Grain down the drain
Huge sums are lost annually due to grain damaged by moisture during transportation. In addition to the direct costs of these damages, the claims they lead to are lengthy and costly. As food loss is already a public concern and a target for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Target 12.3), this is a pressing issue. The burden for the environment makes it even more urgent.
The demand for grain will increase over the coming years.
Asia will stand for the lion’s share of this increased need, but the grain will be cultivated elsewhere. To solve the equation, a boost in grain transportation will follow the rising demand for grains.
Containers are one of the most common ways to transport grains overseas. The conditions during these shipments are harsh, especially so for grains, leading to many discarded shipments.
Moisture is the main culprit
An empty shipping container contains several litres of water, because of the water in the air. It’s a threat to the grains, as the water condensates as an effect of temperature variations during transportation. These variations are due to different temperatures during daytime opposed to nighttime, and because of different climate zones.
Insect infestations, mould and changes in the taste and smell of the crops are the most common effects of the moisture. This is a common problem that no-one knows the cost of, but estimated to amount to substantial values. Other negative effects these damages lead to are excessive use of water, nutrients, soil loss, fuel and other limited resources. These effects are a huge and unnecessary burden for the environment.
Installing desiccants in the container carrying the grains effectively protects the grains from moisture damages. The leading moisture damage prevention company Absortech uses a mix of calcium chloride and starch in their desiccants. The product is an extremely potent desiccant that is fast to install and cheaper than other alternatives in the market.
”The cost of protecting a single container is normally less than 100 USD. A small amount compared to the potential losses companies face if they don’t protect their cargo at all”
Ted Rotkirch, Global Segment Leader for the Agricultural Sector at Absortech.
Absortech is a Swedish based company with over 20 years of experience preventing moisture damages in logistics. The efficiency of their moisture damage prevention is good news for the planet.
A special mix
“Our desiccants are made of 94% purity calcium chloride as the absorbing agent, mixed with starch to bind the moisture into a gel. Our mix absorbs about 10 times the amount of moisture that silica gel or clay absorbs”, Ted says. “This means that a company currently using 60 kg of clay to prevent moisture damages, need only 6 kg of our desiccants. Installation time and costs will be lower because there will be less moisture absorbers to install, but it also translates into a reduction of plastic used.”
And here’s a big plus for the environment, because plastic is used to contain the absorbing agents. Using Absortech’s desiccants instead of clay leads to a 60-80% decrease in plastic needed to protect the same amount of grain.
If a company ships 5 000 containers a year, a shift to Absortech from clay would mean a decrease in plastic used equivalent to 250 000 (500 ml) PET bottles.
If more companies decide to go with modern desiccant solutions like these, they will save both money and the environment.
It will also contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
(article originally published at the World-Grain.com magazine in July, 2020)