The Queen of the White Cloud Industrial Park is Rising and Shining
By Charles Chandler
A few days ago the N3 correspondent called Mr. Martin Hall, the Construction Project Manager for the new Ceres Solutions Cooperative, Inc. feed mill in White Cloud and asked for a project update. Mr. Hall was down in Indiana at another Ceres facility and said he would call when he returned to Michigan and we could meet at the construction project office in the White Cloud Industrial Park. While on the phone, I asked him if he thought Indiana would ever again field a basketball team that could compete with Michigan State and he suggested….well, that's another story.
A few days later we met at the project site and after I signed in and donned the required safety gear Mr. Hall gave an operations overview, project status report and a guided show and tell tour of the facility. According to Mr. Hall, this feed production process starts when the Ceres specialist goes out to their customers operations and talks to them about their production goals, such as projected yields in beef, pork, milk, and so on. At the farm, they determine what the operator will grow on the property and then develop a recipe (total ration mix) for the operator’s livestock. Back at the facilities at White Cloud, they enter all this data into computers, push some buttons, and produce custom prepared feed for lactating dairy cows, beef cattle, or ten thousand little pigs in a commercial feeding operation. This Mill is really a big industrial kitchen where you can special order meals for cows, hogs, chickens and other livestock.
As we entered the facility there were tools, equipment, welding leads, air hoses, and electrical cords everywhere, and about 50 assorted engineers, supervisors, welders, pipefitters, ironworkers, electricians and other specialists all doing who knows what? Seeing all this activity N3 asked Mr. Hall when the facility would be fully operational and he gave a good project manager answer, “probably the end of March.”
Mr. Hall pointed out that the rail siding had recently been completed and they had received some trucks and rail cars. As we worked our way through this facility he pointed out different pieces of equipment. On the first floor are the shipping, receiving and warehouse facilities where trucks and rail cars bring the basic feed ingredients like corn and soybeans from farmers in the tri-state area. These products are tested, weighed and dumped. Also on this floor is the facility where the mixed finished product is loaded and transported out to the customer’s farms or to the retail location in Fremont. On the second floor, there were the various hoppers, mixing systems, and the computer control room. The facility and the operations were a bit overwhelming, to say the least. There must be a million miles of pipes, ducts, and thousands of gallons of hoppers and storage tanks, sensors and controls all automated and capable of producing six tons of customer-specific feed every three minutes and 400 tons a year, simply amazing and operated by about five guys. The big surprises for this correspondent were the level of biological security, quality control and the volume of production. This facility is designed to ensure that customers feed products are biologically safe and that all ingredients are carefully monitored and measured to meet precise specifications.
If a dairy operator working with a Ceres nutritionist needs a ration mix that specifies a cup of molasses and two cups of mineral supplements, and five ounces of an FDA approved product per a thousand pounds of feed that is precisely what will be delivered to their farm. The day we were there they were conducting the operational test to ensure the right ingredients went into the right hopper and in the right amount. I would venture to say that the biohazard protocols and quality standards in this feed mill are more stringent than in many of our restaurants and especially in my own little messy scratch cooking galley kitchen.
When pressured for a commitment on a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Mr. Hall suggested that it could happen by June. Before presenting the mill to the public he would like to get all the construction workers, trailers and equipment moved out, put in some drives and parking with landscaping, plant some grass and generally spruce the place up. It is obvious that Ceres and Mr. Hall and the folks in White Cloud are really proud of this shiny new facility. Well Done Mr. Hall and sorry about that Indiana basketball team, maybe next year or when Coach Izzo retires.
Oh, by the way, regardless of what you have heard in the restaurants or on Facebook, Ceres Solutions Cooperative, Inc. is not closing the Fremont facility, that’s all “FAKE NEWS.”