Northstar brings new method of canola storage

The Nekoma Elevator has a new method for storing excess canola crop this harvest season and it’s quite the sight.

canola bags

Posted on 9/20/14

By Melissa Anderson

Long, giant plastic bags stretch from one end of a field to the other protecting the valuable canola crop.

These giant bags that look like white tube socks are actually a well researched method for storing crops such as canola long term. The Northstar Seed company from Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada has brought this method of storing grain to North Dakota elevators.

This is the second year that Northstar has contracted out the storage bags, with the previous year having bagged excess product at Hallock.

“We needed  storage for certain times of the year when its hard for farmers to deliver. There are [also] times of the year when its hard to move product. So, this is one way to have inventory to keep a elevator running smoothly.” Clarence Leschied, a consultant for Northstar, stated

With the elevators full to the brim, these bags are a great solution for both farmers and the elevators.

“The rail system service has been so poor the last couple years”, Leschide sited as one of the reasons elevators are exploring other storage options.

Northstar conducted a study  along with Oklahoma State University for one year testing the bagging method of storage against other popular methods of canola storage.

“It’s something that hasn’t been looked into very much” Leschied explained.

The year long study on storing canola, which is also a big crop in Oklahoma as well, was spent testing the grain, the samples, and just overall monitoring of the conditions within the storage methods and the canola itself.

There were four methods used in the study: concrete silo, such as the ones used at elevators, steel bins with aeration, flat storage, such as laying the grain out in a building, and the bags.

The study found that canola can be stored up to a one year in the bags with little degradation to the canola versus the other methods which had a much shorter term for successful storage.

Last year, Northstar only stored 2500 tons at the plant in Hallock.

“It was just to see at a commercial level how much you could put in a space, how long the process took, what the cost and benefit would be to store canola that way” Leschied said

Now, Northstar is looking to expand on last years successful test run.

“We want to do it in a much bigger way” Leschied stated.

The bags currently being used at the Nekoma Elevator are made in Minnesota and cost $2,000 per bag. The bags are one time use but can hold up to 33,000 bushels of canola and are roughly 500 feet long. It is comparatively cheap to bag, with  it coming out to roughly six cents a bushel when stored in the bag.

“You can bag for so much cheaper than you can bin. You can make the bag whatever size you need it to be” Leschied said.

The bags are made out of triple layered polyethylene, the outside is white and the inside is black. Inside the bag there are reduced levels of oxygen which will not allow mold to grow or insects to survive.

The product stays at a very stable condition in the bags making storage for long term easy and for the most part hazard free.

“Unlike tall, concrete silos or steel bins, the amount of pressure produced is minimal which makes heat produced slight with only 8 to 10 inches of product actually undergoing a temperature change within the bag” Leschied

The machinery used is specially made for use with the bags. The process itself is relatively quick, taking about three minutes to unload grain carts able to hold two semi loads.

Other locations include Hallock and potentially Wales. Between all the locations, Northstar hopes to have 2 million bushels stored in the bags by the end of this year’s harvest.

For more information or questions contact Zack Schaefer, Northstar Grain Originator at 218-843-7301.