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Grain center expansion: Dream it, build it!

Slideshow: Take a look behind the scenes of this year-long project.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

April 19, 2024

19 Slides

At a Glance

  • Tom Nugent knew what he wanted his new grain center expansion to accomplish for his farm.
  • He also envisioned different pieces he wanted, like a large, deep unloading pit.
  • Making it a reality took nearly a year from signing the contract with the builder to putting grain in the bin.

Tom Nugent and his son Thomas, Elnora, Ind., began putting ideas on paper for a grain center expansion as harvest wound down in 2022. They knew what they needed: more grain storage capacity and a larger unload pit so they could turn trucks around faster during harvest. And they even envisioned features they wanted, based on experience and knowledge about other grain bin setups.

“We contacted a builder in early November and signed the contract in December 2022,” Nugent recalls. “From then on, we spent lots of time talking with their staff and engineers. Sometimes they would say, ‘We have never done that before.’ After we explained it, they would figure out how to accomplish it.”

Work began in earnest in 2023. The Nugents used a tractor and dump trailer to haul roughly 100 loads of soil from a nearby hill to the bin site. “We did that portion of the project ourselves,” Nugent explains. “The area around the existing grain center sloped off, and it took lots of dirt to build it up.”

Year-long project

Construction continued throughout the summer of 2023 and into fall. “It wasn’t ready yet when harvest began, but we utilized the existing grain center while workers finished up,” Nugent says. “Then, we filled the new bin with dry grain after harvest. We’re confident everything will flow smoothly this fall.”

Related:Anatomy of a grain storage expansion project

Meanwhile, the Nugents continue adding finishing touches. “Just cleaning up after a project this size is a massive effort,” Nugent explains. “We’re going to improve water flow away from the site, so we don’t get soil erosion.

“We’re also deciding how to best finish the small room which houses electrical equipment. We may install a door so we can go directly into the bucket-elevator room. Those are finishing touches we can complete.”

Looking back, Nugent marvels at how things came together. “It’s a once-in-a-generation project — it’s not something you do every day,” he says. “While outside crews did most of the work except dirt moving, Thomas and I were involved during the entire process.

“I tracked progress by taking tons of pictures. And we were in contact with the foreman constantly. If something came up, we worked it out together. It was a huge investment, and we were only going to do it once. We wanted to make sure it was done right.”

At a glance: Expanding a grain center

Location: Tom Nugent farm, near Elnora, Ind.

Length of project: They signed the contract in December 2022, and the first grain went in the new bin in November 2023. Some finishing touches are still being added.

Bins and leg: A new 60-foot-by-15-ring bin holds 145,000 bushels. An 18-foot-by-16-ring hopper tank for wet corn holds 10,000 bushels. A 121-foot tower supports a bucket elevator that can move 8,000 bushels per hour.

Pit and building: The unload pit is 30 feet long, 10 feet wide and 12 feet deep, equipped with two 16-inch augers. Capacity is 1,300 bushels. An L-shaped building with overhead doors and automatic door openers encloses the pit, with one section housing the lower portion of the bucket elevator.

Unique features: The bucket elevator extends to the bottom of the pit, minimizing the incline required for augers and conveyors. Lights inside the unload pit help reduce shadows from the semi when unloading.

Dirt moved: The Nugents hauled in about 100 loads of soil for the base of the expansion — well in excess of 1,000 tons.

Concrete required: About 384 yards of concrete were poured. A pumper truck was used on five separate occasions. Precast concrete was used in a few key areas. Concrete alone accounted for nearly 13% of the cost of the project.

Electricity: Three-phase power was required. Electrical equipment, wiring and labor accounted for over 9% of the total project cost.

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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