TO meet the demand of the ever-changing agricultural world, the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) recently embarked on an initiative to update the NCI Feed Production Center, a feed mill created and funded in 1990 to be a platform for the education and hands-on training of domestic and international feed manufacturers and to provide feed for North Dakota State University's animals.
NCI, located on the North Dakota State campus, is a collaborative effort among North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota to support the promotion and market development of crops grown in the four-state region.
Each year, NCI offers 12-15 courses in a variety of different areas, including baking, pasta production, extrusion, milling, grain procurement, food safety and feed manufacturing.
The first NCI course was held in the fall of 1983. Since then, 133 nations have visited the center, and in the last five years alone, 186 feed manufacturers from 16 countries were educated at the establishment.
NCI felt that it was time to upgrade its systems to provide a better educational experience for visitors. Thanks to a group of businesses and additional funding provided by state legislatures and commodity checkoffs, the feed mill expects to have the renovation completed before a feed manufacturing team from China visits this summer.
"When the customers come here and we train them, we have a world-class facility, and it's important that we maintain a state-of-the-art facility," NCI director Mark Weber said.
Weber explained that the center receives its funding through the state legislatures of the four collaborating states and commodity checkoffs. Additional funding and equipment are provided by private companies, while land-grant universities from the four states provide research for educational purposes.
Weber noted that NCI is not a research facility but was created to ultimately promote products.
He explained that in "this four-state region, we lead the nation in the production of about 15 crops. We don't teach farmers how to grow the crops, but, rather, we teach our customers how to utilize the crops in an effort to sell more of the crops grown in the region."
NCI also provides troubleshooting for companies that buy the products and does test processing for both large and small companies that are unable to do it at their own facilities.
Weber explained that the middle-income sector is growing worldwide, and with that, people are demanding better diets, more protein and convenience.
"We see those as great opportunities for our crops and especially our feed crops," he said.
In an effort to meet the growing demand from other countries, particularly Asia, Weber said the feed mill needs modernization.
Weber and Dr. Kim Koch, manager of the NCI Feed Production Center, spent two weeks in Southeast Asia to assess what customers there needed for educational programming. The planned renovation targets those particular needs.
"As they want more protein in their diet, they are going to demand more meat, milk and eggs," Weber explained. "That means livestock and aquaculture; those very industries need corn, soybeans and (soybean) meal."
Weber noted that China is the number-one consumer of poultry in the world, yet the average per capita consumption there is only 10 lb. per year versus American consumers who eat 100 lb. of poultry per person per year. This shows the huge potential for growth in other countries and aligns well with the mission and vision of NCI.
The private industry has really helped the progress of the project. A total of 13 companies have donated equipment so far, and Weber said they are the reason this project will be completed.
Scott Equipment Co., APEC Automated Process Equipment Corp., Essmueller Co., Interstates Control System Inc., Endress+Hauser Inc., Seedburo Equipment Co., Border States Industries Inc., Rockwell Automation, Bliss Industries, Viking Pump, InterSystems, Industrial Fabrication Systems and T.E. Ibberson Co. all contributed equipment or software that will allow the center to promote a state-of-the-art facility. Weber added that, besides the equipment, T.E. Ibberson also was very instrumental in the project's progression.
Establishments like NCI provide a promising outlook for the future and growth of global agriculture. The support it receives from companies, government and commodity groups shows that it is truly making an impact.