Education

Iowa State pursues $21.2 million feed and grain complex

Donations would pay for production, research and learning center

Iowa State University is asking the Iowa Board of Regents for its blessing on a proposed $21.2 million feed mill and grain science complex that would be entirely paid for with donations. (Illustration from Iowa State University)
Iowa State University is asking the Iowa Board of Regents for its blessing on a proposed $21.2 million feed mill and grain science complex that would be entirely paid for with donations. (Illustration from Iowa State University)

With its thriving network of teaching farms situated on 450 acres south of campus, Iowa State University is looking to build a $21.2 million feed mill and grain science complex to support its livestock and poultry, compel research and bolster education.

The Board of Regents on Wednesday is scheduled to consider ISU’s request to construct a six-building complex housing 47,000 square feet of teaching, research and outreach facilities. The $21.2 million Curtiss Farm-Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex would be funded entirely by private giving, according to the proposal.

So far, the university has raised about $16.5 million through direct donations, as well as in-kind equipment and technology, according to Brian Meyer, director of college relations for the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“It looks promising,” he said. “We have the funding in place to do a lot of things, and we hope to finish up the giving piece in the next year.”

Regents approval would help efforts to further encourage giving to the project, for which ISU hopes to break ground this fall and complete by spring 2021, according to Meyer.

The project would replace three existing feed mills, which are “outdated and non-compliant” with safety laws.

“That was one driving source behind it,” Meyer said. “But there is a greater vision behind it for the college. To think more about undergraduate education and extension.”

The proposed complex would feature three major buildings — the main feed mill, a warehouse and an education building — along with grain storage bins, a biosecurity truck wash and a scale and material sampling structure.

“A new facility opens up our ability to do more precise research,” Meyer said. It also creates opportunities to partner with commercial feed mills interested in testing formulations.

“We have the ability to do these small batches of feed as experiments in a way we haven’t before,” Meyer said.

With biosecurity becoming a bigger issue — including concerns about food and feed contamination — the new facility could help researchers and students alike investigate and experiment with solutions.

“What are the steps that we need to take to prevent some of the things that have happened — like the Avian influenza?” he said.

The project also has a very practical component — feeding animals on ISU’s farms. The university has swine, sheep, beef, poultry, equine and dairy cow teaching and research farms.

Meyer said the facility likely would produce about 10,000 tons of feed in a year, which actually is not much when compared with the 15 million Iowa’s feed industry generates annually.

But, according to the proposal, “This project would help meet the university’s need for customized, yet affordable, livestock feed, help train students to fill an employment shortage in the feed and grain industries, and meet other significant Iowa agriculture needs.”

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The new facility aims to provided hands-on experience not just for traditional students but for those in the workforce wanting to continue their education — just like those who study on ISU’s research farms.

“There are thousands every year that go down to the farms for classes to experience what it’s like on a real operation,” Meyer said. “That is very important to us.”

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