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CEA fertilizer plant nears completion at Ocheyedan

The new fertilizer plant and warehouse as seen from the south in Ocheyedan. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 4
The alleyway on the storage side of the new fertilizer plant in Ocheyedan. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)2 / 4
A worker on a lift on the front side of the new fertilizer plant in Ocheyedan. (Photo by Brian Korthals)3 / 4
The new warehouse as seen from the control room at the new fertilizer plant in Ocheyedan. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)4 / 4

OCHEYEDAN, Iowa -- By the time area farmers are gearing up for spring planting, a new fertilizer facility should be up and running at the Co-Op Elevator Association's Ocheyedan location.

CEA -- which also has locations in Sibley, Harris, Hartley and Lake Park, Iowa -- is a full-service elevator offering grain, agronomy, lumber and feed divisions. The fertilizer plant project came about because of demand, according to Ocheyedan location manager Greg Atherton.

"Our buildings have been outdated for the capacity that we've been doing for a while here," Atherton said. "This plant will service Ocheyedan, Sibley and Lake Park and most of the places north of here."

Locating the fertilizer plant in Ocheyedan was a strategic choice.

"The tonnage has been the strongest out of here," noted Atherton. "It's kind of in the middle, with easy access to roads, to Highway 9 or wherever we need to go. We also had the land available here, too, to make the structure, and it follows along with what we did a few years ago -- probably about five years -- when we made a new shop and warehouse. This will be next door to that, so in the same general area of our growth."

Construction on the 16,215-ton plant began in the fall with Stueve Construction of Algona, Iowa, handling the engineering, design and construction.

"We got started the day after Labor Day, and I'd say we're 85 percent of the way," said Dan Jacobsma, CEA precision ag specialist. "We've had great weather for it, so we have to be thankful for that."

The new 322- by 250-foot building will contain approximately 3,500 cubic yards of concrete and 625,000 pounds of rebar.

"Along with the fertilizer aspect, we're building a chemical warehouse as well," noted Jacobsma. "That's where all the chemicals will be stored. It's a 100- by 120-foot building, and we'll have 45,000 pounds of bulk chemical storage in there."

The plant will be fully automated, featuring the most advanced technology.

"It will be point-and-click loading instead of turning dials and loading skid loaders," said Jacobsma.

While there will be training and new processes to learn once the fertilizer facility is operational, both Atherton and Jacobsma said eventually the new facility will result in better service for CEA's customers.

"Before, we were always having to bring in fertilizer because we didn't have the storage," Atherton said. "Now, we'll be able to handle quantities when the market demands we get it price-wise. Before, it would take considerable amount of time to get loaded; now we'll be able to get it loaded in minutes. And with the chemical warehouse attached, that will help us with some bulk and needed space in there, too. We had outgrown our space and had it divvied out between other buildings, so now we'll be able to get it all in one spot."

"It will allow us to buy our fertilizer and have it on hand for them when they need it," agreed Jacobsma. "So it should eliminate product outages, those kind of things. And I would say that speed will be better as far as mixing and blending and accuracy. Our truck drivers will have a much easier time with loading, and even with product being loaded in. It's all loaded in by truck, but we'll be able to dump a semi load in approximately eight minutes."

CEA employees have watched the new fertilizer plant take shape over the last few months, and their customers have also been able to watch the process via photos on the cooperative's website (http://www.ceacoop. com/index.cfm?show=10&mid=155). Now they are anxious to get it functional.

"There will definitely be some challenges," said Jacobsma. "Whenever there is growth and change there are challenges, but it also bring opportunities to do our jobs better. It will just be different than the way we've done it in the past, but we'll have the same commitment to our customers in getting it done in the timeframe they require for us to do our jobs."

"Hopefully, the customer won't see any difference but an improvement in the quality of the product," said Atherton. "Before, each (location) had their own facility, so that will take a little getting used to, but you can't build a plant like this in each place. But it should be a better produce and service and, hopefully, better cost savings for everyone involved."

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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