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Minnesota's Ag Innovation Campus in Crookston taking shape

The goal of the Ag Innovation Campus is to crush about 8,000 bushels of soybeans per day, which would amount to about 2.5 million bushels annually.

In this artist's rendition, a truck drives by circular bins.
Ag Innovation Campus in Crookston is scheduled to start crushing soybeans in March 2023.
Contributed / Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council
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CROOKSTON, Minn. — The Ag Innovation Campus in Crookston is closing in on completion of exterior construction.

Construction of the concrete shell of the building that will house oilseeds crushing equipment is completed, driveways and the load-in and load-out building are being built and the interior plumbing and electrical work will soon begin, said Tom Slunecka, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council CEO.

The goal of the Ag Innovation Campus is to crush about 8,000 bushels of soybeans per day, which would amount to about 2.5 million bushels annually.

Ground was broken on the plant, located on 10 acres in southwest Crookston, in October 2020 and dirt work began in April 2021.

Slunecka hopes that the plant will be ready to ramp up in March 2023. The soybeans that will be crushed at the Ag Innovation Campus will be purchased from local elevators and marketed to the livestock industry within a 60-mile radius of Crookston. Sometime down the road, Ag Innovation Campus plans to offer contracts to individual farmers.

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The 2.5 million bushels of soybeans that AIC estimates it will process annually would approximately represent the production of 61,000 acres of Minnesota and North Dakota soybeans.

In 2021, a drought year, Minnesota soybean production totaled 356.3 million bushels, and production in Polk County, where the plant will be built, was 7.6 million bushels, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department's National Agricultural Statistics Service. The previous year, U.S. soybean production was 369 million bushels and Minnesota farmers produced 11.3 million bushels of soybeans.

In North Dakota, farmers produced 181.6 million bushels of soybeans in 2021, a year in which the crop was reduced by drought. North Dakota 2020 soybean production was 193.8 million bushels, the statistics service said.

Potential customers of the soybeans that are crushed at the plant include an existing dairy and three dairies and a swine facility that are in the planning stage in the area targeted by Ag Innovation Campus, Slunecka said.

The total cost of the Ag Innovation Campus, which will be built in three phases, will be nearly $25 million, which is significantly higher than the original estimate of $5 million. The cost increase is the result of a dramatic increase in material costs.

The 2019 Ag Omnibus bills provided $5 million in funding and the 2022 Minnesota Legislature approved an additional $750,000. The remainder of the funding will be from bank loans, commodity organizations and individuals, Slunecka said.

Eventually, Ag Innovation Campus, besides soybeans, will crush specialty oilseeds, such as canola, and hopes to build additional research bays for private industries, universities and commodity organizations. The crushing plant plans to have as many as 70 employees when fully operational.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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