New St. Marys Fertilizer Building Is Built For Speed, Efficiency

As can be seen in this aerial view, J.B. Pearl's facility is bordered by train tracks and a highway.
As can be seen in this aerial view, J.B. Pearl’s facility is bordered by train tracks and a highway.

Driving on Highway 24 through St. Marys in Northeastern Kansas, one structure stands out from the rest. On the west side of town, a multi-storied fertilizer tower gleams in the sunlight — part of the headquarters site for J.B. Pearl Sales & Service Inc.

Upon closer inspection, it’s obvious that the ag retail outlet has been on this ground for several decades (in fact, it dates back to the company’s founding in 1961). And while it blends seamlessly into its surroundings, the fertilizer building and tower aren’t even one year old yet.

According to Doyle Pearl, co-owner/general manager, the reason for this mixing of traditional with modern is simple – to meet customer needs. “Like a friend of mine once said, churches are built with their busiest day, Easter Sunday, in mind,” says Doyle. “We did the same thing here. The rest of our facility was fine, but we needed the ability to load and blend fertilizer for our busiest week or two of the year better than we were able to previously.”

And this was something sorely lacking with J.B. Pearl’s old fertilizer building and blending equipment. In fact, says Troy Pearl, co-owner and special projects manager, the company was constantly trying to keep pace with the increased demand for fertilizer in its Kansas territory, and failing. “I remember many times coming in at 4:30 in the morning to start loading trucks so we could have all of them loaded by daylight when the rest of the crew arrived,” says Troy. “We just couldn’t keep doing that the way our business was growing. We needed a better way.”

O.J. Pearl, co-owner and agronomy sales, agrees. “One of the things that best describes J.B. Pearl as a company is consistency,” says O.J. “But that was beginning to suffer using our old fertilizer building and system.”

Too Much To Keep Up

Until last year, J.B. Pearl handled all of its fertilizer needs in St. Mary’s with an 800-ton storage facility and rotary blending equipment. Still, as Troy points out, the company was storing up to seven different products on a regular basis. “Logistically, it was very difficult to keep every product that our customers wanted on hand at all times,” he says.

Speed was also becoming a factor. “As our trucks and machines kept getting bigger, loading them in a timely fashion became a real challenge,” says Troy. “Again, none of us wanted to keep coming in four hours early during our busiest times or miss the opportunity to fill customer orders for fertilizer during their busy seasons.”

To solve these issues, Troy began researching the idea of J.B. Pearl installing a new fertilizer building in 2007. First, he had to decide whether or not this new structure would be situated on a new company ground or become part of its existing facility. “Our current outlet is located between railroad tracks on one side and Highway 24 on the other,” says Troy. “But when it was all said and done, we decided to make it work on the footprint we already had.”

Once this was determined, Troy set about trying to find the kind of fertilizer blending system that could fulfill J.B. Pearl’s needs. “I had this idea to work with tower blenders, but I wasn’t 100% sure,” he says.

Then, Troy happened across The A.J. Sackett & Sons Co., Baltimore, MD, at an Agricultural Retailers Association convention. “They seemed to have what I was looking for,” says Troy.

For the next few years, J.B. Pearl and Sackett worked together — in tandem with a local engineer — to come up with a design for a complete fertilizer building/tower/blending system. “This plant is very different than other fertilizer plants since it’s at a relatively small storage facility, unlike the huge mega-plants that have recently been built,” says J.C. Remsberg, sales & marketing representative for Sackett.

As Troy remembers, Sackett’s recommendations also lead to some changes from his original plant design. “The one thing I had to do was move where the leg pit was located in the building because of where Sackett’s people said they could put it,” he says.

With the finished design in hand, J.B. Pearl next had to decide where this new structure would be located on its existing grounds. Ultimately, the company demolished its old maintenance shop and moved it to a building that came up for sale just a few blocks away.

“We broke ground on the new building in May 2012,” says Troy. “And we were producing our first products there last December.”

New Features

The new J.B. Pearl fertilizer building has 3,000 tons of storage capacity across seven different product bins. According to Troy, one of the unique features of this structure is a single, center-located conveyor that handles all fertilizer movement. “That was one of the design challenges we faced because it’s a little more untraditional than most fertilizer facilities,” he says. “I wanted to be able to receive products via railcars or trucks on the same conveyor, giving me the option to have them go up the elevator leg for mixing and loading or into my storage building. This would also allow me to reduce the amount of equipment we needed, which was another high priority on my wish list.”

