As one of the nation’s CropLife 100 ag retailers, Asmus Farm Supply (AFS) has spent most of its 50-plus years in the agricultural business catering primarily to the crop protection products marketplace. In fact, according to the company’s own sales data in the 2015 CropLife 100 report, just shy of three-quarters (73%) of AFS’ annual revenues come from this sector of the business.
But in recent years, however, more and more of AFS’ business has fallen into the fertilizer category. In particular, says Co-Owner Harlan Asmus, liquid fertilizer has become an important part of the company’s customer base. It was for this reason that AFS recently extended its operations in its native Rake, IA, to include a standalone liquid fertility facility just a few miles down the road from its main outlet.
“Our business model is one that services self-applied growers,” says Harlan. “And we realized several years ago that the demand for plant nutrition products applied by our customers was increasing, and would continue to do so over the next couple of years.”
But simply catering to this need was only part of the equation. According to Co-Owner Amy Asmus, one of the guiding principles for AFS through the years has been a commitment to forming partnerships, both with its customers and suppliers. For evidence of this, she points to the extensive training room housed within AFS’ main office building. “Why do we have a training room?” says Amy. “Because we have to help train our agronomists and partners to keep them up-to-date on the latest production methods that are out there. Otherwise, who will?”
In addition, adds Harlan, AFS considered what kinds of crop nutrition products would be required to satisify the needs of its grower-customers. “We also realized that we would need to offer not only basic products such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to customers, but such things as biologicals and micronutrients as well,” he says. “It was then we realized to properly do this, AFS would need to have a new liquid fertilizer facility to custom blend mixtures for our partners.”
The Facility Takes Shape
AFS officially broke ground on its new liquid fertilizer plant in September 2013. By the following April, it was ready to start delivering products to customers. To design and operate the plant, AFS received aid and materials from several sources including Kahler Automation.
“The plant was designed to house multiple ingredients with heated storage indoor and some outdoor storage and bring them together in a computerized fashion,” says Harlan. “This would allow our customers and operators to blend all these crop nutrition components efficiently, accurately, and safely.”
Just as important to the plant’s overall make-up, says Amy, was the selection of the crop nutrition products being offered to customers, like those from trusted suppliers such as AgroLiquid. “We always want to offer good, quality products to our customers and not something that could turn into Swiss cheese in some of their equipment,” she says. “That’s not something a good partner would do to someone who trusts them.”
In operation, the AFS liquid fertilizer plant can load up to two tankers at a time in each of its loading bays. Various weighing systems and flow meters are employed to help regulate the products being dispensed accordingly.
“When a customer wants a product, the recipe for these crop nutrients is entered into a computer in the facility, and then this goes out to the storage tanks and pulls the required amount that’s needed,” says Harlan. “This mix is then pre-blended on-the-fly and then prepared to load into the waiting tanker or nurse tank. When running at full speed, the system can load up to 700 gallons of blended crop nutrition products per minute.”