Advancing Feed and Grain Science

a row of people wearing hardhats stand holding shovels

Ground was broken Sept. 13 for Iowa
State University’s new Kent Corporation
Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex.
Officials at the ceremony included, left to
right: Larissa Holtmyer Jones, president,
ISU Foundation; Daniel J. Robison, dean,
ISU College of Agriculture and Life
Sciences; Jim Rouse, executive director,
Iowa Crop Improvement Association; Gage
Kent, CEO, Kent Corporation; Roger Zylstra,
president, Iowa Corn Promotion Board;
Charles Sukup, president, Sukup
Manufacturing Co.; Jim Hughes, general
manager, CPM; and Wendy Wintersteen,
ISU President.

You can’t be a world leader in livestock production, as Iowa is, without also producing the feed to support the industry.

Over the past decade, commercial feed consumption within the state has doubled to 15 million tons. And feed mills throughout Iowa and the Midwest produce much of the corn and corn-based feed products for the pork, beef, dairy and poultry industries nationwide.

“The feed, grain and livestock sectors are key to the success of agriculture in Iowa,” says Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen. “As a top land-grant university, Iowa State is at the forefront of critical and cutting-edge research, education and extension programs that support these important sectors.”

Thanks to a teaching and research complex under construction near campus, Iowa State soon will take the lead in preparing in-demand professionals for the industry. On September 13, the university broke ground on the Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex. Wintersteen says the facility, “strengthens our ability to carry out our mission” by providing an advanced setting for teaching and research related to feed technology, grain science and animal nutrition, as well as for continuing education and extension.

“This complex will have a huge impact not only for the state of Iowa, but also for the agriculture industry as a whole,” says Mike Gauss, president of Kent Nutrition Group, a well-known provider of animal feed and food products that provided the naming commitment of $8 million in 2017. “Kent Corporation takes pride in partnering with institutions like Iowa State, which not only recognized that our industry had a need for a world-class feed and grain science complex but has brought forth a solution in response to this need.”

When the facility is completed in the summer of 2021, it will provide a learning center for students in majors such as animal science, agricultural biosystems engineering and agricultural business, as well as those pursuing a new minor in feed technology. The minor was developed by faculty in the agricultural and biosystems engineering department along with faculty in the animal science department – and debuted in fall 2019. Feed for animals housed at university teaching and research farms will be produced at the feed mill and grain science complex, and students and industry trainees will use the complex to learn how to keep the food system secure and sustainable.

“This partnership is about helping to build something great today, so we can continue to work together to advance the industry through the learning and research that will go on within it,” says Daniel J. Robison, holder of the Endowed Dean’s Chair in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We look forward to partnering with those who made such generous commitments to this project now and far into the future so our students and our faculty benefit – as well as the people in Iowa companies and communities.”

Located on approximately 10 acres of university-owned land southwest of the intersection of Highway 30 and State Avenue in Ames, the complex will include a feed mill tower, feed milling and mixing structures, grain storage and handling facilities to hold 180,000 bushels and a one-story classroom and laboratory building.

Leaders in the industry have generously partnered with Iowa State to bring the $21.2 million complex to fruition. In addition to Kent Corporation, other lead commitments for the project were provided by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, which committed $4 million; and Sukup Manufacturing Co., which committed $2 million of in-kind support.

Roger Zylstra, president of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, notes that the grain feed and livestock industry must continue to improve production and efficiency if it is to remain viable and competitive in the future, which requires having quality professionals to move into this important agricultural sector.

“This complex will fast-track our ability to train individuals entering the Iowa workforce,” Zylstra says. “It will also be a state-of-the-art venue to invite and host international trade teams, and will provide a competitive advantage for the U.S. in the global feed and grain industry.”

Charles Sukup agrees. “Our mission is to protect and preserve the grain that feeds the world. Key factors to our success as a company have been innovative ideas and our dedicated workforce,” says Sukup, president of Sukup Manufacturing Co., the largest family-owned, full-line grain drying and storage equipment manufacturer. “That’s why we are excited that Iowa State’s plans for the feed mill and grain science complex will focus on innovation in support of the grain and feed industries, education of the next generation and continuing education that helps our workforce and customers keep up to speed on the latest developments.”

Additional gifts include a $2.6 million commitment by California Pellet Mill (CPM) of Waterloo and a $1.5 million gift from the Iowa Crop Improvement Association. CPM, a leading supplier of animal feed processing equipment, is providing equipment for the complex.

“We are excited to support Iowa State’s new feed and grain technology minor and its new facility,” says Jim Hughes, general manager of the company. “Students from around the world will have leading-edge equipment and automation that will benefit them for many years to come.”

Jim Rouse, executive director of the Iowa Crop Improvement Association, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that serves as the official seed certifying organization for the state of Iowa, also sees the complex as a hub for expanding new opportunities related to plant science and seed science.

“Our commitment reflects part of our nonprofit mission to support education and research in these fields,” says Rouse. “This site will be important for students to explore many aspects of the crop, seed and grain industries, and for Iowans working in these industries to keep up-to-date through extension education and training.”