According to Don Pearl, co-owner and maintenance supervisor, another special feature of the storage building is its durable design. “There is more than 70 tons of steel that went into the concrete used to build this facility,” says Don. “And I was happy we went with 16-foot concrete walls because you can get some kick-out at the bottoms of traditional fertilizer buildings as bolts rust out from wear.” In addition, the doors on the storage bins have special flaps installed to prevent product from spilling out when they are full.

The environmental aspects of this new facility are also a plus, says Doyle. “Kansas doesn’t require ag retailers to conduct fertilizer loading and unloading under roof, but that has always been a concern in our minds here at Pearl,” he says. “But now, we are not only doing our loading/unloading under a roof, but we have the ability to even shut the doors to our building if we want to to cut down on the dust or stray prills.”

A Tower Of Power

Of course, the centerpiece of this new structure is the blend tower. Its many features include:

It can hold up to 120 tons of storage in nine overhead bins, meaning that all products are available for use at all times.

It contains twin weigh hoppers which work in 2 pound increments to finely tune custom fertilizer blends.

It has twin Bombay-style doors to move loads from the mixer into a surge hopper, which prevents the segregation of materials.

According to Troy, one of the best features of the blend tower is its ability to load trucks with 25 tons of custom blended product in as little as eight minutes. “The overhead storage is ideal for that kind of speed,” he says. “It used to take us two to three hours to load all of our trucks and machines, but not anymore.”

Still, in his mind, the most important part of the new J.B. Pearl blend tower is its High Intensity Mixer (H.I.M.) unit. Situated in the heart of the tower, the H.I.M. is designed to blend and coat fertilizer products thoroughly and gently in a matter of seconds — a big improvement over the company’s previous mixing option, says Troy.

“We were doing some urea coating with our old rotary blender, but it didn’t really work that well,” he says. “It was messy and slow, taking approximately one minute per ton to blend. So it would take me seven minutes to do a typical batch, but the quality of coverage still wasn’t there even then. Since the quality wasn’t up to what I thought our standards should be, we had this service available, but didn’t really promote it to our customers.” However, he adds, many of them continued to ask about receiving these kinds of blends from J.B. Pearl.

Things are much different now using the H.I.M. “The H.I.M. dispenses coating in the center of the unit and blends it from both ends in as little as 10 seconds,” says Troy. “Now, I can run a batch in 30 seconds and it will be perfectly coated.” In fact, he adds, J.B. Pearl is so pleased with how well the H.I.M. has performed its coating duties that the company is not only promoting this service to its customers, it is also doing some custom fertilizer blending/coating for other companies on a contract basis.

Now that the new fertilizer building and blend tower are meeting its present needs, J.B. Pearl expects this to remain the case for decades to come. “When we were planning this structure, we were told by Sackett and our engineer that we could build something that would last 20 years or 50 years,” says Troy. “50 sounded better.”

“That’s why we put stainless steel in our overhead bins,” adds Don. “There was quite a bit of an upcharge to do this, but if we hadn’t, I would have been re-painting these units every three to five years. Having something that would last instead for what would be double our company’s current age sounded like a much better plan to me.”

Better still, J.B. Pearl even has some room to grow on its current site if circumstances demand it, says Doyle. “We’ve doubled the size of our dry fertilizer business in the past few years, and we could conceivably expand our current building by 20% if we needed to,” he says. “Overall, we will continue to follow the model my parents, James Bernard (J.B.) and Eileen, founded the company on — providing the services and products to allow our customers to do what they do best: Perfect crop production agriculture.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

One comment on “New St. Marys Fertilizer Building Is Built For Speed, Efficiency

  1. Congratulations to Doyle, Laura, and all the team at J.B. Pearl Sales and Service on this new addition to their operation! J.B. Pearl Sales and Service has, for decades, set a high standard for our industry in N.E. Kansas, and it appears they will continue to do so for many years to come. - Randy Stookey Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association

