Work on the new feed mill is forecast to start in September, but a formal timeline has not been established, according to the university.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported that $6m has been raised for the $11m project.
The goal of replacing the university’s current feed mill is, in part, to provide a more modern training facility for students, said Chris Rudisill, feed mill operations manager at the University of Illinois.
“Our current feed mixing facility was built in about 1930 and modified in the 1950s, but it’s still an old facility,” he told FeedNavigator. “It works for what we do, but it’s not a modern facility.”
The mill continues to use technology that students would not see in a professional setting, he said. “Our facility is 85 years old and we’re using technology that doesn’t exist in the feed manufacturing facility currently – what they see in our facility isn’t what they see if they went from school to industry,” he added.
Changes in feed technology
Students working with the current feed mill may not get an accurate picture of how professional feed mills operate, said Rudisill. A concern is that students come looking to understand the new technology in feed mixing and having a modern facility would help meet that need.
“In terms of process automation and computerized equipment within the mixing process that’s changed quite a bit,” he said. “In a modern feed mill everything would be automated – ours is 100% by hand – there is no automation.”
Adding more automation in a new facility would improve efficiency and accuracy when mixing the batches of feed needed for animals on campus or feeding trials, he said. “Everything we do is by hand and transferred to the mixer by hand – what we’re working with is almost a living museum,” he added.
However, there is no intention at this time to keep the old facility once a new one is completed, he said. “The old feed mill has to be functional until the new one is functional and approved, which could take some time, but once it’s done – the area where we’re sitting is in the university research park.”
A new facility also could be closer to the university farms, which are farther south of campus, he said.
The proposed feed mill also is expected to bring more facility space, volume and options to feed production, he said. “Our facility is old, and it’s purpose built, there is not a lot of room for students to see what we do – a key component of the new facility will be making it accessible to see what is being done and see how feed goes from a kernel of corn to a bin on the swine farm,” he added.
“The idea is to add a little capacity so we’re capable of growing along with the other research groups in the department, and are meeting needs that are not yet anticipated and trying to do that and stay within reasonable means,” he said. “The other part will be adding new capabilities like pelleting and extrusion, which are processes we don’t currently have.”