US: Minnesota invests $5m in new soy crush, research site

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/kirisa99
© GettyImages/kirisa99

Related tags Soybean meal

Market diversification, feed production and research into valued added processing of soy were some of the drivers for setting up a new soy crush and biodiesel production facility in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Epitome Energy, LLC, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota and the Agriculture Utilization Research Institute are partners on the intended Soy Innovation Campus project based at the University of Minnesota Crookston.

The initiative has just received $5m in state funding.

The soy crush, research and biodiesel production facility is anticipated to cost about $5m to $8m, said Tom Slunecka, CEO with Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. “Phase one of the project is really to build the small crush facility,”​ he told FeedNavigator. 

The current project timeline calls for the groundwork to start in late spring to August of 2020 and construction is expected to take about a year.

The small soybean crush facility will allow for research into new product development, including new feed ingredients, he said. 

Soybean producers in the northern part of the state predominately shipped their crop to China, he said. With the loss of that export market, there is a need to diversify the use of the feed crop.

The crushing facility will have the ability to work with conventional soybean production along with specialty strains like high oleic soybeans or that are non-GMO, explained Slunecka.

The initial research focus will be on different soy oils generated from crushing including specialty products like high oleic soy oil. “The high oleic will start to create value for soybean farmers in the area by giving them an outlet that is worth more than traditional soy.”

Soy center highlights

The location in Crookston was chosen following a feasibility study, said Slunecka.

The 60-acre space has access to the interstate and highways along with rail infrastructure, according to project information.

However, it also provides access to students attending the University of Minnesota Crookston, said Slunecka.

“Students [undertaking] the processing degree at the University of Minnesota will be able to use the facility,” ​he said. The idea is to have an experienced workforce in relation to soybean processign.

The plant will include a classroom and a viewing window into the production space, he said.  

The site will also house a 30m gallon biodiesel and extraction operation along with mechanical extraction facilities and specialty oil refining tools, according to project information.

The facility will be operated by a non-profit entity, so the majority of profits would be returned to the production site, Slunecka said.

Larger crush facility

In addition to the small crush facility, a second, larger soy crush site is planned on the same campus footprint, said Slunecka. That facility is set to be built and run by Epitome Energy.

The company is currently fundraising for the larger plant, which is slated to be operational in about three years.

“The large crush [plant] will produce a lot of feed for the region,”​ he said

While it is being constructed, the smaller site will be in operation and will enable researchers to weigh up other technologies related to soy processing, he said. 

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