Blenders Stories

Adams Decline Weigh Blender
BlendersFertilizer Blenders Take On Latest Additives, Heavy Workloads
February 2, 2016
As agronomy and precision ag sciences continue to advance, blender manufacturers have certainly had their part to play. “We are Read More
MixMate from Praxidyn
BlendersPraxidyn Introduces Portable Ag Chemical Blending System
January 28, 2016
Praxidyn has introduced Mixmate – the portable agricultural chemical blending system. Mixmate streamlines or completely automates the mixing process with Read More
Yargus Layco 16 Ton Rotary Drum
Blenders15 Fertilizer Blenders That Will Meet Your 2016 Mixing Needs
November 11, 2015
Manufacturers of fertilizer blending and mixing systems continue to develop some of the fastest, most durable, most accurate units ever for Read More
BlendersYargus Introduces New Layco Rotary Drum Blenders
September 28, 2015
Yargus has introduced the new 13- and 16-ton capacity Rotary Drum Blenders that have one of the highest capacities in Read More
Trending Articles
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
HerbicidesHerbicide Resistance In Waterhemp Continues To Grow
April 22, 2016
Twenty-five years ago, waterhemp was virtually unknown to Illinois farmers. Today, the broadleaf weed blankets corn and soybean fields across Read More
Eric SfiligojBiotech Corn Drop More Economics Vs. Consumer Rejection
April 18, 2016
Since their introduction into the agricultural marketplace, biotech crops has steadily grown in acreage in the countries of the world Read More
Crop InputsBayer: 5 Reasons We Disagree With Maryland Neonic Ban
April 12, 2016
We’re disappointed that the Maryland legislature chose not to stand up for sound science and the rights of Maryland’s homeowners Read More
Corn
OpinionChallenging Global Economic Conditions Putting More Heat On U.S. Ag Retailers
April 7, 2016
There it is. That vague, slightly sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Things are getting weird out there. Read More
Latest News
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionEnhancing In-Season Nitrogen Use Efficiency Is In The D…
May 5, 2016
Spring is here and crops are in the ground. Do you have a plan for your nitrogen during the growing Read More
ID3 Air Induction Flat Spray Nozzle | Lechler
Nozzles2016 Nozzles And Tips Report: Waste Watchers
May 5, 2016
Every year in the spring, ag retailers and their grower-customers prepare for the coming crop season. This involves prepping crop Read More
Industry NewsHELM AGRO Adds New Marketing & Business Development…
May 4, 2016
HELM AGRO US, Inc. has announced the hiring of Troy Bettner as the company’s new Marketing & Business Development Leader. Bettner Read More
Palmer amaranth in soybean stubble
HerbicidesWSSA: Billions In Potential Economic Losses From Uncont…
May 4, 2016
What losses would corn and soybean growers experience if they were forced to eliminate herbicides and other control techniques from Read More
Spray Drift
HerbicidesRoundup Ready Xtend: Silver Linings In Label Delays For…
May 4, 2016
Since 2014, Monsanto has trained more than 20,000 growers and retailers on all aspects of its new dicamba-tolerant system at Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Board Appoints New CEO
May 4, 2016
Syngenta announced today the appointment of J. Erik Fyrwald, currently President and CEO of the U.S. chemistry distribution company Univar Read More
Crop InputsIntrexon Establishes Crop Protection Enterprise
May 4, 2016
Intrexon Corp., a leader in synthetic biology, has announced the formation of Intrexon Crop Protection (ICP), a wholly-owned subsidiary dedicated to Read More
Patriot 4440 Sprayer close up
ManagementFlashing Back And Moving Forward On Spray Drift
May 3, 2016
The potential for pesticide drift remains an unavoidable feature of modern agriculture. Here, too, history repeats itself. “When Roundup debuted, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesSurvey Provides Insights On Giant Ragweed In The Corn B…
May 2, 2016
A new survey published in the journal Weed Science offers insights into the distribution and management of giant ragweed, a Read More
Truck dumping dry fertilizer
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics Q&A: Southern States’ Joe Wlod…
May 2, 2016
Joe Wlodkoski, Director of Agronomy Procurement, Fertilizer, Southern States Cooperative, is a 40-plus year fertilizer industry veteran. He is quite Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
West Central Dome structure
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics 2016: All Clear, So Far
May 1, 2016
After a relatively hairy early start to the spring fertilizer movement season with flooding in Louisiana and St. Louis, things Read More
BAICOR
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Utah Specialty Fertilizer Company
April 28, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty ag products, has acquired a majority interest in BAICOR, L.C. BAICOR, Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Adds Vice President Of Business…
April 28, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences has announced the addition of Marc Treurniet to the plant health and nutrition company’s management team. Treurniet Read More
ManagementBiotech Crops Developments and Millennials
April 28, 2016
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf talk about the latest activities in biotech crops and a major shift in the Read More
Industry NewsNachurs-Alpine, Pathway Biologic Extend Marketing Agree…
April 28, 2016
Nachurs-Alpine Solutions (Marion, OH) and Pathway Biologic (Plant City, FL) announce an extension to their exclusive marketing agreement specific to Read More
MicronutrientsCharah Add Three Warehouses For SUL4R-PLUS Fertilizer
April 28, 2016
Charah, Inc., a total solutions company providing unparalleled service and innovation for the coal-fired power generation industry, announced today that Read More
Spenser Forgey, Yahama Fortix
FungicidesIndiana Farmer Wins Arysta LifeScience FORTIX Fungicide…
April 28, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently presented Spenser Forgey, a grower from Young America, IN, with a new 2016 Yamaha Grizzly Read More