‘In a good place’: Media get first look at Ag Innovation Campus

Categories: NewsPublished On: January 12, 20233.4 min read

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If you build it, they will come.

That certainly was the case Wednesday as local media met with Ag Innovation Campus officials to tour the facility, which is in the final stretch of Phase 1 of the construction project off Highway 75 in Crookston.

“We’ve made a lot of progress at the AIC,” Board Chair Mike Skaug said. “We’re at a point now where the crushing equipment is being installed and the inside of the building built out to serve the crush operation.”

Operations are slated to begin in late spring to early summer, with crushing slated for later in the summer.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re in a good place with this project,” said Mike Youngerberg, senior director of product development & commercialization.

Youngerberg and Skaug joined AIC Plant Manager Bill Paulsen in greeting the press to discuss the cutting-edge Campus.

“You really need to think of the AIC as a research facility that happens to have a crush operation,” Skaug said. “There’s nothing like this out there, and we’ll be the first.”

Paulsen echoed that sentiment, pointing to its uniqueness in why Energy Management Solutions joined the project.

“I was very intrigued from the moment I heard about the project,” Paulsen said. “This facility will be at the forefront of the industry because it is so unique. The benefit of training operators for a crush facility at the AIC will have a ripple effect on the industry.”

Paulsen said EMS will oversee operations and hire staff for the facility, which is estimated at 20 jobs across the gamut of the facility.

“Our goal is hire locally,” Paulsen said. “We’ll need to hire staff for the start of operations and be ready for the when we begin running soybeans.”

Phase 1 of the project showcases several windows along the western wall of the facility. In its current form, the windows allow for natural lighting in the building. However, as the project moves into Phase 2 and Phase 3, the windows will give visitors access to the crush facility via The Crushwalk, without having to step inside the crush plant.

“There will be a lot of benefits to this campus,” Skaug said. “The educational opportunities alone are impressive, and then you add the ability to research and develop products cost-effectively and you have a game changer.

The Campus will be home to a specialty crushing facility, allowing entrepreneurs from universities and private businesses, private seed developers and processing companies access to affordable processing, designed to lower costs while promoting growth of value-added products. The Campus is available to private industries to create products that benefit all parties, from farm gate to consumers. Education will also be a key component to the AIC, featuring state-of-the-art classrooms; a conference room that can host up to 100 people; laboratories; a training site to develop the next generation of processing professionals; and to allow customers around the world a direct connection to premium U.S. agricultural products.

A fully operational AIC will strive to boost the regional ag economy, creating dozens of good-paying jobs and crushing more than 60,000 tons per year of soybean meal, equating to about 2.5 million bushels. The AIC will support three crushing lines, each of which can be operated all on either organic, non-GMO or GM soybeans, as well as separately for each type of soybeans. In addition, the AIC anticipates it will also work on other oil seeds, including cover crops. Profits from the facility will be granted to projects designed to advance agriculture, making the AIC a key source of new ideas.

As part of phases 2 & 3, this first-of-its-kind facility will feature:
• AURI office and laboratory space
• Demonstration bays for innovative agriculture research conducted by new startup companies
• A training site to develop the next generation of processing professionals in conjunction with local education centers and technology companies that want to showcase or train customers
• A Regional Agricultural Education Center
• A conference room with ability to host up to 100 people for ag research events

For more sponsorship and career details, contact Tom Slunecka at 507-720-4052 or tslunecka@agmgmtsolutions.com.