Facilities for the future
In early November, construction was making progress at West Central AGRIServices in Adrian, Mo., where an extensive building project will greatly increase grain storage, unloading and loading capacity. This view shows the conveying tunnel taking shape on what will be the site of three new concrete grain silos.
Dr. Jason Weirich, MFA vice president of Agri Services, describes the new infrastructure investments during MFA Incorporated’s fall employee meetings. The projects will be funded with both capital expenditures and long-term debt.
This rendering shows what the Adrian facility will look like when the rebuilding and expansion project is complete. With insurance money and MFA capital investments, the construction will cost a total of around $14 million.
Three significant capital expenditure projects are underway that company leaders say will improve MFA’s commitment to customer partnering and help the cooperative maintain a leading position in our trade territory.
In Nodaway and Lafayette counties, MFA plans to build brand-new, state-of-the-art agronomy centers that will serve as a service hub for row-crop producers in the surrounding areas. In addition, construction is now taking place to rebuild, expand and upgrade the grain facilities at West Central AGRIServices in Adrian, Mo.
“As we look at the future for MFA, we identified those three locations as being key to our retail operations,” said Dr. Jason Weirich, MFA Incorporated vice president of Agri Services. “These projects will help MFA meet the needs of growers in these highly productive areas. They will be important assets for the company going forward and momentum we can build on.”
The MFA Incorporated Board of Directors approved funding for these growth projects during the September board meeting. MFA ended its 2021 fiscal year with a pre-tax profit of $23.5 million, a substantial figure that not only allows the cooperative to recover from a couple of tough financial years but also allocate resources to improve operations. MFA Incorporated’s 2022 plan includes $15.1 million in capital expenditures for operations in addition to $3.5 million for the Adrian rebuild project.
“As we have great years like 2021, we get the opportunity to invest back in the business,” Weirich said. “These facilities will be equipped with automation, computers and technology that will help our team be more efficient and make better use of our assets.”
The northwest Missouri agronomy center will be positioned near Ravenwood, just outside Maryville. It will feature a high-speed 6,500-ton fertilizer plant, ag chemical building and centralized seed treatment warehouse. The fertilizer plant will be a high-volume throughput system with a modular declining-weight blender. The ag chem facility will be a fully automated precision system to mix products for MFA custom applicators as well as offer custom mixing for customers. It will be capable of bulk liquids, bulk dry, mini bulk liquids, dry flowable and micro ingredients.
“This is a greenfield site, which means it’s undeveloped—there’s nothing on it today,” Weirich said. “So we’ll be starting fresh with this facility.”
The other new agronomy center will be located on the site of the existing MFA Agri Services bulk plant at Higginsville and will support the entire River Valley Group. The modern, 14,000-ton fertilizer plant will be equipped similarly to the Ravenwood facility with the ability to deliver highly accurate, multi-product fertilizer blends. When complete, it will be the largest bulk fertilizer plant in the MFA system.
Weirich said the facilities at Ravenwood and Higginsville will be agronomy service hubs for current MFA retail locations, which will likely see some changes in their business operations as a result. To gain greatest efficiencies, the plans call for consolidations of equipment, people and assets.
“Our Northwest and River Valley groups have been very profitable for MFA, but they’ve been running 1960s- and ’70s-era facilities,” Weirich said. “These new infrastructure investments will bring MFA into the 21st century in those areas.”
Both the Ravenwood and Higginsville projects are expected to be up and running by the fall of 2022.
At MFA’s Adrian location, construction plans go well beyond replacement of the grain-handling facilities that were destroyed by an explosion on Dec. 31, 2020. The project will vastly increase capacity for unloading, storing and shipping grain from the facility.
In the rebuilding phase, which is now underway, improvements include a new dump shed, hopper and drag and new grain legs that increase capacity from 23,000 bushels per hour in the old system to 90,000 bushels per hour. The rail loadout capacity is doubling, from 20,000 to 40,000 bushels per hour, which will decrease car loading time from about 12 minutes to 5½ minutes. The main truck receiving pit will also increase from a 900-bushel to 1,300-bushel capacity, cutting unload time in half.
Among other improvements, three new concrete grain silos will add 1.2 million bushels in storage space, taking total elevator capacity to 2.5 million bushels. In addition, the grain dryer is being upgraded from 1,000 bushels per hour to 5,000 bushels per hour with a fully automated continuous flow system served by its own wet and dry legs. New truck scales, intercom system and ticket printer have also been installed, making the loading and unloading process more efficient for drivers.
The construction at Adrian is on track to be completed by the summer of 2022.
“I’m excited to see this next step in our business come to fruition,” said Dale Guss, Adrian Agri Services manager. “We’ve been in a steady growth pattern for many years until the volumes caught up with our capacity. When we got into soybean harvest, our storage space was waning fast, and rail loadout capacity was slow. Customers either went to competitors to unload grain or stopped the combines to wait on us, leaving crops standing in the field into the winter months. We have always said that our job is to keep combines running.”
Overall, the strategic goal of these intensive infrastructure projects is to bring better service to MFA customers and increase efficiency for company operations in their respective regions, Weirich said.
“There’s a real opportunity here,” he said. “We’re thrilled to see MFA move in the right direction to make long-term investments that will help us better serve our producers well into the future.” “
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