 2004, it set the foundation for the new company and the new model, which is why Sinclair says it is a new old company.
Just like the evolution of eight-track tapes to cassettes to CDs to MP3s, moisture meters have evolved over the years. They have become more portable, going from heavy metals to durable light-weight plastic. They have also cut down the time they need to read moisture levels, going from mechanical to digital. A process 40 years in the making, reading moisture levels used to take up to four hours – not including the time it takes to collect a grain sample.
The new 999 series uses dielectric wavelengths that go through the middle of the grain, rather than going around, making a more accurate reading. When it goes through, it reads various components to determine the moisture and temperature based on years of statistics, and displays it as a number on the screen. “We have the ability to measure the moisture in grains and subdivisions of grain,” says Isac Linhares, international business manager for Missouri Moisture Analyzers. “With the 919, it was a process of 20 minutes. Now it’s as little as 10 seconds or 5 seconds.”
Advantages for the farmer
Why measure the moisture in grain? There are five major benefits, Sinclair says. First, it lets the grower know the best time to harvest. Second, it verifies the moisture reading at the elevator and what the elevator is paying for it. Third, it reduces drying costs and helps growers manage moisture.
“If you go too wet, you’re going to have spoilage. If you are too dry you’re going to have breakage,” Sinclair explains. “When you have a moisture meter, it tells you how far to go.”
Fourth is securing the grower’s reputation. “A farmer’s reputation is built on the product he delivers,” Sinclair adds. “If he delivers good loads, he gets more of a preferred supplier stature.” Fifth is meeting customer requirements, both at the elevator and at ethanol plants. For example, an ethanol plant might accept corn at 15.9% moisture, but not at 16%.
“A farmer who tests his grain before delivery knows if he needs to dry a little more,” Sinclair says. “Having no rejection can save him a lot of money.”
The company also calibrates its own moisture meters. The meters come with a sticker that, if removed by another entity to calibrate it, will void warranty. This ensures accuracy and uniformity. Sinclair makes the analogy to changing the weight on a scale while standing on it to read what you want it to say, not really what is accurate – the grower is only cheating themselves if they change the moisture reading by calibrating it elsewhere, like a grain elevator. The calibrated readings vary little from unit to unit, 0.2% maximum compared to the 0.4% standard for USDA.
These models range from the portable 999FR to the desktop 999FB. Sinclair says they are worth the investment. They have ten major grains available for quick access, with a total of 250 different grains and their subdivisions. They come with USB drives, allowing farmers to plug data into their computer and keep records from previous years. It has a life expectancy of eight to ten years, and comes with a rechargeable battery that needs to be recharged after 150 to 200 tests. “This is one of the few moisture meters that is self-contained, all-inclusive, and that you can trust,” Sinclair says.