THE TEST OF TIME
PHOTO COURTESY OF DAN RONCERAY
Commonly used for decades across North America, the analog Dole 400 Moisture Tester was a mainstay for farmers well after digital units featuring touchscreen display and Bluetooth connectivity took over. Passing an electromagnetic signal through a grain sample, the moisture percentage was displayed on its large central dial.
Grainman of Miami, FL, manufactured and sold the units until a few years ago. Even now, it appears on the company’s online catalogue as a nod to farm history and a lure for customers. Grainman’s Eduardo Castellanos believes it remained in use because younger farmers wanted to use the same equipment their fathers had relied upon. “It’s a piece of history,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the unit, but times change.”
Robert Elliott has operated Precision Calibration and Equipment since 2016. Servicing grain industry electronics, he previously worked in the elevator system for more than four decades. He said the reason for the 400’s enduring use was affordability—just $230 in 1977.
The Dole 400 was developed for the U.S. market, but was widely used in Canada. It was an on-farm alternative to the more expensive and reliable Motomco Model 919 that Elliott explained could be calibrated to Canadian Grain Commission grain charts. The accuracy of the 400 generally deteriorated further with misuse. Elliott has worked on units up to 40 years old that had often never previously been serviced.
Modern moisture testers likewise don’t get the servicing and respect they deserve, he said.
“They need it as badly as your car needs an oil change.”
Elliott was last asked to service a Dole 400 a year ago. “I can calibrate them, but you can’t really repair them,” he said. “There are no parts available. All you can suggest is it’s been a good workhorse, but spend your money on something a little bit newer.”