Cooperative Farmers Elevator celebrated the completion of its new agronomy center fertilizer plant in Alvord with an open house event July 20. Jim Jensen, the regional operations manager for Cooperative Farmers Elevator, said they were very pleased with the turnout.
“It was a year-and-a-half construction process, so to get from the beginning to being able to give public tours was a good feeling,” said Jensen. “We have it fully completed now and we’ve taken some fertilizer out of here already, and we expect to really get things going this fall.”
Kristy Knutson, the location manager for Cooperative Farmers Elevator in Alvord, explained the new facility is a big upgrade that replaces three former plants. “We had already been pulling out of one location to serve multiple locations already, but now everything is centralized here.”
The building is about 350 feet long and holds just a little less than 30,000 tons of fertilizer. “This building was built because we wanted to be more efficient and be able to deliver things to our customers in a more efficient fashion,” said Jensen. “Some of our facilities were getting old and were in disrepair, so this was an investment that made it so we could process fertilizer a lot quicker and be able to manage more inventory.”
The new agronomy center is located about a half-mile northwest of Alvord, at the corner of 210th Street and Eagle Avenue. The facility stores dry fertilizer ingredients as well as micronutrients used for custom fertilizer applications. The plant’s 250-ton tower blends the products on-the-go.
“The plant is pretty much automated,” explained Jensen. “We use wireless communication between our equipment here to communicate with the system, to change bins and things like that, but otherwise it’s just a lot of technology we’ve got in automation.”
The 250-ton tower serves as the hub for the plant’s top-of-the-line technology. “You can pretty much push a button on the computer and the system will make the fertilizer for you. The tower blends it all together. You just tell it which one you want,” said Knutson.
“I think the main purpose for us to do this is that it’s going to allow us to inventory more products,” continued Jensen. “We’re going to have more micronutrients and more products than we’ve had in the past. We’ll be able to mix things a lot faster and get it through the plant a lot faster, and we expect to deliver probably within about a 40-mile radius.”
He said the plant has a receiving leg that can offload fertilizer from trucks and bring it into the building at a rate of 250 tons per hour. From there, the fertilizer can be blended with more products than ever before to make all kinds of custom fertilizer applications as well as grass seed fertilizer.
Knutson explained that, while the building is certainly impressive in size, there’s the potential it could get even bigger in the future. “The plant is built so we can double capacity if we want to. We would need to put another tower in but it’s set up so we have that option.”
The new facility will provide services to the northwest corner of Iowa and even into South Dakota. “Wherever we have customers that use dry fertilizers, it will be coming out of here, at least in this corner of the company,” said Jensen. “And as we get more efficient, we believe we’ll be able to serve even more customers.”