UK’s only grain cooperative gears up for a busy harvest


As farmers across England begin harvesting the first of their winter crops, the technical manager at Camgrain — the UK’s only farmer-owned grain co-operative — has a few logistics of his own to sort out.

Like how to handle, over the next few months, 500,000 tonnes of grain from its 640 farmer members, each with “massive big combines all roaring around at the same time”, coming into its four receival centres across the UK.

It’s a fine art that requires the most stringent of plans. But plans that Camgrain is well placed to act on given the technology it has incorporated into its state-of-the-art receival and processing sites at Cambridge and Linton in Cambridgeshire, Stratford Upon Avon in the West Midlands and Northants in Northamptonshire.

“We’ve only got six or eight weeks where we need to shift all that tonnage, and we’re talking half a million tonnes,” Mr King said.

“Trains don’t work for us over here like they do in Australia. So we need a hell of a lot of lorries. We’re running about 50 lorries year-round but about 200 to 250 a day when it’s peak harvest time.”

Mr King said a significant amount of technology was incorporated into the Camgrain logistics process: when a collection is required (the co-operative guarantees collections off farm within 24 hours of notification) it appears as a text message on a truck driver’s smartphone with a link to a map that “shows exactly the position on the farm he is going to”.

He said with many UK farms and crop fields within close proximity to one another “the last thing we want to do is for him to bring in Fred Bloggs’ wheat when Mr Smith’s wheat is what he should have been collecting.”

Mr King said when the trucks arrived back at the Camgrain centres a unique reference number to every load which was married with number plate recognition technology on the vehicle.

“When the lorry he comes in, he comes across the weighbridge where (the load) gets analysed and sampled, he goes around to tip his load off and in the time he is doing that the transport manager is notified, he presses a button to allocate the (driver’s) next job, the whole process starts again and he’s off out the door,” he said.

“And we don’t get 250 lorry drivers seven times a day saying ‘where do you want me to go next, boss?’”

Camgrain was founded in 1983 with 50 farmer members and 10,000 tonnes of storage capability.

It now has about 500,000 tonnes of capacity and is well situated to more than double that in the coming years. During harvest its receival sites are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Under the co-operative model farmers purchase storage rights at $191/tonne.

One group of six farmers working together has about 17,500 tonnes of storage rights “but other guys have 200-250 tonnes”.

Most grain is sold to premium markets through downstream supply chain relationships with food and beverage manufacturers.


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