For Jeremy Hartsook, owner of HES Manufacturing, in Eston, Saskatchewan, inventing The Air Cube grain bin aeration system solved a few problems weighing on his mind.

Customers were looking for ways to retrofit aeration to existing hopper-bottom bins, and Hartsook came up with a way to do that without dismantling the bin. Even better, his system could be installed by as few as two people—and in under two hours. It was a vast improvement over competing systems.

“Quite often they are installed before the bin is built,” he says. “Some of them are built right into the hopper bottom itself. There are maybe a couple of options on the market for a retrofit, but ours was built with intentions of retrofit, and hand-in-hand with retrofit also the ability to do it yourself.”

It seemed like a natural progression for the 10-year-old company.

“We started out making flat steel floors for grain bins,” Hartsook says. “Then the demand moved into hopper bottoms and we started doing those, and then about three years ago we began work on the aeration system and brought it to the market.”

Hartsook, who grew up on the family farm, just a mile down the road, says the Air Cube came about because he could see the problem from three angles: from the farming perspective, from the manufacturing perspective and from the installation perspective.

“We definitely wanted to build a product that was going to be easy to install, especially for the farmer who doesn’t have the equipment that the regular installation crews would have for installing such an item,” he says.

“Most farming operations are either father-son or a farmer and his hired hands, so in most instances there would be enough help to get the job done.”

Because of the way it’s assembled, the Air Cube is also easy to transport, reaching a large trading area served by Federated Co-Operatives’ network of Agro Centres throughout western Canada.

“We actually have three different size units for different capacity grain bins,” Hartsook says. “Two of the three fit into a four-foot by four-foot by four-foot crate, so they will fit right into the back of your half-ton. That’s one of the other benefits to the product — it’s easy to move around. Compared to other products on the market, it’s a little more convenient in that regard.”

In addition to bins commonly in use, Hartsook estimates that there are tens of thousands of older bins on farms across the prairies that could benefit even more from the Air Cube, producing environmental savings as they help farmers improve productivity.

“Everything is getting bigger and bigger on the farm,” he explains. “The equipment is getting bigger, the grain bins are getting bigger, and—especially at harvest time when you can combine sections of land much faster than your previous generations—it gets put into the bin a lot quicker. On a hot day, you’re putting hot grain in a bin and you need to cool it down.”

For example, Hartsook says, a 30,000 bushel bin might have cool grain at the bottom loaded earlier in the day, and cool grain at the top loaded near the end of the day, with hot grain in the centre loaded during the heat of the day.

“You’re going to have a hot spot in the bin and you need to cool that down somehow,” he says. “On some of these larger diameter bins you might have to turn the grain. That takes time, fuel, things like that. Whereas, if you took your hot loads when you’re harvesting and put them into some of your smaller storage bins that had aeration, then you can just turn the fan on to cool it down and you don't have to turn the grain. That can speed up the operation.

“That's why our system has an environmental impact,” he says. “You can take a lot of these older bins that guys would fill too quickly and otherwise might move on from and build new storage. They can utilize the old storage. During the heat of the day they can store that particular batch of crop in that bin and then as it is cooler in the mornings and evenings they can use different bins.

“With our system, you can maximize profitability by properly conditioning certain loads of grain, whether they were too hot or too wet, that you didn't want to have blended with some that was harvested at a more even rate.”