'Bin Bot' Aims to Lessen Grain Bin Dangers

Posted at: 10/15/2012 10:53 AM
Updated at: 10/15/2012 2:57 PM
By: Hannah Anderson

Grain bin deaths in Minnesota may be preventable with help from a robotics inventor.

This harvest season has been a deadly one in Minnesota.

At least two teenagers are known to have died in grain bin storage accidents in Minnesota this year.

Due to the lack of a comprehensive reporting system it is difficult to keep track of exactly how many grain bin entrapments there are each year in Minnesota.

But a group of researchers at Purdue University calculate there were no fewer than 8 grain bin entrapments in Minnesota in 2010, the second highest rate in the country.

OSHA sets standards and regulations for commercial grain handling facilities.

However, family farms are exempt from those standards.

Since nearly three-quarters of the grain in Minnesota is stored on family farms, researchers believe the number of grain bin entrapments is unreported.

Farmers most often enter grain bins to fix equipment or free lodged grain.

However, those who enter without shutting off power to the equipment inside the bin, which is against OSHA rules, are at risk of being caught up in moving equipment. Other dangers include being sucked into flowing grain or being toppled by a grain avalanche.

Jerome Mack, a farmer in Leola, SD is trying to make grain bin work safer.

Mack has invented a robot he calls the "Bin Bot" which goes inside grain bins so people do not have to.

The robot is remotely controlled and designed to move equipment in the bin as well as scoop and shovel grain.

The robot, a 5th stage prototype, will first be offered for sale to commercial grain facilities for between $15-$25,000.

Eventually, Mack hopes to market his invention to family farms where he believes lives can be saved as well.