'It's about time'

by Arvin Donley
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Pigs eating
At any one time, approximately 23 million pigs are being raised in Iowa, the United States’ No. 1 hog producer. The state also has more than 60 million poultry, mostly laying hens, and it is the top corn producer in the United States, accounting for nearly 20% of the nation’s output, harvesting nearly 3 billion bushels per year.

So when Iowa State University (ISU) in Ames, Iowa, recently announced plans to build a $21 million educational and research complex for feed milling and grain science, those with a vested interest in the facility said it was an endeavor that had been long overdue.

“We’re in the middle of the bullseye of the grain and feed industries,” Dirk Maier, professor and post-harvest engineer at ISU, told World Grain. “Everybody who I’ve talked to about this project says it’s about time. They are building some of the largest feed mills in the country here. Iowa has doubled feed production and consumption capacity in the last 10 years. It’s really unbelievable.”

The project, which is being funded entirely by the private sector, already has received $14 million from three Iowa-based companies and organizations — $8 million from Kent Corporation, $4 million from the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, and $2 million from Sukup Manufacturing Co. Kent Corporation, which is one of the largest feed producers in the country, said it was the largest gift the company has made.

Dirk Maier
Dirk Maier, professor and post-harvest engineer at ISU.

“As an Iowa-based, global leader in corn wet milling, the production of animal feeds and the manufacturing of food products, it is critical that we support Iowa State in giving students valuable, real-world experiences that will benefit their future employers and industries,” the company said. “Our experience with Iowa State’s commitment to the Cultivation Corridor and their mission to promote and facilitate growth in agriculture and biosciences helped facilitate this gift.”

Sukup, one of the world’s largest family-owned and operated grain storage, drying and handling equipment manufacturers, said the facility at Iowa State would support the company’s mission “to protect and preserve the grain that feeds the world.”

“Key factors to our success as a company have been innovative ideas and our dedicated workforce,” said Charles Sukup, president of Sukup Manufacturing. “That’s why we are excited that Iowa State’s plans for the feed mill and grain science complex will focus on innovation and support of the grain and feed industries, education of the next generation and continuing education that helps our workforce and customers keep up to speed on the latest developments.”

Likewise, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board sees its contribution toward the building of the complex as being a smart investment in the long run.

“To remain viable and competitive in the future, the grain, feed and livestock industries must continue to improve production and efficiency, and this means having qualified professionals moving into this important agricultural sector,” said Duane Aistrope, president of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. “In addition, Iowa State’s feed mill and grain science complex will allow us to help with the Iowa Corn Promotion Board’s market development activities by serving as a great resource to educate our visiting international trade team on how to best utilize U.S. corn and corn products.”

Complex details

The location of the feed mill and grain complex will be on 10 acres of university-owned land southwest of Ames. The land, managed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been the site of crop research, seed operations and crop yield performance trials for more than 50 years.

The complex will include a concrete feed mill tower and feed milling and mixing structures, grain storage bins and a one-story classroom and laboratory building.

Maier said the feed mill will include one or two milling lines with a capacity of 5 or 10 tonnes per hour, and a research line with a capacity of approximately 1 tonne per hour. He said Iowa State students will use the complex to perform research and prepare animal feeds to meet the dietary requirements for livestock housed at several university teaching and research farms in the Ames area. University faculty will use it as a source for custom-made animal feeds for academic studies. Researchers also will use the complex to study feed safety and biosecurity issues linked to transportation of feeds.

Grain storage capacity at the complex will be 200,000 bushels and all storage and handling equipment will be donated by Sukup, Maier said.

The classroom and laboratory building will include four classrooms and several laboratories that will be equipped for grain grading as well as NIR and mycotoxin analysis.

Maier said Iowa State faculty have been developing a new minor in feed and grain technology to better prepare students to meet a growing demand for highly skilled professionals in the grain and feed industries. The new complex will provide hands-on learning experiences for students across several agricultural majors.

Iowa State University New feed mill
“Our department has 800 students, animal science has 1,100 students and agricultural business has 400 students,” he said. “That’s over 2,000 students. If we get 5% of those students to take a minor in feed technology, that’s 100 kids per year.”

Not only will the complex be a training ground for ISU students looking to enter the grain and feed industries, it also will be a new venue for continuing education and extension programs for current feed milling and grain industry employees. Maier said these programs will help workers more effectively meet an increasing number of regulatory compliance issues, address biosecurity concerns and gain experience in advanced processing methods.

He added that the facility also will be valuable for demonstrating to international visitors the sophistication of the U.S. feed industry and how to best use U.S. corn and corn products in their own livestock industries.

Maier said it’s important to understand that Iowa State is using the complex to support the successful agriculture department programs that are already in place, not the other way around.

“The programming side is what it starts with,” he said. “To really meet the needs of industry it is about employees. We often talk about research and its importance, but the industry is interested in people. If we can meet their needs and expectations with future employees coming out of college or providing training to their current employees, we will have their attention. And everything else will follow.”

Once full funding for the project is obtained, ground will be broken on the site and Maier said the typical timeline for a construction project of this magnitude is 15 to 18 months. “Our anticipation is that we’ll break ground within the next year,” he said. “We hope the facility will be up and running by the fall of 2019.”