Wabash Valley Browns: Keeping The Environmental Spirit Alive

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To hear Dmitri Krajec, nutrient management and assistant plant manager, tell it, the Wabash Valley Service Co. in Browns, IL, has always tried to improve its standing, both within the agricultural community and the mainstream world. “If I had to pick just one word that best describes the principles we follow at this facility, it would be innovative,” says Krajec. “We always try to keep ahead of the curve with everything we do — from keeping a well-landscaped entrance to our offices to installing new software programs to aid our workers when they are servicing our grower-customers.”

And this spirit of “doing more” has served the outlet well. In 2009, the Wabash Valley Browns facility was named the National winner in the annual Environmental Respect Award competition, besting hundreds of entries from more than three dozen states as well as four regional winners. “We built this location one section at a time,” said then Area Marketing Coordinator Mike Wilson when accepting the award. “We looked at maintaining environmental responsibility at every single step.”

At that time, these steps included having the facility’s feed and seed warehouse curbed to contain spills and a firewall in the ceiling of the liquid loadout building. In addition, the outlet’s dry fertilizer building featured a blending system designed to eliminate dust in the atmosphere.

And the honors for the outlet continue to pile up. In 2013, the Wabash Valley Browns facility has been named the recipient of the Spirit Award in the Environmental Respect Awards competition. Sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection in partnership with CropLife® magazine, the Spirit Award recognizes those ag retail outlets that previously won regional or national Environmental Respect Awards for their continuing efforts to improve upon their environmentally-friendly policies and procedures.

Numerous Improvements

Overall, Environmental Respect Awards judges thought the Wabash Valley Browns facility deserved this honor for its latest stewardship-minded improvements. This includes the following:

The outlet has placed a manual stop in the chemical bays of its mixing area to stop water flow in case of overfilling or when rinsing containers.

The crop protection product building has been updated with color coded piping from the bulk tanks to the mixing vats to minimize product blending mistakes.

Mini-bulk tanks are now stacked with their valves facing outward in order to detect leaks and allow for easier inspections by employees.

In June, Wabash Valley Browns replaced its existing fertilizer loadouts bins with stainless steel ones. “The previous steel bins quickly rusted under the harsh conditions present,” says Krajec.

Despite all these upgrades, however, Krajec believes that Wabash Valley Browns’ installation of a new logistics software program three years ago is the most important Environmental Respect improvement the facility has made. Before this upgrade, field application work for the outlet began with the salesperson talking to the grower-customer, relaying this information to the blending manager, a blend ticket being generated and sent to a nurse truck driver, who would then hand this to the applicator.

“The logistics system takes much of the headache and risk out of this process,” says Krajec. “Utilizing the Internet and setting our system up on a cloud, the salesperson now has the ability to make their own application orders while speaking with the grower. This automatically sends a blend ticket to the loader and the field boundary to the logistics manager, who can assign it to a specific rig.” Handheld devices used by the applicator and tender driver will then coordinate this information to make certain the proper field is being serviced.

In the future, says Krajec, the Wabash Valley Browns facility will continue to make stewardship-worthy improvements. “Winning a Spirit Award after having won a National Environmental Respect Award is a great honor,” he says. “I think our whole plant and all of our employees work hard at being respectful of our environment and deserve this recognition.”

Sfiligoj is the Editor for both CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines. He travels regularly to cover industry events and has been dedicated to the ag retail industry since he joined the staff in 2000.
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