Measuring Maple Syrup Sugaring to Streamline Operations

When Timothy Perkins, Ph.D., became Director of the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center, his intuition led him to an understanding. He quickly saw why the sugar house operator consumed vast amounts of time running from place to place to check tank levels.

Senix ultrasonic liquid level sensors monitor production levels at UVM Proctor Maple Research Center

Senix ultrasonic liquid level sensors monitor production levels at UVM Proctor Maple Research Center

“In maple syrup production, things can go wrong quickly,” Perkins described. “If the evaporator tank runs dry, the reverse osmosis (RO) machine shuts down.” This can represent a substantial issue for an industrial process which is only in operation for two months out of twelve.

By way of increasing operation efficiency, Perkins quickly came up with a solution. Perkins, who had utilized ultrasonic sensors in additional research areas, believed that liquid level sensors might constitute the answer for maple sugaring.

“In a sugar house, ultrasonic sensors were the obvious solution for many reasons,” Perkins commented. “The requirements dictate that nothing come in contact with the material in the tanks. You also need something robust because the sensors would have to work in an environment that can be cold or hot and with near 100% humidity.”

Perkins undertook some research and discovered that Senix Corporation, a company at the forefront of ultrasonic liquid level sensors, was located nearby to the Proctor Maple Research Center in Northwestern Vermont. “We contacted Senix and then worked closely with their staff engineers to develop a solution that fits our needs,” Perkins explained.

How Does it Work?

The Proctor Maple Research Center, which partially functions as a testing site for novel processes and technologies for improving maple sugaring operations, is utilizing five early generations Senix Tough Sonic level sensors. All of the facility’s three sap tanks are fitted with a sensor for monitoring levels, while there are additional sensors on the maple syrup concentrator tank and the tank for permeate, the water generated by the reverse osmosis process.

Every sensor transmits a 4-20 mA signal to a panel of fixed vertical bar graphs, which are easily visible for the operator. “Our sugaring operations manager learned to trust the Senix ultrasonic sensors,” Perkins elucidated. “He doesn’t feel the need to physically check the tanks. He can just look over at the display on the wall and read the tank levels reported by the sensors.”

Senix sensors send 4-20 mA signals to this panel so tank levels can be monitored by the sugar house operator at a central location.

Senix sensors send 4-20 mA signals to this panel so tank levels can be monitored by the sugar house operator at a central location.

Benefits

The sensors assist the operator in understanding if the reverse osmosis machine is keeping pace with the quantity of sap entering the evaporator tanks. “It’s very important that the two systems – reverse osmosis and sap evaporation—stay in balance,” Perkins asserted.

Perkins believes that installation of the Senix sensors allowed the operator to lower the time needed to monitor the tanks by at least 25%, while simultaneously maintaining synchronicity between the evaporation and reverse osmosis. The task is also less physically taxing and more safe, as the operator is no longer required to move upstairs, downstairs and around the building to visually monitor those tank levels.

The Sugar House at the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center.

The Sugar House at the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center.

Future Plans

“The Senix sensors have worked flawlessly since they were installed more than 10 years ago,” Perkins commented. “We just turn them on when sugaring season begins and they work without interruption until the season ends one or two months later.”

Ever since the 1890s, The University of Vermont has been undertaking basic and applied maple research. It is reasonable to expect that UVM and it's Proctor Maple Research Center will make an important contribution to maple syrup research, education and best practices demonstrations for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, it is just as reasonable to expect that their reliance on the reliability and durability of Senix ultrasonic sensors will also continue.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Senix Corporation.

For more information on this source, please visit Senix Corporation.

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