At Marcus Construction, we are agricultural storage construction experts, however, we work to stay relevant with the current needs of our customers and the changes going on within the Ag industries. When Key Cooperative in Grinnell, Iowa started discussing their needs and wants for a centralized dispatch agronomy center, the discussion began with the big picture of who they are and where they wanted to go as a cooperative – and then we got into how their new agronomy center could create the space needed for those goals to happen. Now, two years since they moved in their new facility we spoke with Dan Dunsbergen, Grinnell’s Location Manager, to discuss how that plan is playing out for Key Cooperative.
- What is Key Cooperative doing to help its member-owners to be environmentally responsible?
We have chosen to be part of Land O’ Lakes, Sustain. Three years ago, more than 30 members of our staff were introduced to Sustain and became an Authorized Sustain Representative. It reinforces practices we’re currently doing – variable rate fertilizer, split applying, crop scouting and nitrogen management.
Our training facility was designed around the modern producer and for a technology-driven environment. Understanding & advocating for the 4R’s comes from hands-on experience and scientific plant knowledge – our facility is set up to share and demonstrate this with our producers & employees; resulting in overall savings of time and cost.
How has your training center helped with training and educating your employees and member-owners on promoting the 4R’s?
The most valuable efficiency is the opportunity to take in product when we feel the time is right. By having the right amount of storage capacity and product available at the right time, we have our member-owners covered at all times. Not only has it improved our logistical efficiencies, but these efficiencies have allowed us to be more cost effective as well.
How has your new liquid warehouse and dry fertilizer storage helped improve efficiencies for Key Cooperative?
- Are you doing hot mix’s? If so, how has it reduced Key Cooperative’s environmental impact?
We have always done hot mixes. We feel the fewer number of times our employees handle the mixes, the better. The technology installed in our new facility has greatly reduced the risk of environmental impact. It allows us to mix accurate batches – at the right consistency, it helps with inventory, and helps us eliminate the chance of problems and inaccuracies that can come with chemical tanks on the side of trucks. Overall, by hot mixing, we eliminate down time for the applicator and exposure to the applicator and driver.
- How has your 24-hour lane helped you promote the 4R’s?
Currently we use the 24-hour load bay as a receiving lane only which has worked very well. However, this will change in the near future. The growers of tomorrow continue to demand more and this allows us to offer any liquid product picked-up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – fitting right into the 4R model.
- Have you seen an increase in your micronutrient needs?
Yes. For this reason, the placement of our micro bins being located in our dry building has been ideal. The opportunity to offer additional products helps us create unique and distinctive mixes for a specific crop. In return, our producers see bigger yields.
- How has consolidating your agronomy product line to one centralized agronomy center benefitted both your member-owners and Key Cooperative?
For years, the Grinnell area had been serviced by surrounding Key Cooperative locations. Product would flow into the Grinnell area from several locations; each nearing their operational capacity to serve not only their own customers but the growing Grinnell area as well. Our member-owners immediately experienced the benefit of a centralized agronomy facility and we felt the reduced pressure on our other locations. The expansion was deliberate – to avoid Key Cooperative assets in multiple locations wearing out and for member-owner efficiencies, product availability and cost reduction.
- Has the consolidation helped with your inventory control?
Though inventory is always a challenge, we have a very good inventory program. The new agronomy center allows us to manage our inventory in a way we’ve never done – by serving as the hub for multiple locations. Reconciling one facility as opposed to multiple each week offers our team an endless list of efficiencies.