CROOKSTON, Minn. — Oct. 28 marked two years since the groundbreaking ceremony of the Ag Innovation Campus (AIC) in Crookston.
As a not-for-profit, the AIC will process about 9 semi-trucks a day, crushing a grand total of 62,400 tons of soybeans per year. But the crush plant is just in its first of a three-phase rollout. Due to a dramatic rise in input costs, the AIC has rolled with the punches and found creative ways to do the most with the hand they were dealt.
“This project has endured large price increases, but on the flip side, crush margins have increased at nearly the same rate,” said Tom Slunecka, acting AIC CEO. “Once construction is complete, the revenue stream from crush operations should have a dramatic bump in the ability for the AIC to complete phase two and three and to offer long term sponsorships of programs that will utilize the center.”
Phase two will be an office complex and research labs, with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute operating the research labs. Phase three consists of rentable discovery bays and a Crushwalk that will be available for short to midterm use for companies who want to prove their designs at full production scale.
While farmers were busy planting, growing and harvesting their crops, construction on the AIC plowed ahead.
“The building is 90% complete and everything is moving on schedule,” said Slunecka, who’s also CEO of Ag Management Solutions, the Mankato-based group that oversees Minnesota Soybean. “The grain handling equipment is beginning to arrive, and the installation of the crush equipment will start in November.”
A project of this scale requires an extraordinary amount of teamwork. With the help of Advanced Grain Handling, Wells Concrete, Innes Construction and Peterson Sheet Metal, AIC construction has gone relatively smoothly despite the myriad roadblocks laid down by the pandemic and supply chain issues.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have a number of good contractors working on this project,” said AIC Construction Consultant Brian Ruschy, of Brian Ruschy Construction and Consulting. “It’s been enjoyable watching everyone on this project work together.”
The Ag Innovation Campus is on the cusp of making waves in the agriculture industry. In the coming months, as phase one construction is finalized and talent acquired, Slunecka is optimistic the facility will continue generating support from entities across the region, state and nation. But above all, the AIC will give birth to the next generation of agriculture and cultivate economic growth in the Crookston area.
“As construction begins on phase two and three, we hope that Crookston becomes a new center of ag exploration,” said Slunecka.
— Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council