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Compost Temperature Monitoring for Large-Scale Sites

Tinytag data loggers, including radio loggers, are used to monitor compost temperatures for the biodegradable waste industry.

Composting temperatures have to be accurately monitored to meet PAS100 industry compliance standards and help ensure optimum productivity. Robust Tinytag stand-alone loggers and wireless data loggers are ideal for use in these harsh conditions.

Ag-Bag Systems use both stand-alone loggers and integrated radio logging systems from Gemini in order to monitor compost temperatures locally and on a wider operational level. Ag-Bag Systems play an active role in the biodegradable waste industry, having firmly established themselves as one of the market leaders in in-vessel composting. Their EcoPOD composting systems handle more than 100,000 tonnes per year for Local Authorities and Waste Management companies. As such, the need to have stringent protocol controls in place is essential to meet industry compliance standards (PAS 100).

Ag-Bag Systems have worked closely with Gemini Data Loggers over a number of years to ensure accurate recording of temperatures throughout the compost process, not only for compliance but for optimum productivity: wrong temperature can delay or even destroy the process. Finding a way to ensure continuous monitoring in such a damp and hostile environment can prove difficult. Gemini Data Loggers initially developed a special one metre long stainless steel probe which has a unique moulded handle that is totally waterproof. Together, with rugged battery operated Tinytag data loggers, they have stood the test of time in reliably and accurately recording the required data.

The success of this initial system led Ag-Bag Systems to work in partnership with Gemini Data Loggers on their next expansion programme. Measuring and monitoring tonnes of compost at numerous remote points involves staff having to physically visit each one and download the data for analysis. This can take a considerable amount of time and could delay the activation of important temperature controlling fans, thus reducing productivity. With a new site due to be opened, it became apparent that streamlining the whole process was going to be crucial.

With their hard-earned reputation for applying 'lateral' thinking to an individual company's requirements, Gemini Data Loggers set about bringing the traditional methods of compost production in line with today's 'hi-tech' commercial environment. The new solution employed a revolutionary 'RF' Radio Frequency transmitter system to send 'real time' information direct to a specially designed version of their Tinytag Explorer Software. Temperature fluctuations are identified straight away which enables immediate remedial action to automatically turn on/off the aeration systems, thus maintaining optimum condition of the compost process. Gemini's 'mesh' wireless network enables the loggers to communicate with each other as well as with the central receiver. Should there be any obstruction in the network, data is relayed via the other transmitters. The data can then be collated by the central base station ready for presentation in various formats and can also be accessed via the internet.

A number of EcoPOD sites now use the radio system. Managing Director of Ag-Bag Systems, David Wynne, uses the radio data loggers to measure the temperatures from custom-probes that are inserted at three points in each composting bag. Gemini's probes have two points of measurement; ensuring temperature is monitored throughout all areas in the compost. David comments: "We need to record data both for the audit trail and for our own management purposes. The Tinytag Radio monitoring system provides a huge labour saving and the real time data allows us to take immediate action. This means that we can effectively control far larger sites with total accuracy particularly at crucial times such as the changing of feed stock. If there is a problem, we know about it instantly and adjust the temperature accordingly. If we only checked hourly, the temperature may have fluctuated just after the last check, leaving it constant for 30 or 40 minutes before it is checked again. Tinytag Radio system allows us to supply quality of compost, which meets the requirements of PAS 100 and significantly reduces wastage."

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