A new 40-foot structure will rise south of town at the Great Bend Co-op facility over the next few month. Last Wednesday, the Great Bend Co-op broke ground on what will become a 4,000 ton dry shed. The new shed will increase their capacity to six times its current size when completed. They will continue to use the existing 800 ton shed in the meantime.
“We pumped the floor in last Wednesday night,” said Mike Sharkey with Sharkey Construction, one of the local businesses picked for the build. “We started at 2:45 a.m., and poured 310 yards, and finished about noon the next day.” Sharkey says the cement work will be completed in about three weeks, and then Ellinwood’s Justin Joiner with Joiner Construction will do the wood construction.
The new system will include a declining weight system which is more efficient than the current system. It will include separate bins for different nutrients, six for macro- and three for micronutrients. When a farmer comes in with his specific analysis to be blended, the operator will program in the information and the components will be metered into an augering system where the nutrients will be blended, Agronomy Manager Marvin Rose said..
The whole project is expected to cost $1.75 million.
“We cannot keep up with what we are doing right now,”he said. “If we run on Saturday and Sunday, we’re out of fertilizer Monday and Tuesday. If we don’t even gain any other business, we’ve at least addressed the problem that we weren’t meeting the customer’s needs.
Currently, they sell 10,000 tons of fertilizer annually, Rose said. For every one ton they put in their shed, they turn it over 21 times. By building a 4,000 ton building, they hope to turn it over three times.
Converting to dry
“We think that when you build it, business will come,” he said. “Some of that business may come from new customers, and some may come from current customers converting over to dry fertilizer from liquid anhydrous.”
Farmers might consider converting because the high market prices for grain are offering some pretty strong incentives for finding ways to increase yields the fastest and least expensive ways available, Rose said.. Overseas markets are seeing they might have a better chance of selling their nutrients here in the United States, which is driving the price of dry fertilizer down, making it less expensive than anhydrous, Gabriel Polson, assistant agronomy manager explained.
Anhydrous is expensive and labor intensive to apply, Rose said. With the popularity of strip-till farming on the rise, more farmers are considering the switch. The conversion will mean higher volumes of fertilizer going out, though. To replace 200 units of anhydrous, farmers need to mix 435 dry fertilizer to get the same analysis on their fields.
The new system will speed up the time it takes producers to have product mixed and loaded, as well as increase the accuracy of the blend, Polson said. Now, one full-time worker trained to operate the mixer and fill will be able to work from an iPad, and everything will now be more precise. With the old system, you had to depend on the person filling the order for the accuracy of the mixing ratios. They had to eyeball it. Now, they will be able to get the precision down to the 5lb mark, which will improve reliability for the grower and increase production.
“Our main goal is to help the farmer grow enough food to feed the world, and every year, more people are here and the land available to farm gets more scarce,” Rose said. “We have to do all we can to improve efficiency and build a relationship with farmers, or they can go elsewhere--on the internet even, to get what they need.”
The plant is expected to be operational by November 1, Rose said. This means they will miss the fall rush for fertilizing for wheat.
“We’re still excited because we see it out there and it gives us hope,” he said.