Building Grain Grading Systems for the Future

Subramanian Akkulan

Quality is not something we should be willing to compromise on. The post-harvest quality of food grains and pulses sets the agenda for all the stages further down the ‘grain chain’ – the sequence of events that leads through milling and packing to consumption.

Grain quality is determined by several factors, from the climatic and soil conditions during the growing season to weather conditions at harvest, harvesting techniques, post-harvest handling, storage, and transportation.

Every type of grain possesses properties that contribute to its overall quality. These properties, either on their own or combined, are assessed to grade and determine the value of the grain. Grain quality is analyzed just after harvest so that the procured grain can be segregated into separate storage areas, each containing a grain of a specific quality.

The need for standard grading

Accurate grading of grains is critical to ensure that an objective standard is used to determine the price of the grain, thus protecting both the buyer and seller.

Where buyers are close to the source of the grain, e.g. in local markets, they have direct access to the product and therefore, some control over quality assessment. However, where grain is traded over large distances, particularly internationally, the buyer will have no direct influence over the quality.

For the seller, the absence of standard grading processes results in subjectivity and uncertainty over the realized vs realizable price.

The use of grading standards sends a clear indication of quality requirements to both the producer and the buyer. With over 420 standard test methods, of which at least 75 are internationally applicable, there is a large diversity in grain measurement and grading.

These tests eventually measure four main properties:

  1. Bushel (test) Weight/Grain size
  2. Moisture Contents
  3. Proportion of Foreign Material
  4. Broken/Cracked Kernels

Challenges in India’s grain grading

Grain grading remains a major challenge in India. In a majority of villages, traders simply approach a farmer at the market, cursorily inspect the grain by hand and quote the price they're willing to pay him. The farmer has no scientific way to assess the grain quality in order to demand a fair price. With a lack of scientific data, all that prevails is the ad hoc price that the trader quotes based on his judgment.

Methods to instantly assess the quality of grains hold the key to grain grading systems of the future, and a lot of research goes into it. In India, a few “portable” devices have been developed that can check the quality of grains and pulses. However, not only are such devices prohibitively expensive (costing upwards of INR 15 lakhs) they are also bulky and difficult to be carried around, especially in remote farms, making them sub-optimal for on-field grading.

How WayCool overcame grain grading challenges

While there are some technologies that help measure grain quality effectively, they remain out of reach of Indian farmers due to the high cost and the lack of well-developed on-farm infrastructure in our country.

There is a need for technology that would allow farmers and graders to quickly and accurately assess the grains at a fraction of the cost incurred on expensive machines. It must be ubiquitous so that every farmer and grader can measure the quality of the product without much difficulty or advanced training. If there exists an indigenous technology that can be carried in our pockets to instantly determine the quality of grains and pulses by simply spreading them on a piece of paper, it needs to be made accessible to every farmer.

WayCool has cracked the code, having developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Deep Learning-powered solution that will help Indian farmers and graders accurately and instantly assess the size, count, and quality of their grains and pulses using only their daily companion – their smartphone!

Watch this space for more.

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