South African farmers are running the risk of losing millions should they not focus on investing in regular maintenance and cleaning of infrastructure like silo’s.

This is according to Gareth Lloyd-Jones, MD of Ecowize, who says that locally, equipment maintenance still lags far behind the productivity of farmers and should they not acknowledge the risks, they could lose millions of rands as a result.

He says that if farmers for example implement a regular regime of high performance intervention to take better care of their infrastructure, specifically silo’s, they will ultimately improve the flow and storage capacity, which will improve performance and result in a better return on investment or yield. By doing so, farmers can also be more energy efficient as equipment running optimally uses approximately 15% less energy.

“In addition, by implementing regular specialised cleaning, farmers can safeguard themselves against financial losses caused by infestation outbreaks and pathogen contamination associated with pest bearing diseases such as salmonella,” says Gareth.

He says that the main reasons for cleaning infrastructures such as industrial silo’s, are to provide a visually clean facility to aid in inspection for maintenance repair purpose, reduce microbial contamination, to remove raw material residue build-up and thereby reducing toxicity potential, to mitigate the risk of pests and to remove unwanted foreign matter.

He believes that high performance cleaning not only reduces contamination and eliminates blockages, it also minimises disruption to productivity by improving storage capabilities. “Many farmers are not aware of the issues that arise from insufficient cleaning of infrastructure. Silos are used to store a great variety of materials from food products like animal feed products, flour, sugar, salt, grain, fat and oils; to concrete mixture, chemicals and roofing. All of these products can build up residue and form blockages. Furthermore, high oil-base products like grain or wheat often rot due to very high moisture content and depending on the products being stored, silos need to be cleaned out periodically.

“Problems farmers need to be aware of when maintaining silo’s, whether filled with food product or some other materials, is the build-up of residue on the interior. The longer the residue is allowed to stay; it will eventually harden and become very challenging to remove. It has also become evident that in the presence of moisture, some stored food can release flammable and toxic gases, which present and health and safety, as well as a fire risk.

Gareth says that farmers shouldn’t be tempted to select cheap labour and unregistered cleaning products over professional cleaning services to try and maintain their silos. “What they do not realise is that by doing so they are not only risking product loss due to product contamination, but they are also putting their labourers in danger of losing their lives. There are legislative guidelines that need to be followed.

“The cleaning process of silos is extremely dangerous for anyone that has not been specially trained as the conditions inside of the silos are very severe, often with high heights in excess of 60 metres in very confined spaces and exposure to potentially harmful gas.”

In order to have credible hygiene standards of produce, many producers are now demanding records of hygiene processes from suppliers. This involves keeping a record of the situation inside silos and storage and assessing if there is contamination or infestation. “This should be followed by compiling a detailed report of any bacteria found in the silo along with photographic evidence and a swab test analysis.

“Failure to pay serious attention to the cleaning process can be hugely detrimental to both employees and the ability of the farm to produce.”

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