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Optimum, sustainable solution for seed drying and conservation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DryCoolerSeeds (Optimum, sustainable solution for seed drying and conservation)

Reporting period: 2015-12-01 to 2016-03-31

Production of high quality seeds can increase by 15-20% crop yield. Seed moisture content is the determining factor to prevent loss of germination and vigor. An optimum drying process with control of air’s relative humidity and temperature is needed to ensure that harvested seed is at safe moisture content before putting it into store or other purposes. Existing drying and cooling methods for seeds lack of control of temperature and relative humidity, waste energy during the drying process (>5% heat loss ), require high investment and infrastructure as well as constant supervision by trained operators, thus increasing operating costs. Moreover, seed drying is one of the most energy consuming processes on farms, consuming as much energy as all field works together. Seed drying has a lot of potential in energy savings. Savings could be more than 50% with proper process control and heat recovery systems
Driven by its passion to fulfill consumers’ needs, Marcold Group s.r.l. has created DryCoolerSeeds as a fully new approach in seed drying and cooling. DryCoolerSeeds is able to dry and cool the seeds, after harvesting, in a continuous process monitored minute by minute by an automated device. This enables an optimization of the process with constant adaptation to external atmospheric conditions, saving energy (99% of energy saved), time (2.5 less time needed than traditional seed drying) and ensuring correct moisture content and temperature of seeds that will reflect on an improved quality and germination rate. Marcold’s technology is a step further in automation, simplification and costs savings (>60% compared to traditional drying) being able to incorporate two different functions (drying and cooling) in a single machine surpassing the competition in the current market. The aim of the project is to build and demonstrate in real end user’s facilities our DryCoolerSeeds prototype adjusting the working parameters for effective conservation of seeds while ensuring a successful commercialization of the technology in international markets that will drive Marcold into an exponential growth.
During the reporting period we have performed a feasibility study with the aim of evaluating the viability of DryCoolerSeeds project. This feasibility study comprises a state of the art analysis, a description of the innovative technology, the company behind the idea, a detailed technical, commercial and financial plan for a successful commercialization of the technology and main conclusions drawn from our feasibility study. With the technical plan we make sure to foresee all the resources needed (material, time, personnel…) to build two first prototypes (for medium and large seed volume production) that will be first tested under simulated conditions of Temperature and Relative Humidity to be finally tested on the client’s premises (real industrial scenario) with a specific seed type. The procedure will be carefully planned to be able to adjust our final tests with seeds to the harvest periods in our location (Italy), June and September, so a detailed timeline will be projected. In parallel, a freedom to operate analysis has been performed to evaluate existing patents and avoid any conflict with Marcold’s technology. The commercial plan evaluates the seed market prospects in different countries (developed and developing countries) taking into consideration the agricultural system, economy and political situation from each one of them. With this information we have designed a strategy having in mind all the stakeholders involved; from competitors to possible partners and distributors, as well as communication and dissemination activities. Finally, the financial proposition gives us an insight of the sales forecast, product price, revenue, profits, investment needed, costs involved in the project, payback period and licensing revenues. We have evaluated as well costs involved in marketing strategies like promotions, discounts or free maintenance service offered as a mean to acquire new customers and offer better value for money than our competitors. Overall, the information gathered gives us an idea of the project’s viability and enables Marcold to foresee possible barriers and overcome following challenges.
Currently, a first prototype has been developed in our facilities and has been tested in controlled conditions of temperature and relative humidity performing as expected. The software interface has been perfected with multiple drying and cooling programs available having in mind different markets we will target. The majority of programs available in the software are directed to the general end user (seed producer) as they include most common drying processes used for seeds (from cereals) and are very easy to handle. Other functions are aimed for more expert operators who need to customize the drying and cooling process. DryCoolerSeeds technology will achieve a significant 99% reduction in energy use thus less greenhouse gas emissions. It represents a breakthrough improvement for the European and global seeds industry to ensure food security as the population grows. Increased demand for good quality high performing seeds by farmers and rising demand for biofuels in Europe are two of the key drivers for the forecast period. Europe’s interest in finding solutions to address seeds poor quality is reflected on EU funding projects like “Ecoseed, impacts of Environmental Conditions on Seed Quality ”. Funded by the 7th EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, the project was awarded with a sum of €3M. DryCoolerSeeds project will be a technology contributing to this same purpose, providing farmers with high-quality seeds, thus addressing one of the many concerns Europe is working on. In 2014 Europe recorded the availability of nearly 2 million Hectares (Ha) of area for seed production. This data gives an indication of the dimension of the market where DryCoolerSeeds could be useful. Moreover, seed production area is likely to grow consistently in next years and boost the growth of the market. Although innovation and particularly new technologies in agriculture have proved to be directly correlated to improved crop yield production new cost-effective solutions are hard to find. New technologies in this field satisfying demands for improved seed quality are therefore welcome all around the world, particularly in those countries with high agriculture dependency. Product sales in developed countries that are already highly intensive users of agricultural machinery will be largely fueled by new technologies reducing costs and improving yield (DryCoolerSeeds outcomes).