By JAMES BELL
A little over a year since construction began Midland Marketing is set to open its newest grain elevator in Palco with a ribbon cutting set for 11 a.m. Monday.
The new stand-alone facility will hold over a million bushels of grain and will help the company increase its grain storage along with new technology that will create much-needed efficiencies in the rural area.
The company looked at expanding other facilities but found a new facility was the best option according to Anna Luna, Palco coordinator.
“After doing site surveys at our current facility, it wasn’t feasible for us to add on,” she said.
The new facility is expected to hold 500,000 bushels in the main elevator along with two 550,000 bushel bunkers at the site.
The land the site was built on was purchased two years ago after finding more storage was needed with area farmers diversifying their crops.
“Things have changed a lot in the farming community,” Luna said.
Up until the ’90s, farming in the area was primarily wheat, but new as new crops have become more favorable to area farmers, facilities have to change with the times.
“With that change, we found that we need to also add more storage,” Luna said.
In 2018 and 2016, the facility was forced to store grain on the ground after reaching capacity.
“That made it kind of interesting, especially last year when we piled on the ground and it was open to the rain and the snow,” Luna said. “We decided as a cooperative, our board of directors and our general manager, decided that it was time to add onto our storage.”
Generally, Luna said the company has expanded current facilities to hold more grain, but in this case building from scratch was the best option at the Palco location and the new facility will take some pressure off of other area facilities.
The need stems from a lot of grain coming from the western part of Rooks County and created a situation where milo was at on the ground at Palco after the facility at Zurich was at capacity, Luna said.
“We’re hoping to take a little pressure off that location,” Luna said, which coincidentally was the last new ground-up facility the company had constructed. “What is exciting about it, it is the first new facility that we have built since the 1980’s when we built the annex at Zurich.”
With building a new facility comes increased capacity, but they have also integrated features that will help the facility become faster and more efficient.
“We are really excited about all of the automation,” Luna said.
“The automation will be like, someone can stand in the control room and push a button and load a truck. It frees up a couple of people to go do other jobs that we have been short-handed in being able to accomplish.”
Faster loading and unloading will also be a key component of the facility.
The elevator will be able to move 20,000 bushels an hour, compared to the current facility that is limited at 8,000 per hour.
A conveyor at the bunkers will also be able to move 15,000 bushels an hour.
“Just the speed and efficacy of getting that farmer back to field is going to be great,” Luna said.
The capabilities of efficiency and automation free up a person that they are able to go and do something else means that we can have one person instead of multiple people moving grain she added.
“That helps a lot,” Luna said, noting the difficulty in rural areas to find employees and the growing lack of interest in working in their industry.
While the new facility is exciting for the company, residents of the small town have been keen on the new construction as well.
“It brings a little bit of excitement to this small community,” Luna said.