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Minnesota Ag News Headlines
Ground Broken for Ag Innovation Campus in Crookston
Minnesota Ag Connection - 10/29/2020

Governor Tim Walz and other state leaders attended the groundbreaking for the Ag Innovation Campus, an infrastructure project made possible by a $5 million investment that was included in the 2019 Ag Omnibus bill that the Governor signed into law on May 30, 2019.

Walz, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Vice President and Ag Innovation Campus Chair Mike Skaug, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council CEO Tom Slunecka, Representative Deb Kiel and Senator Mark Johnson attended the afternoon event at the Polk County Environmental Services Building, Crookston.

Construction on the 67,000-square-feet plant on a 10-acre plot of land on the southwest edge of Crookston is slated to begin in April and the facility is expected to be operational by the end of 2021.

The AIC, which will give its customers the opportunity to add value to their oilseed commodities, has the potential to have a 10-fold economic return, which will be far reaching, according to Walz.

"Not just for this region, but statewide and nationwide," Walz said. "I'm out here to say 'congratulations,' and more importantly, to say 'thank you.' This is exciting. There's opportunity here."

The AIC one-of-a-kind specialty processing plant will house a crush facility, oil refining, classrooms and space for private industries. Initially, the Ag Innovation Campus will process soybeans, and eventually other oilseeds, such as canola and sunflowers, also will be processed at the AIC.

The facility will be available for use by universities, commodity organizations and private businesses to specially process their oilseed commodities. The AIC plans to have as many as 70 employees when fully operational.

Adding value to soybeans has potential to give northwest Minnesota farmers a significant economic boost, according to the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, which funded a 2018 feasibility study on the AIC.

"This is the biggest soybean production center in the world," Slunecka told about 50 gathered at the groundbreaking.

In 2019, farmers in 11 northwest Minnesota counties produced more than 50 million bushels of soybeans, according to the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. The bushels are produced by 80 to 100 farmers who grow soybeans on 61,000 acres in northwest Minnesota, Slunecka said.

The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council reports that the plant will help its users avoid the "Valley of Death," that entrepreneurs often fall into when they are trying to bring an idea to fruition, Slunecka said.

The entrepreneurs' projects fail because they can't find a place large enough to do viable research on their product, Slunecka said. The Ag Innovation Campus will change that.

"There isn't a facility anywhere like this in the world," he said.

The processing plant will have a capacity to crush 8,000 bushels of soybeans daily or about 2.5 million bushels annually, said Jim Lambert, Ag Innovation Campus project manager. The AIC will feature three crushing lines, 10 bays which companies can use to prove out ideas, test and produce projects. It also will have office space for companies.

"It's a very exciting project. I'm very happy to be part of it," Lambert said.

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