Meeting of the minds: Ag Innovation Campus holds brainstorming session

Categories: NewsPublished On: April 20, 20232.4 min read

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On April 19-20, Ag Innovation Campus (AIC) officials welcomed industry leaders for a meet and greet in Crookston, where the team hosted a brainstorming session and tour of the one-of-a-kind soybean crushing facility in Crookston that is just a few months away from beginning operations.

On Wednesday night, AIC staff and board members gathered with potential clients and tenants of the facility to learn more about what each industry professional has to offer, and to develop a relationship for the future phases of the Campus.

“We were able to bring together manufacturers of new types of technologies, plant breeders with new varieties of soybeans and processing technologies, from database to monitoring,” Acting AIC CEO Tom Slunecka said. “All these new types of technology are going to have a home at the Ag Innovation Campus, and this was our very first meeting to gauge the interest. We were completely blown away by how it turned out.”

One of those industry leaders in attendance was West Central Ag Services, which will be supplying the facility with soybeans once crushing begins this summer.

Acting Ag Innovation Campus CEO Tom Slunecka visits with industry partners during a brainstorming session on Wednesday, April 19, at the Crookston Inn and Conference Center.

“Through research on new varieties, AIC will be able to add value to soybeans, which is a win for our group and our farmers,” West Central Ag Services CEO Jesse McCollum said. “We hope to be able to supply them with product so that they can be successful in their innovations.”

As Phase 1 nears completion, the shift is now focusing on finalizing plans for Phases 2 and 3, which will include office and laboratory space for the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute; demonstration bays for innovative agricultural research conducted by new startup companies; training site; a Regional Agricultural Education Center; and a conference room with ability to host up to 100 people for ag research events. The brainstorming session allowed AIC leaders to grasp a better understanding of what future partners will need, according to AIC Board Director Tom Frisch.

“I thought it was a great meeting with a lot of industries represented that had a lot of great ideas,” said Frisch, who also serves as vice chair of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, a founding AIC partner. “We were able to explain what the AIC can currently offer, and they were able to provide information on what they would like to see from us as we start our next phases. This facility is the future of agriculture, and we’re all excited to see it up and running.”

The AIC is tentatively planning to begin operations in June. When fully operational, the facility is estimated to crush 240 tons of soybean meal daily, which equates to an intake of eight semi loads each day. A grand opening for the AIC is set for Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023.