Engineering the Seed of Success


ABHR speaks to engineers Francesco Selva and Andrea Fumian about how Ag Growth International (AGI) designed and built one of the largest grain terminals on the Black Sea. Unlike static structures such as buildings, silos often have a number of different conditions placed upon them, including seismic, wind and material factor, which can change depending on what is being stored and how it is being handled. Francesco Selva, Engineering Manager for Grain Storage at AGI says designing efficient silos is an engineering challenge, and one which is underrepresented in the field.

“When we need to assess something that requires a custom solution, there is a lack of literature to rely on,” he says.

“For example, if a bin needs to be unloaded in an unconventional way due to site limitations, there are few books or theories that will be able to help.”

This is why engineering is core to the business at AGI. The company, a global agricultural infrastructure firm, designs, manufactures and supplies bulk handling systems to facilitate the storage, blending, mixing, conveying, conditioning, processing and protection of agricultural products around the world. Andrea Fumian, Senior System Integration Engineer at AGI, says the company’s engineers are the ones that provides the design solutions and equipment required to build its infrastructure.

“Engineers are involved from first contact, usually helping the sales team to communicate the technical aspects of what is required to the customers,” Fumian says.

“When the project begins, the conversation goes deeper as more calculations and designs are written up in partnership with the customer.

“A big part of how AGI works is gaining a firm understanding of what the customer wants. Every customer and every project is different, so our approach is to find out what is needed.”


Bulk in the Black Sea

COMVEX, one of the largest bulk solids handling terminal in the Black Sea, partnered with AGI to upgrade a terminal at the Port of Constanta in Romania. The port is one of the only terminals that can cater for Cape size vessels of up to 220,000 tonnes deadweight. Due to its location, it can provide customers, such as major mining companies from Australia, Brazil, India, Africa, United States and Canada, the ability to make deliveries to industrial plants in Romania, Hungary, Austria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

COMVEX wanted to increase the breadth of materials that flowed through the terminal to include grain, providing the local grain exporters with a more efficient way of moving their product. Fumian says COMVEX intends the project to be a flagship, and as a result, wanted the fastest pump in the port. “They want to load and unload at high speeds and are aiming to be the fastest in Romania and the Black Sea,” he says.

“The scale of this meant we needed to build a system that could handle a river of grain, up to  1500 tonnes per hour across a number of massive silos. When we were awarded the project, it was clear we had to optimise everything in order to perform at the peak.”

“As a result, we designed every connection and support. [We] ensured all equipment could handle working at such a high capacity, and most importantly, that everything was as reliable and resilient as possible.”


A consulting company had drafted a design, which AGI then updated to configure the plant to provide the best outcome possible. The project design was then modelled entirely in 3D. This not only helped with communication between the client and the engineers but provided additional information for integration of other systems and technology.

One of the main challenges facing AGI was price. The project required supporting infrastructure, such as catwalks, and high capacity equipment that could handle the loads being processed. Selva says AGI’s engineers needed to figure out how to support the system so that the load and construction of the structure would be efficient in terms of behaviour.

“All of the structures were custom designed to ensure the customer would get the best value for money,” Selva says.

“There is a limited amount of money that is available to be spent on carrying the load and keeping the operations working perfectly, with no unbalanced loads.”

Communication was the most important part of the process, with AGI’s engineers and project management team providing as much transparent information as possible to COMVEX through a cloud-based platform. As a result, both companies could react quickly to any problems and solve them effectively. It also allowed the terminal to integrate electrical automation into the infrastructure itself. At the moment, COMVEX is completing the commissioning phase of the infrastructure project and are in the last phase.

“We remain in constant contact with them,” Fumian says. “If something comes up, or if equipment needs to be adjusted, we can help straight away.”

This article originally appeared in the October issue of Australia Bulk Handling written by William Arnott