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RFID Facilitates Grain Storage in India

Adani Grain Logistics deployed radio frequency identification to automate steps for receiving, testing and tracking food grain at its two main depots.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 19, 2010—Three years ago, the government of India instituted regulations for the storage of grain harvested and sold in that country. The rules are designed to ensure that only safe, clean grain is sold for food. The Food Corporation of India (FCI), an agency that oversees food grain procurement, storage and distribution operations, enforces the regulations. To comply with the rules, businesses that operate grain storage silos have established systems for testing grain samples, which are then stored in secure, climate-controlled silos until needed.

Adani Grain Logistics, which operates several grain storage facilities in India, has implemented an automated, RFID-based system for receiving, testing and tracking food grain harvested in the states of Haryana and Punjab. The system was tested in April 2007, and was deployed permanently three months later at two grain depots, located in the cities of Kaithal and Moga. Both depots are new, and are owned and operated by Adani.

A truck at the weighbridge

Large agricultural corporations and small local farmers bring grain products to the depots. When a truck driver delivering grain enters one of the facilities, he is directed to a testing station, where a sample of the grain is tested for several quality factors, such as humidity level, to determine for how long it can be stored safely. If the grain sample passes the quality tests, the driver is directed to a bay, where he dumps the load into a large receptacle that holds the grain until it is loaded into a silo. The driver is then directed to another area of the facility, to be paid before leaving.

The regulations require that food grain be stored in climate-controlled silos for no more than three years. The company can maintain the grain's quality once it is placed within the silos, through automated systems that periodically stir the grain and maintain optimal humidity levels. But Adani also wanted to automate the depot operations, to better control the type and quality of the grain placed into the silos, as well as to quickly and accurately track the incoming loads of grain, linking the shipment information with its accounting system. "Adani wanted as much automation as possible," says Malay Nandy, who heads the IT department for Adani Agri-Vertical, part of the Adani Group corporate conglomerate.

Truck lanes with silos

Adani considered different technologies to help it track and test each load of grain brought to the facilities. "We thought about using GPS, bar codes, RFID and other signaling technologies," Nandy says, "but we decided that RFID was the best." A bar-code system, for instance, would have required too many manual steps, he says, because a driver would have had to carry shipping documents to each station and interact with a bar-code scanner numerous times. And GPS would not have provided sufficient granularity in tracking the trucks throughout the yard.

With the RFID system, Adani was able to meet all of its objectives for the tracking system, including tracking each truck at each station within the facility, automatically linking the unique ID number encoded to the tag given to each driver with the corresponding order information in Adani's billing software, and preventing vehicles from dumping grain into the wrong bays.
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