KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US – While the flour and feed milling industries are in many ways technology-driven, the latest equipment used to mill wheat into flour and grains and oilseeds into feedstuffs is secondary in importance to the people who oversee these milling operations.

While technological advances have reduced the number of employees needed in milling facilities around the world, human operators in these grain processing plants remain critical to their respective companies’ success. A company is only as good as its employees, which is why the future success of these industries is strongly linked to attracting a talented pool of students to the programs at universities that train future flour and feed millers.

Two North American universities, Kansas State and Iowa State, which traditionally have supplied young talent to the milling, feed and grain industries, recently announced plans to build new state-of-the-art facilities that will entice new students and better serve current students.

Kansas State, the only university that offers a four-year bachelor of science degree in milling science and management, has secured $125 million in public and private funds to construct a new Grain and Food Innovation Center to replace 63-year-old Shellenberger Hall. Although there is an understandable sentimental attachment to Shellenberger Hall, which bears the name of Department of Grain Science and Industry’s most iconic figure, former department head John Shellenberger, the aging building has become more a liability than an asset.

With enrollment having dropped in recent years in KSU’s milling science, feed science and baking science programs, the university rightfully sees offering prospective students a chance to learn in state-of-the-art facilities as part of a comprehensive plan to increase enrollment. It also gives current students an opportunity to move from a six-decades-old building to a new and modern structure.

Walk into any flour mill in the United States and you’ll likely find a graduate from KSU’s milling science program presiding over the operation. Many of the industry’s future leaders will pass through the milling program, which is why having top-notch academic facilities to attract prospective students will not only benefit the university but the flour milling industry as well. The program also has sent hundreds of graduates to flour mills around the world over the years, making it a program with a truly global impact.

Several hundred miles to the north, Iowa State University is about to unveil its new $30 million Kent Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex. Iowa-based Kent Corp. donated $8 million, the Iowa Corn Growers made a donation of $4 million and other feed manufacturers, grain companies and equipment suppliers made significant financial contributions to ensure the project’s completion. The 47,000-square-foot complex includes an ingredient warehouse and education building with a 50-person classroom, analytical laboratory, a pilot plant, a 100-foot concrete mill tower, a 40-foot concrete pelleting plant, and 200,000 bushels of grain storage with handling and drying equipment.

The upgrades at KSU and ISU are long overdue and will have a long-term positive impact on the industries that must replenish their workforces each year with graduates from these outstanding academic programs. Congratulations to both universities for raising the funds necessary for these projects to come to fruition.