CROOKSTON, Minn. — The Ag Innovation Campus broke ground Wednesday, Oct. 28, on a $5 million soybean crush plant in Crookston, Minn.

Construction on the 67,000-square-feet plant on a 10-acre plot of land on the southwest edge of Crookston is slated to begin in April and the facility is expected to be operational by the end of 2021. The 2019 Ag Omnibus bill, signed that year on May 30 by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, funded the Ag Innovation Campus.

The Ag Innovation Campus, which will give its customers the opportunity to add value to their oilseed commodities, has the potential to have a 10-fold economic return, which will be far reaching, according to Walz, who was on hand for the groundbreaking.

“Not just for this region, but statewide and nationwide,” Walz said. “I’m out here to say ‘congratulations,' and more importantly, to say ‘thank you.' This is exciting. There’s opportunity here."

The Ag Innovation Campus one-of-a-kind specialty processing plant will house a crush facility, oil refining, classrooms and space for private industries. Initially, the campus will process soybeans and, eventually, other oilseeds such as canola and sunflowers.

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The facility will be available for use by universities, commodity organizations and private businesses to specially process their oilseed commodities. The Ag Innovation Campus plans to have as many as 70 employees when fully operational.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who signed the 2019 Ag Omnibus bill that is funding the Ag Innovation Campus, attended the ground breaking. “I’m out here to say ‘congratulations,' and more importantly, to say ‘thank you.' This is exciting. There’s opportunity here," he said at the Wednesday, Oct. 28, event. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who signed the 2019 Ag Omnibus bill that is funding the Ag Innovation Campus, attended the ground breaking. “I’m out here to say ‘congratulations,' and more importantly, to say ‘thank you.' This is exciting. There’s opportunity here," he said at the Wednesday, Oct. 28, event. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Adding value to soybeans has potential to give northwest Minnesota farmers a significant economic boost, according to the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, which funded a 2018 feasibility study on the campus.

“This is the biggest soybean production center in the world,” Tom Slunecka, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council CEO told a crowd of about 50 gathered at the groundbreaking.

In 2019, farmers in 11 northwest Minnesota counties produced more than 50 million bushels of soybeans, according to the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. The bushels are produced by 80 to 100 farmers who grow soybeans on 61,000 acres in northwest Minnesota, Slunecka said.

The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, reports that the plant will help its users avoid the “Valley of Death,” that entrepreneurs often fall into when they are trying to bring an idea to fruition, Slunecka said.

The entrepreneurs’ projects fail because they can’t find a place large enough to do viable research on their product, Slunecka said. The Ag Innovation Campus will change that.

“There isn’t a facility anywhere like this in the world,” he said.

The processing plant will have a capacity to crush 8,000 bushels of soybeans daily or about 2.5 million bushels annually, said Jim Lambert, Ag Innovation Campus project manager. The campus will feature three crushing lines, 10 bays which companies can use to prove out ideas, test and produce projects. It also will have office space for companies.

“It’s a very exciting project. I’m very happy to be part of it,” Lambert said.