The Canadian Wheat Board Centre for Grain Storage Research at the University of Manitoba is a 1,340 square metre, state-of- the-art facility commissioned in November 2005 for the purpose of doing research into all aspects of grain storing, drying, handling and quality monitoring under one roof. Funding for its construction, approximately $5 million, was provided from a Canada Foundation for Innovation award, the Manitoba Research and Innovations Fund, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Manitoba Hydro, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board and Canadian grain companies. The facility has since been awarded two more CFI grants (total project costs amounting to $2.6 million), which is a rarity for any research lab in the country.
For more than 50 years, an interdisciplinary group of researchers from the Department of Biosystems Engineering, University of Manitoba; and the Morden Research and Development Centre (formerly Cereal Research Centre, Winnipeg), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; has been studying various aspects of grain storage. The founders of this research group were the first in the world to develop a collaborative research program that integrated principles of engineering, biology, and chemistry to solve stored- grain ecosystem problems. Even though a new generation of researchers calls this facility their home now, they remain the only research group in Canada dedicated to address the challenges related to post-harvest storage of agricultural commodities.
Activities within the building consist of integrated research studies into grain storage and handling with an aim to preserve stored grain in Canada and around the world. Located on the Fort Garry Campus, this unique stored-grain ecosystem facility was designed to allow researchers to solve problems using a multidisciplinary approach. Engineers, entomologists, physicists, computer scientists, chemists, and mycologists work together to conduct innovative research related to grain storage and handling. Developing cost- effective and environmentally friendly methods to control and prevent fungal and insect infestations of stored grain will help enhance Canada’s global reputation as a supplier of high-quality grain.
The results of the fundamental and applied research are valuable to farmers, managers of grain storages, manufacturers of grain quality assessment and storage equipment, and federal regulatory agencies responsible for maintaining grain quality. The research assists in strengthening Canadian markets for export grain, which is essential for the survival of the farming community on the prairies.
The application of non-destructive optical methods to determine the quality of grain has considerable potential to increase the global competitiveness of Canadian grain because it can make the quality of export grain more consistent and reliable. Devices to present samples to sensors for imaging and quality monitoring have potential domestic and international markets not only in the grain industry, but also in other industries that handle bulk granular materials. The use of optical and spectral techniques in grain grading and quality monitoring tasks will reduce tedious repetitive jobs done in dusty environments. This research will help grain workers in improving their life and health. The use of electromagnetic imaging techniques to remotely and non-invasively monitor the pre-conditions of spoilage in storage bins will enable farmers to take corrective actions before any quality or quantity losses occur.
Researchers in the facility collaborate extensively with other groups at the local, national, and international levels. Two stored products entomologists of the Morden Research and Development Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, are now permanently located at the Canadian Wheat Board Centre for Grain Storage Research. Their primary research focus is the effective management of stored-food products and animal feeds, including prediction, prevention, protection, and control of storage problems. Presently there are several ongoing collaborative multidisciplinary studies. The group has developed an international reputation for high-quality grain storage research. Their research cooperation with the Department of Biosystems Engineering stored grain researchers is often cited as the model for government-academic partnership. The recent emergence of research teams, which involve both engineers and biologists in other areas of the world, are testimony to this fact.
Head offices of most grain-handling companies; many manufacturers of grain handling, storing and cleaning equipment; the Grain Research Laboratory of the Canadian Grain Commission; the Canadian International Grains Institute; and the Canada Grains Council are in Winnipeg. The close proximity of these companies and organizations provides opportunities for collaborative research projects and has resulted in partnerships with grain handling companies, bin manufacturers, dryer manufacturers, grain quality analysis instrument developers, and consulting companies.
Research results are published and transferred worldwide, including to developing countries for use with their grain handling and storage infrastructure. Scientists from our group have developed collaborative research programs with several researchers of international repute in China, India, Nigeria, Ireland, Mexico, and the United States and consulted worldwide on grain storage issues.
Several research laboratories with a pilot-scale grain handling structure enable scientists to take research to new levels, exploring issues such as insect management, mycotoxin research, grain drying and grain bin monitoring. A recent CFI Infrastructure Fund grant has led to the acquisition of various state-of-the-art instruments for cutting-edge research. Using optical and electromagnetic sensing technologies, researchers are able to develop automated procedures for grain handling, processing and quality monitoring. With rising international standards for quality and chemical-residue-free grain, there is a significant need for this research facility to develop grain handling and storage solutions for Canadian producers.
The working group has a strong track record of training undergraduate and postgraduate students (MSc and PhD), postdoctoral fellows, research associates and visiting researchers. Research trainees meet regularly on an individual basis with their supervisors and once a week in a team setting to provide them well-rounded exposure to research in all aspects of grain storage. Most of the graduated research trainees are working in jobs related to their training throughout Manitoba, Canada, and across the world. In Canada, there is a need for people trained in multidisciplinary settings to manage the stored grain and to design systems for its handling and storage. This new facility provides them access to world-class infrastructure.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Jitendra Paliwal, Department of Biosystems Engineering