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Soybean processing plant goes high-tech

PROSPER, N.D. -- Prompted by rapid growth over the last decade, Peterson Farms Seed has built a new, high-tech soybean processing plant at its headquarters in Prosper.

Jessie Hendrickson, processing supervisor, describes Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, how the gravity sorter works at Peterson Farms Seed in Prosper, N.D.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Carl Peterson talks Oct. 26, 2015, in his company’s state-of-the-art soybean processing plant in Prosper, N.D. )Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service)

PROSPER, N.D. -- Prompted by rapid growth over the last decade, Peterson Farms Seed has built a new, high-tech soybean processing plant at its headquarters in Prosper.

"Our total focus is to put the best quality product we can into our customers' hands," said Carl Peterson, the company's president.
The plant features the latest in soybean processing technology, he said. A full automation control system monitors the flow process and bin levels, and operates the machinery.
"This allows our operators to focus more on efficiency and then quality settings rather than worrying about answering high/low alarms all day," said Jessie Hendrickson, Peterson Farms Seed processing supervisor. "It gives us that step up where we can just worry about how the plant's running."
An air screener removes foreign matter like chaff and pods. Two decks make sure the beans are uniform in size. And an air chamber creates a wind tunnel effect to catch and remove chipped, split, flatter beans and leftover chaff.
"As the beans go through the process, we're looking for nice, round, heavy beans," Hendrickson said.
From there, the beans move to a color sorter where digital, high-definition cameras examine individual seeds to compare them against established color parameters. When the machines are running at capacity, they examine about 50,000 beans a second, Peterson said. Seeds that don't meet the criteria are blasted away with a shot of air.
"It's helped us be able to accept certain lots that sometimes we'd have to reject with the old facility," Hendrickson said. "It gives us that wider variety and higher efficiency."
Next, the beans travel to gravity separation tables where they are further separated based on density to remove split, chipped or diseased beans, which are lighter.
"The most important thing to know about quality seed is you throw more away, so if your crew is on a mission to keep your clean-out rates low because you're worried about dollars and cents, you're not going to produce the highest quality seed," Peterson said. "Our guys are tasked with one thing and one thing only -- high quality -- and that means we throw more away."
Throwing more away is more expensive, Peterson said, but it also means the company sells higher-quality beans. Careful handling is also important to maintaining 94 percent germination rates, he said, so soybeans are moved by belt conveyors instead of augers and the seeds are not dropped more than 6 feet during processing.
The new plant more than doubled the amount of seed that can be processed, conditioning 1,000 to 1,200 bushels an hour -- about a semi-load of soybeans.
"Having this much larger, more technologically advanced facility gives us the ability to do it the way we really want to do it to make sure we're able to take the time we need to make sure that every lot of seed is the highest quality that we can," Peterson said. "Having that extra capacity makes it possible to run slower so that we can get the quality that we want."
The plant opened in mid-March, but wasn't finished. It ran a few weeks in the spring and then started full force last month. It was fully operational in time for this season's soybean harvest.
Peterson Farms Seed is an independent, family-owned corn and soybean seed supplier founded in 1992. It sells seed to customers in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota, and contracts soybean production with farmers throughout the tri-state area.

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