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Afgritech shows off expanded plant Wednesday to young agriculture professionals

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Young agriculture professionals watched Wednesday night as an automated auger, equipped with two large chutes to dump cattle feed into trucks, moved back and forth across the high ceiling of a newly completed loading garage at Afgritech LLC.

The auger was controlled electronically with a handheld remote by Plant Manager Harold E. Rozanski, who gave the group a tour of the 4,000-square-foot garage during a “young agriculture night” event hosted by the plant for people in the agriculture industry ages 18 to 40. The 4,000-square-foot expansion was completed earlier this month by construction workers at the 200 Willow St. plant, the previous site of the Blue Seal Feeds mill.

Solving problems caused by limited production space, the five-month project was needed to keep pace with high demand among dairy farmers and feed mills across the Northeast for the company’s bypass protein meal. Studies have shown that the meal, produced with a mix of raw soybean meal and canola oil, helps increase the milk production of cattle.

Afgritech added six 100-ton silos to the 14 grain bins used for storage at the plant. Mr. Rozanski said the expanded loading garage will enable it to increase annual production by up to 45 percent, or 18,000 tons, from about 40,000 to 58,000 tons.

“Right now we can deliver 40 tons of feed an hour (when trucks are filled), but with the new system we’ll do 100-plus,” Mr. Rozanski said during the tour. “We did testing last week and can fill 105 to 110 tons an hour. Once we get this up and running, we’ll be able to fill up trucks about as fast as they can come in.”

Located above the auger in the garage that dumps the cattle feed are four 40-ton silos that automatically receive protein meal from larger silos. Those 40-ton silos, more than 20 feet high, feed the automated auger beneath them used to fill trucks. The chutes situated above the trucks are about 14 feet high, providing more clearance needed for today’s modern trucks, which is about a foot higher than the smaller loading garage now used.

The average time it takes to load trucks will be cut from about 40 to 20 minutes thanks to the expanded garage, Mr. Rozanski said, while a longer automated 80-foot scale will be used to weigh heavier truckloads that the plant’s older 60-foot scale couldn’t handle. Work shifts will be added on Saturday and Sunday at the expanded plant, which now operates five days a week with three shifts. Having recently hired two mill operators, the plant is staffed by 11 employees who soon will run four production shifts; the plant will operate 24 hours a day with four shifts, except on Sundays.

Ultimately, the garage will enable the plant to increase its portfolio of clients across the Northeast, Mr. Rozanski said. The company now has 12 dairy clients in New York and Vermont whose farms range in size from 50 to 5,000 cows , he said, and is the most active user of the CSX railroad north of Albany.

“We’ve passed about 500 rail car loads along this year alone and are averaging about 10 cars a week,” he said.

Afgritech is a joint venture owned by Carrs Billington Agriculture, Stanwix, England, and Afgri Operations Ltd., Centurion, South Africa. Les Berghorn, regional sales manager, said that increased production will enable Afgritech to greatly expand its footprint. Its target market includes farmland across the Northeast with about 1.5 million cows

“We can truck feed to about any place we want to go, and we will soon be going across the border into Canada,” he said. “We’re also now looking (to buy) property in the Idaho or Washington area to expand our business out West and ship product overseas. I have companies calling me every week that are interested.”

Jay M. Matteson, Jefferson County agricultural coordinator, led a discussion with the group of professionals and farmers after the tour about how to increase interest among young people in the agriculture industry.

“I am excited to see this happening in Jefferson County,” he said of Afgritech’s expansion. “Our farms are expected to benefit through crop production. Many of our soybeans are now going to an export market in southeast China rather than being used here,” and this could provide more opportunities.

The general contractor for the expansion project was Mill Technology, Muncy, Pa. Subcontractors were Maple Grove Enterprises, Arcade, and DC Building Systems, Watertown.


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