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Leaders cut ribbon on North America’s largest wheat protein plant

Amber Wave plant in Phillipsburg, Kan., will use 20 million bushels of wheat per year.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

August 17, 2022

5 Min Read
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly at the cutting the ribbon on the Amber Wave facility in Phillipsburg, Kan., Aug. 9
KELLY CUTS RIBBON: Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly spoke at the Amber Wave plant in Phillipsburg, Kan., as she joined other dignitaries in cutting a ribbon to open the plant Aug. 9. The existing Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy corn-based ethanol plant will be retrofitted to produce ethanol from wheat starch, and will include a new wheat mill and vital wheat gluten plant. The project is a $300 million investment that will create more than 60 new jobs in this northwest Kansas town. Jennifer M. Latzke

Massive change is coming to the north edge of Phillipsburg, Kan.

The former Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy corn-based ethanol plant is getting retrofitted and upgraded to become Amber Wave. Once finished, this $350 million project will be North America’s largest wheat protein plant, and it has the potential to change the future markets for wheat farmers in a 100-mile radius.

Dignitaries gathered Aug. 9 at Amber Wave to cut the ribbon on the plant, including Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; and Bruce Rastetter, founder and CEO of Summit Agricultural Group. Summit is Amber Wave’s parent organization.

Site selection

Rastetter took his Iowa farm-kid knowledge and made a career in the global agriculture and energy sectors. According to company literature, “Summit Agricultural Group is an agriculture and renewable energy business with farmland holdings across North and South America. The company supports capital investments with strategic private equity partnerships and manages agricultural assets, including extensive beef, pork and grain production facilities.”

Bruce Rastetter, founder and CEO of Summit Agricultural Group

Rastetter said it took six years of researching sites from Montana to the Columbia River Basin in Washington before they settled on Phillipsburg.

“It shouldn’t have taken us this long to figure out Kansas is the location,” he said with a grin. Instead of shipping unit trains of Kansas wheat to the Gulf and buyers overseas, Amber Wave is planning to create a market for that wheat in Phillipsburg, he added.

Wheat protein

“Today, 80% of vital wheat gluten is imported into the U.S.,” he said. That vital wheat gluten is used in baking, pet food and the growing aquaculture industries. Amber Wave plans to work with farmers to improve the protein in wheat they grow, to provide a local market that adds value to their commodity.

Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS,

Steve Adams, Amber Wave’s COO, spoke at the Wheat Rx meeting earlier in the day and told farmers that the facility will use 20 million bushels of wheat a year, sourced within 100 miles of the plant. And it will produce about 109 million pounds of vital wheat gluten, or wheat protein. The plant will first mill the wheat into flour, which will then be further processed to capture the gluten.

Amber Wave is retrofitting the existing Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy corn-based ethanol plant to produce ethanol from the water and starch left from the gluten process. Adams said the company expect to produce about 52 million gallons of ethanol from wheat a year, using the latest technology in wheat milling and protein extraction that will create a much lower carbon footprint than todays’ traditional ethanol plants.

Even the wheat midds left at the end of the process will have a market in the nearby cattle feedlots.

: Dignitaries including Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, CEO of Summit Agricultural Group Bruce Rastetter, and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), cutting the ribbon at Amber Wave

Adams told farmers Amber Wave expects to be taking wheat by July 2023.

Kansas welcome

“Kansas is known for its high-quality wheat, and this cutting-edge facility will strengthen the competitive edge we have in the market,” Kelly said. “Now, Kansas wheat farming families will have a massive direct buyer close to home, and major food, baking and pet food companies are able to have their wheat needs met here in Phillipsburg.”

Moran said this is an opportunity for Kansas farmers and the community of Phillipsburg to create a new market for the abundant wheat in the region. “We can grow wheat, but we need a market and an opportunity to enhance its value rather than shipping it someplace else.” He added that 7% to 10% of all the wheat grown in Kansas today will be processed at this plant, which can help increase the price of wheat and create another market for wheat farmers.

The Kansas Governor’s Office contributed to this article.


About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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