The Crookston (Minn.) City Council approved the purchase of 10 acres toward the construction of the Ag Innovation Campus during a recent council meeting.
The approved purchase clears the way for the location’s construction, due to begin this spring in Crookston, along Highway 75. The AIC had requested three multifaceted variances up to 120 feet. AIC will incubate other agriculture industry innovations with a mission to use Minnesota soybeans to create new products and jobs, and generate myriad economic benefits for rural communities.
“We are pleased to see Crookston leaders formally approve this land purchase as the AIC takes another big step toward our ultimate goal,” says Mike Skaug, AIC board chair, who farms in Beltrami. “We’ve been working diligently on this project and have been encouraged with the progression as we continue striving toward revitalizing our region’s economy.”
AIC also aims to improve the economic outlook for producers across the country by allowing farmers to maximize the value of their crops; increase jobs spanning the skill-set range from management to utility labor; and take advantage of current markets in biodiesel, soybean oil, soybean meal and glycerin.
“Farmers drive agriculture with their innovation, and this project will serve that same purpose,” says Tom Slunecka, CEO of Ag Management Solutions, which oversees daily AIC operations. “This is a big bang for our farmers and our organization. We’re thrilled with these positive developments and look forward to continuing work with the city of Crookston, elected officials, farmers and ag businesses.”
In 2019, following an advocacy push from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, the Minnesota Legislature approved $5 million toward AIC in the bipartisan omnibus agriculture finance bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz. The funding was released to AIC in September. In October, AIC received crucial air permitting approval from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Later that month, the governor joined ag and regional officials for a groundbreaking ceremony.
Specialty crushing facility
AIC in Crookston will have a specialty crushing facility, allowing universities, commodity groups and private seed developers access to affordable processing that aims to lower costs while promoting growth of value-added products. Once established, the campus will be home to private industries to create products that benefit all parties, from farm gate to consumers. A fully operating AIC will create up to 60 jobs and could crush more than 60,000 tons per year of soybean meal — serving about 30% of the regional market.
Soybean production in northwest Minnesota has grown by more than 300% in the last two decades. Although AIC would improve the profitability of farmers throughout the state, the 11 northwest Minnesota counties that would see the most gain from the campus produced more than 50 million bushels of soybeans in 2019.
In addition to securing state funds and crucial work permits, AIC is planning a late-2021 production goal. The group has purchased equipment, opened an office in Crookston and will be unveiling a website later in 2021.