The annual general meeting of the Starland Seed Cleaning Plant in Delia was held on Thursday evening, December 21.
The current seed cleaning plant was built in the 1960’s with a smaller cleaning volume. The scale currently only handles three ton trucks whereas farmers have grown in operation by using transport such as B-Train units; one tractor or truck pulling two trailers coupled together by a fifth wheel attached directly to the rear of the lead trailer.
“We still need to make some improvements to the existing facility, its getting fairly old, tired and in order to keep the business viable, we’re going to have to bring something fresh to it,” said Al Hampton, Starland Seed Cleaning Plant secretary.
It seemed to be a rude wake-up call for many as the construction of a new cooperative plant may result in a blown out budget.
“The expected outcome was not necessarily what everybody was really looking for,” said Hampton. “At the end of the day, I think that was good information for that group and probably pointed us in maybe a little bit of a different direction.”
Former Starland County economic development officer Jordan Webber created a viability study for the facility.
Four different ideas were discussed. The original plan of building a new facility came with a price tag upwards of $5 million and major commitments from stakeholders.
“He kind of based it on cleaning volumes we had currently and estimated volumes that we may be able to get in the event that we build a bigger facility and being a cooperative type of a model and given seed cleaning costs and prices and all that type of stuff, the results were a little less friendly than we were expecting,” said Hampton.
There are currently no government grants available and this study made it clear that this was not the best plan to follow.
“I think Jordan outlined pretty well that a project of this magnitude is going to take quite a bit of planning and quite a bit of commitment by the shareholders and the community in general,” continued Hampton.
Their next option is to make improvements to the existing structure in order to better serve the needs of the surrounding farming community.
“We are going to have to recalculate what our original plans were so we are bringing in a couple of different seed plant builders to come and have a look at the existing facility to see what maybe could be done with it to try and make use of the existing structure,” said Hampton. “Basically can we make the experience better and maintain or increase our cleaning volumes.”
Two other options can be pursued. The plant can seek out a strong partnership where they can work together to build some type of facility or go portable.
By going to a portable model, it would mold the current business into something surrounding the specialized equipment. This type of model would compete with other portable seed cleaning plant companies in the county as well.
“I think from our seed cleaning plant perspective, we want something stationary so it’s durable, something that will service the needs in the area,” said Hampton.
“It’s a challenging sort of a task to undertake and anything worthwhile pursuing always takes a little bit of work, time, and effort.”