INFRASTRUCTURE

New feed mill a gamechanger for Illinois animal nutrition industry

SOURCE: Shutterstock
The new mill will be capable of manufacturing over 8,000 tonnes of livestock feed per year.

Construction has finally kicked off on the long-awaited Feed Technology Center south of the University of Illinois’ (U of I) campus, heralding a new era for innovation in animal nutrition in Illinois.

The US$20 million state-of-the-art center for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) will replace the university’s aging 1920s-era feed mill on St. Mary’s Road. According to the Department of Animal Sciences, work on the facility will be led by ASI Industrial, based in Billings, Montana.

“The Feed Technology Center… will accelerate advancements and expand horizons in technology and scientific discovery in feed ingredient utilisation, new processing technologies, and improved efficiency of food production,” says Rodney Johnson, head of the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I.

“We’re very excited to get this project underway.”

feed mill
The Feed Technology Center project has been in the pipeline for more than two decades. Source: ASI Industria via University of Illinois College of ACES

The center is a project that’s over 25 years in the making. Despite being in the pipeline for decades, traditional funding strategies held progress back.

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But thanks to a novel public-private partnership deal similar to a lease-to-own arrangement, construction is finally underway.

“It’s been a long time coming, and I think this is a transformational moment for the College of ACES and animal sciences,” Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, says in The News-Gazette. “It took an incredible village of people to make this happen.”

Under the arrangement, the college is investing US$6 million as part of its commitment to the Illinois livestock industry. The remaining US$14 million for the facility will be funded via private contributions.

The arrangement was made following approval last fall by UI trustees for the feed mill, as well as campus instructional facility on Springfield Avenue in Champaign.

Both the mill and latter facility will be built and owned by Provident Foundation Inc., a nonprofit group that has contracted with lead developer Vermilion/Campbell Coyle. The projects will be paid via bonds issued via the Illinois Finance Authority. U of I will then pay rent to cover the annual bond payments and take ownership of the buildings once the payments are settled.

According to Kidwell, the US$6 million from the university will be used as “down payment” for the mill, whilst the remainder will be covered by private donations. Alltech, Inc. and the Illinois Farm Bureau have already committed to the project and Kidwell says the college was still raising funds to cover the cost.

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The university’s current feed mill located just south of State Farm Center manufactures some 6,000 tonnes of feed each year for livestock and research. The new facility, however, will be capable of delivering over 8,000 tonnes of “specialised small-batch research diets” per year, along with several other interdependent capabilities.

These will include:

  • production and storage of grain and forages;
  • storage of specialised diet ingredients;
  • precise diet formulations;
  • milling;
  • ingredient processing;
  • and pre-mixing, mixing, pelleting, extruding, crumbling, bagging, and delivery of animal diets for research.

Students, researchers across U of I and Illinois will be able to use the center to prepare and test animal feed ingredients, as well as to get hands-on experience on the latest food technologies. The center will also serve as a launchpad for larger projects aimed at advancing precision animal agriculture throughout the industry.

The university has also developed new undergraduate and graduate courses to expand its curriculum in animal nutrition and feed technology, including a possible new undergraduate concentration.

“The Feed Technology Center is a game-changing asset that will elevate our ability to conduct innovative research while training the next generation of experts in feed science and animal nutrition,” Kidwell says.

“This facility, along with increased capacity in precision animal management, will advance our capabilities to perform industry-relevant research designed to support food production while ensuring animal wellbeing.”