The $16 million O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center at Kansas State University was completed this fall after 20 years of planning, design and construction. The new facility replaces two older mills on campus.
The state-of-the-art facility was built to improve education for students and industry. Keith Behnke, a professor emeritus in Kansas State’s department of grain science and industry, noted that the university has the only undergraduate feed science and management program in the United States.
“From an educational stand point, I believe this is going to give us the opportunity to train the next leaders of the feed industry,” said Charles Stark, who is the university’s Jim and Carol Brown associate professor in feed technology. “The next generation will have an opportunity to come to Kansas State, learn the manufacturing process and transfer those skills back into the industry.”
Behnke said that what employers in the feed industry are looking for in graduates is experience.
“We can sit in the classroom all day and show pictures of how pieces of equipment work and how to maintain those things,” he said, “but without hands on experience, pictures really don’t mean much. It’s our goal to put every student we have into an intern program…to work in the feed mill as their class schedule permits (and) gain experience.”
He added that students have to be allowed to make mistakes, such as pushing a pellet mill too far and spilling ingredients out on a floor because they overloaded the equipment.
“It’s a little like touching a stove,” Behnke said. “You touch a stove and you learn not to do that. We can let students make mistakes here a lot cheaper than employees can in the industry. Out in the industry, if you make too big of mistake you get fired. The worst we can do to them is say, ‘okay, clean it up.’”
The Cargill Feed Safety Research Center is one of the important components of the new feedmill because industry is being pushed to provide cleaner and cleaner food for the livestock.
“The theory is valid,” Behnke said. “If animals have cleaner food they are going to be less of a risk when they enter the food system. Regardless of whether it’s milk, eggs or meat, it’s a cleaner and more safe product.”
Until now K-State has not been allowed to intentionally contaminate livestock feed with live pathogens because of the safety requirements, but the controlled environment of the Cargill Feed Safety Research Center will allow faculty to do so. Then they can figure out how to sterilize or decontaminate that food before it is fed to an animal.
Behnke said the construction of the feedmill is not yet complete. Additional storage will be added to the facility for grain genetics research. “We will be able to track genetic material all the way from the seed bag to the dinner plate,” he said.
“We would love for the public to come visit and learn about the facility,” Behnke said. “We’ve got something that’s really unique; most feedmills don’t allow tours because of biosecurity or proprietary information. For example, you can’t just drive up to a Cargill feedmill and say ‘Gee, I’d like to tour your feedmill,’ but you can do that here.”
The O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center is located at 1980 Kimball Avenue in Manhattan. For more information visit the feed mill website, http://www.grains.k-state.edu/new-feed-technology-innovation-center/.