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URBANA — The new Feed Technology Center is up and running, and the nearly-95-year-old feed mill is scheduled to be torn down this summer.

“It’s fully operational,” said Rodney Johnson, head of the University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences. “We’re no longer preparing any diets from the old feed mill.”

The new $20 million feed mill on South Race Street is producing feed for most of the research animals on the South Farms, using crops grown on the South Farms.

While the new feed mill, with its three large grain bins, looks larger than the old one, Johnson said increased capacity isn’t the goal.

“It’s never been about the quantity,” Johnson said. “A major purpose of having a feed milll like that is to prepare experimental diets.”

With the new equipment, they’ll be able to produce feed with precise levels of different ingredients, and the process is much more automated.

Researchers use the experimental feeds to study which is most efficient and to “minimize excess nutrients that can’t be utilized and that end up in the environment,” Johnson said.

“It really is to support research,” he said. “It’s about precision and maybe the hundreds of different diets in small batches that will be prepared that are going into research projects.”

He also said the new feed mill is more modern and safe.

The old feed mill “has been updated along the way. Regardless, it was very old and outdated and really not a safe environment for taking students in there and executing academic programs,” Johnson said. “The new Feed Technology Center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The control system is fully automated. You punch a few buttons, and the diet gets mixed. And it was built with the idea of being able to take groups of students in there.”

The grain bins will also help ensure consistency in the feed that is produced, as the grain grown on the South Farms will be stored there.

“The idea from the animal sciences department is to grow our own grain, and that allows us to have very consistent ingredients that we can use in preparing diets throughout the entire year,” Johnson said.

The old feed mill was last used to prepare feed about a month ago after the new one went through a commissioning phase, Johnson said.

He said there were the “typical growing pains” getting the new feed mill up and running, and they’re still waiting for an infrared sensor that will measure the content of different ingredients in real time.

But overall, “it’s gone really well, so we’re very excited about it,” Johnson said. “I know this project has been discussed for more than 20 years, and to have it come to fruition now is very exciting and rewarding.”

The old feed mill just south of the State Farm Center is set to come down in two phases this summer, Facilities & Services spokesman Steven Breitwieser said.

“The first phase of the work will be removing the scale house on the corner, the truck scale house, and the feed storage plant. That work will be completed in mid-June,” he said.

The first phase will take about a month, Breitwieser said.

“The grain bin and the two remaining buildings (mixer/distributor and feed house) will be removed starting in August,” he said.

The second phase is expected to take two to three months, Breitwieser said, and once it’s completed, the university property will be available for future redevelopment.

Reporter

Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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