Bin to Barn: Growing Pains at The Oil Barn®

You may recall The Oil Barn® added a couple new bins this past year. The additional bins have allowed Andrew to conveniently store more of the bulk of his clean, ready-to-crush safflower seed right there beside the barn rather than wherever there’s available space on the farm. And he really couldn’t have chosen a better year to do it, considering the harvest we pulled in this last season was the best ever for us.

The original bins were connected to the barn using flex augers. These small augers, which look like long pvc pipes, would automatically refill the seed containers over the presses inside the barn as they got low. My son-in-law is really quite clever. But adding the two new bins to the operation turned into more of a challenge than we’d expected.

Because the previous system had worked so well, the plan was to connect the new bins to the original two. But if I’ve learned nothing else about trying something new, the first try is rarely the last. Such was the case here. The flex augers were having a hard time keeping up with the additional pressure and began to back up, spilling safflower seed everywhere. Andrew’s not one to give up so easily and he continued to work on it, trying different connections, motors and layouts—all around regular production and deliveries—until this past fall he came up with a brand-new setup that works. By this time, he’d had to completely reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Even the original two bins had been integrated into this new system, which actually runs off one of his old press motors.

Automating the seed crushing process in the barn has numerous benefits: Our safflower oil production is more consistent, with less room for human error. And, since it’s still basically a one-man show with my grandson, Bryce, lending a hand, this gives Andrew more time to focus on sales and marketing, rather than manufacturing. And it’s just nice not having to move thousands of pounds of safflower seed from one place to another more than once, whether it’s between bins or to the presses.

The resulting automated layout is a success and a step forward as The Oil Barn® continues to grow.