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New fertilizer hub stands tall in its field
By DAVE BLOWER JR.
Farm World Editor

SCIRCLEVILLE, Ind. — If it truly takes a lot of fertilizer to grow something really big, then perhaps that is the reason the new Co-Alliance fertilizer hub in rural Clinton County, Ind. stands so tall. Co-Alliance LLP, headquartered in Danville, Ind., is a partnership of four Indiana cooperatives: Midland Co-op, Frontier Co-op, Impact Co-op and LaPorte Co-op.

At five-stories high, the $3.9 million facility can store more than 24,000 tons of fertilizer. The largest bin will contain 14,000 tons of potash. The storage area will also include 7,200 tons of phosphate and another 3,000 tons of nitrogen. All of the product will be run through a conditioner before reaching the overhead bins.

“We can serve six or seven of our agronomy locations directly out of the hub and straight to the farm,” said Co-Alliance Agronomy Manager Phil Brewer. “It will improve our efficiency.”

The ability to move the product is crucial. This is where the facility’s new technology will be used.

The fertilizer hub is a totally automated system, which can unload 800 tons of product per hour from railroad cars. The rail pit will hold 12 tons of fertilizer. There is also a truck dump to the south of the rail pit. A 68-foot leg with 36-inch-wide belts feed the leg.

“The efficiencies are tremendous,” Brewer said. “It used to take us 1-4 hours to unload one (railroad) car of fertilizer, now with this system, it takes us about seven minutes to unload a car.”

Using what Brewer called a state-of-the-art operation, the hub is capable of receiving 65 railroad cars at one time.

“I’ve been working on this - in theory - for five years,” Brewer said. “The reasons for it were real.”

He said there were three driving factors behind the decision to construct the new Clinton County facility:

•A growing consumer demand for fertilizer
•The ability to buy and store bulk product
•Consumer desire for a facility where customers could get in and out quickly

“This is going to help both our retail and wholesale business,” Brewer said.

Co-Alliance has a wholesale agreement with Mosaic.

Outside the facility, there is another leg that can load 250 tons of fertilizer per hour. The pit for that leg can hold a maximum of seven tons.

In the blend tower, there are four 50-ton bins and two 12-ton blenders. The tower can process 24 tons in six minutes.

In the wholesale tower, the hub has four 37.5-ton bins. It can load 26 tons of fertilizer in four minutes and 30 seconds.

There are two lanes inside the hub for customers to load product into their trucks. Brewer said farmers who wish to purchase fertilizer can call an order in, drive-through the lane and leave for the farm within minutes. He explained that the hub is so well automated that it will take only three employees to operate.

“Our growers want to be assured of an adequate supply of product,” Brewer said. “They want to be in and out within minutes, and they also want the economy only made possible when a supplier buys in bulk and has the ability to store product.”

Brewer said the reasons for building the new hub have been apparent for years, but the process of such a large and costly building project has been a challenge.

“I’ve gone through the roller coaster,” he said. “I was excited that the project was getting started; I was discouraged as could be six months into it, and now I’m back to being excited about it getting up and running.”

Brewer was pleased with the recent grand opening event for the Scircleville hub, which invited area farmers and ag businesses. He said more than 300 people attended the open house and toured the facilities.

Brewer is one of two agronomy managers for Co-Alliance; the other is Mark Baldwin, who works the company’s southern territory. Gordy Barnet will manage the Scircleville fertilizer hub, and he can be reached at 765-249-5094.

For more information about Co-Alliance and its new hub, call 1-800-525-0272 or visit the company’s website at www.co-alliance.com

This farm news was published in the March 15, 2006 issue of Farm World.

3/15/2006