Special Edition: Feed Production Technology

Kent capital investments focus on improved technology

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© Kent Nutrition Group
© Kent Nutrition Group

Related tags Investment

Efficiency, safety and product consistency are among the focuses for a series of ongoing capital investments for Kent Nutrition Group, says VP.

Among the capital projects is an expansion of the Deluxe Feeds feed mill in Sheldon, Iowa, the company said. That project was announced last week.

The investment in automation and technology is a reflection of the company’s priorities, said Mike Gauss, vice president of operations with Kent Nutrition Group. The changes will automate several currently manual processes like operating a mixing system or running a pellet mill.  

“Automation and efficiency are important for us and how those tie to quality,”​ he told FeedNavigator. “A dedication to quality – it’s how we’re driven as a company.”

Advances in automation and control technology can be used to improve product consistency and traceability along with reducing the potential for operator error, he said. “Each product can be made the same way each time,”​ he added.

Additionally, the focus on automation may help reduce the need for employees to do repeated tasks and provide more safety around facility equipment, he said. Safety remains a top priority for the company and equipment access for product sampling and maintenance will be among the expected improvements in daily operations.

Previous technology and facility investments at other company locations include new bagging scales, automation controls, automatic bag hangers and an expansion of packaging options to meet customer requests, he said. Other efforts have included improving the flexibility regarding handling alternative feed ingredients to meet customer needs.    

A current part of the effort includes an expansion to the company’s facility in Sheldon, Iowa, the company said. The site was included in Kent Nutrition Group’s acquisition of Deluxe Feeds. The group is a division of Kent Corporation.

“We’ve identified it as a large area of opportunity for us,”​ said Gauss. “So we’ve been considering how do we want to expand in that market, and what do we want that to look like? That led to the purchasing of Deluxe Feeds.”

Sheldon facility upgrades and market focus

kent mill plan

The site expansion includes new technology and the construction of a 50,000 square-foot warehouse, the company said.

The expansion is expected to take about 18 months and position the company for future growth, said Gauss. “We’re excited to grow our market share and production to meet our customers’ needs and requests,”​ he added.

“Overall capital investment has expanded significantly in the last 5 years and the expansion of the Sheldon facility is one of the largest investments that Kent has made,” ​hesaid. “It is a very large investment of capital dollars – we’re looking to have a top of the line feed mill that can service our customers well.”

The facility will continue to produce feeds for several different species including beef and dairy cows, swine and poultry, he said. It also will have the ability to adapt to serve area markets.

The renovations to the site will be making use of the current mixing system and fully automatic micro-table, he said. It also will bring in new equipment to improve particle classification, screen products prior to bagging and to package value-added commodities like steam flaked corn or soybeans.

The feed mill will continue to have two different production lines as a quality control measure, and is adding five pellet mills, said Gauss. “Having two completely separate lines will allow us to bolster our quality control and have more flexibility with our production,”​ he added.

“From a packaging stand point, we’re increasing the bulk load out capacity, which should help our customers and allow us to have feed at the ready when they need it,”​ he said.

“The facility is set to have a series of servo-driven bagging scales along with automatic bag hangers, robotic palletizers and automatic toting capabilities to offer super-sacked feeds,”​ he said.

Ingredients for the feed products are set to be sourced from the local region when possible, said Gauss. “We have significant grain storage at the site in Sheldon – which provides us excellent local product sourcing and storage,”​ he added.  

The additional automation will mean that the facility operates more efficiently, he said. When complete, production times could be reduced by as much as 75%.

“It will really expand our market and market share,” ​he said. “Our Sioux City [facility] is at capacity and the efficiencies will give us that extra capacity to grow in that market.”

When the expansion and renovation is complete, the site is expected to serve producers in northwestern Iowa, southwestern Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota and along the Interstate-29 corridor including northeastern Nebraska, he said. The location includes a truck fleet that allows it to serve customers at a greater distance.

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