The continued growth of precision agriculture has increased farmer use of customized fertilizer blends best-suited for their soil conditions. Several CHS (No. 6 on the 2016 CropLife Top 100 rankings) co-ops have opened new operations in North and South Dakota with high-capacity fertilizer handling equipment to keep pace with this demand.
CHS Dakota Plains Ag began fertilizer operations in April at its new facility in Gwinner, ND. That facility replaces three others that had limited capacity and is strategically located to better serve the co-op’s 1,800 farmer-owners.
CHS South Central co-op also began operations this spring at a new facility in Sterling, ND. Serving about 1,200 farmer-owners, it provides additional capacity to supplement production at its two other regional operations in Kintyre and Napoleon, North Dakota.
Full-site material handling equipment from GSI’s InterSystems brand (AGCO owned) supports both co-ops’ fertilizer operations, each with 15,000 tons capacity, by combining high-speed efficiency and high product quality.
At both facilities, a leg and conveying system receives incoming product via truck and rail at the rate of 1,200 tons per hour. A tripper conveyor uses a remote-operated laser guidance system to distribute fertilizer into selected storage bins. Both systems also include a conditioning process to remove any lumps or other irregularities, assuring a smooth product flow. Other features include a 250-ton capacity blending tower and high-speed output and loading of either straight fertilizer products or customized blends.
“We are seeing more demand for different types of blended fertilizer that dovetails with farmers’ precision ag practices,” said Dennis Novacek, general manager of CHS Dakota Plains Ag. “Customized blends enable growers to maximize yield on the parts of their field that produce well and not over-fertilize soil that doesn’t.”
The combination of more physical space and high capacity are important advantages at the Gwinner site. “The window for spring planting is very compressed,” Novacek noted. “At the rate fertilizer product goes out, we need the floor space to have enough product on hand when planting season starts in order not to run out. And with our high efficiency, farmer trucks are not sitting in line to get loaded.”
Nate Reznechek, GSI’s crop nutrient equipment sales manager, noted that the blend tower at CHS Dakota Plains Ag is new technology and a first of its kind in that it includes two towers (retail and wholesale) combined into one single tower.
“This technology saves several hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital expenses, without sacrificing throughput speeds or blend quality, while servicing two load-out lanes simultaneously,” he explained. “It’s a win-win for the growers and the co-op. We expect to see additional customers adopting this new technology as the industry strives to provide more service to their customers on tighter budgets.”
In September, the Gwinner location expects to begin receiving grain at its grain terminal operation that will include 2.5 million bushels of grain storage capacity and high-speed (60,000 bushels per hour) grain loading onto 110-car shuttle trains.
Ed Mallett, vice president of CHS Country Operations Midwest region, cited similar fertilizer operational benefits for CHS South Central in Sterling, North Dakota, and its members.
“Meeting production demands that help our customers be more efficient now and for future growth is paramount,” he said. “These high-capacity systems enable us to serve our owners in a timely way, not only in providing basic nutrients, but also by helping them to drive more revenue per acre by blending micronutrients they may have overlooked in the past.”
Another feature Mallett likes is the ability to add N/Edge to the production process, which helps urea fertilizer to volatilize less quickly. He also believes the ability to rapidly unload product to 65- to 85-train shuttles gives the co-op a competitive edge in a challenging industry.
Other new CHS facilities that opened this spring with InterSystems brand equipment are located in Killdeer, ND; Lemmon, SD; and Clinton, MN. Another is scheduled to open this fall in Colton, SD.
The GSI crop nutrient portfolio now also includes Willmar spreaders and tenders. Following a million-dollar investment by parent company AGCO in GSI’s Omaha production facility, Willmar products are now engineered and manufactured alongside the InterSystems brand of dry fertilizer material handling equipment.