By Connie Swaim
ATLANTA, Ind. — The Beck family always has a lot of amazing information to share during its annual Becknology Days event. This year however, the company outdid itself by showing off its new soybean processing plant and announcing the acquisition of the Bayer processing plant in Beaman, Iowa, for the use of soybean production and processing.
This was the 58th field show at the main headquarters in Atlanta. The firm was started in 1937, but it wasn’t until 1998 that it began to expand outside of Indiana. Now Beck’s has facilities in 14 states and CEO Sonny Beck said 2021 saw 1 million more acres planted in Beck’s seeds than were planted in 2020.
Beck discussed both the purchase of the Bayer plant and the building of the new soybean processing facility during his President’s Message, which he presented multiple times during the three-day event held Aug. 26-28.
The fully operational Bayer facility in Grundy County, Iowa, will provide Beck’s with soybean seed processing capabilities and additional warehousing.
“At Beck’s, we base our growth and acquisition strategy and decisions with a focus on helping farmers succeed,” said Beck. “As we continue to expand into new states and grow our customer base, our family of employees and farmer-dealers remain dedicated to providing exceptional localized service. This new facility will allow Beck’s to maximize efficiency, stay ahead of demand, and deliver products faster.”
The Iowa facility features approximately 30,000 square feet of warehousing and is configured with all the modern equipment necessary for Beck’s to process and treat one million units of soybeans per year.
“Situated fifteen minutes north of our Marshalltown, Iowa facility and approximately an hour northeast of our Colfax location, the addition of this new facility will take the pressure off of our distribution channels,” said Beck. “More importantly, it will help us ensure we are fulfilling our customer’s soybean needs quickly and efficiently.”
However, the biggest news this year was the opening of what Beck’s calls the East Tower. The new soybean processing plant took three years and $60 million to build; but it is now one of the largest soybean processing towers in the world capable of processing three million bushels of soybeans per year.
“We couldn’t be more excited for the completion of the new east soybean tower, which allows us to more efficiently process and deliver additional units of high-quality soybeans to current and future customers,” Beck said.
The facility features a 10-story stand-along processing tower that incudes an observation deck with a glass floor so visitors can see the soybeans being processed. More than 60,000 production acres will be needed to provide enough soybeans for the facility to run at full capacity. This means 150 incoming semi-trailer loads of soybeans per week will be needed for the tower to run at full capacity. The plant will process 24,000 bags per day. There are 20 bins, each with a 6,250-bushel capacity in the receiving storage area.
During the tour of the plant visitors got an inside look at how beans are processed. There is a scalper that takes out things that should not be in with the beans such as shells; the cleaning station cleans the seeds and can sort the beans by color. The color sorters are so precises they can take out beans with purple spots or pinpoint beans with mold and take them out, all using tiny puffs of air. A gravity table takes out beans that are the wrong weight.
The height of the tower is important as the facility uses gravity as much as possible to move the beans on their journey through the plant. The more the beans are touched, the more likely it becomes they will be injured. In addition, the facility contains two receiving dumps, two scales, and can process two varieties at once. The tower can process 24,000 bags per day through automated package filling for bulk and mini-bulk bags. Once the soybeans have been processed and packaged, 140 semi-trailer loads will be outgoing weekly.
The Beck family talks a lot about how their workers are also their family. A final touch to the East Tower was the setting of an I-Beam that had been signed by all the Beck employees.
Wheat will also be processed at the facility and by increasing the area for beans and wheat to be processed; this in turn allows for a 1.3 million unit increase in corn processing at the Atlanta facility.
“This project would not be possible without the support of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Hamilton County officials,” said Beck. “With their foresight, dedication to Indiana agribusiness, and passion for the growth of the Hoosier economy, we’ve increased capacity, added jobs, and can better serve farmers across our 14-state marketing area.”
Tours of fields are of course always a part of a field day event. Despite a heat index over 100 degrees and pop-up storms, thousands of people still packed the facility during the three days. Many of the tours look at Practical Farm Research Studies (PFR). Each year, new technologies and management practices emerge, making it difficult for farmers to evaluate all the options. The PFR studies were started so farmers wouldn’t have to do all the research themselves. Today Beck’s has research and agronomic results from the 500+ studies conducted across five states.
One of the popular tours is always the 400-bushel attempt corn plot. The PFR team in charge of this plot calls it Disneyland. Basically, Sonny Beck challenged them to grow 400 bushel per acre corn and he then wrote the checks to provide whatever the team felt was necessary to make that happen.
Beck first made that challenge in 2016 and in 2020 the team finally achieved its goal and produced 406.5 bushels. They said they were on track to break 400 again this year.
While the cost of producing 400-bushel corn is prohibitive; the tour guides pointed out farmers could still learn how to increase their yields by using some of the tips they discovered. “If you never think outside the box, you will never get high yield crops,” said Travis Burnett, PFR Field Agronomist.