Upgrades in the technology used in the new grain shuttle facility near Frankfort, Kansas mean that the entire feed grain management and rail facility can operate with minimal oversight, said Ron Velder, general manager with the Farmers Cooperative.
The cooperative works in Kansas and Nebraska and offers services in grain, feed, energy and agronomy, it said.
“One person can run the whole facility,” Velder told us. The increase in automation for the facility means that it is less expensive to operate, he added.
However, this is not the first time the group has sought to use newer technology, he said. “This is our sixth train loader, [so] we kind of understand the process,” he said.
“It’s come along way,” he said of the equipment involved. “It’s like anything else with computers; they continue to upgrade them to make things easier. When they make new packages, it’s pretty well updated for what it is today.”
The new site is set to have a public opening next week, but has already started to process loads of grain, he said. “It is a way for the local people to walk through and give them an opportunity to see it,” he added.
After deciding on the location, it took about 18 months to complete construction on the grain shuttle facility, he said.
“There’s a void there,” he said. “The grain was being trucked a long way.”
In addition to the grain shuttle facility near Frankfurt, the cooperative also has another train loading facility about 45 miles west, he said. But, the new site is expected to offer more competitive grain pricing to the area.
Facility details and market
It took about three years to find the best site for the new grain shuttle facility, said Velder. It can be challenging to find a location that meets all requirements.
To locate a grain shuttle facility, the site needed to offer about 300 acres, be near a good trade area and be close to existing rail lines, he said.
“You have to have access to the mainline track,” he said. “And to find that, there aren’t too many places.”
The facility will offer cooperative members the ability to send feed grains, like corn, to anywhere that the Union Pacific rail line runs and take advantage of favorable markets, he said. “Whatever the best market is at the time we ship – it’s designed to go anyplace that the UP has track,” he added.
The facility will be able to run continuously if needed, said Velder. And, with the automated system is able to load about 110 rail cars in eight to 12 hours.
When the project is up to speed, if all six grain shuttle sites are in operation the group will have the ability to load 660 cars with about 2.64m bushels in about 15 hours, the cooperative reported.
The new site is expected to primarily work with corn, said Velder. It has the capacity for 3.2m bushels of storage in concrete tubes and a 1.1m bushel storage grain bunker.
The site also has a 7,500 bushel grain dryer, the cooperative reported.
“It has capacity to move a lot of grain [and is] pretty much unlimited in what it can do,” said Velder. However, how much it moves in a season or year likely will depend on several factors including crop size, he added.