With three major operations in Redwood Falls, including pre-foundation, research and production facilities, Monsanto has established itself in the region.
However, many in the area have no idea what goes on inside the doors of those sites. People drive past the site just a few miles south of Redwood Falls along US71 and wonder “what goes on inside that big, white building.”
So, local Monsanto officials opted to do something about that. An open house was held June 15 at the location south of Redwood Falls giving the public a chance to walk through the facility that was originally erected in 2002.
That site is dedicated to soybean production.
“Open lines of communication are very important to us,” said Rachel Dannewitz, quality and compliance manager of Monsanto’s production site at Redwood Falls.
In small groups, people were given tours of the site to learn about all that goes on at the facility and the commitment Monsanto makes to ensuring the products it offers to its farmer customers are of the highest quality.
According to Dannewitz, the production site has as its primary function the conditioning and packing of soybean seed that is distributed to producers as far away as New York.
“Last year we packed three million units at this site,” said Dannewitz.
While in the past, the primary measure of seed being distributed was in bushels, Dannewitz said the process has become much more exact, adding the traditional measure of a unit is in the 140,000 seed range.
That is the equivalent of one seed bag and covers about one acre of field which is planted. In essence, that means the facility packaged three million bags of seed this past season in preparation for the 2017 planting season.
Of course, not all of the seed that is conditioned and packaged at the Monsanto production site goes into bags.
There are much larger packing options for producers today, including what is known as a mini-bulk bag, as well as a more recent packaging option known as a black box – a hard plastic container that holds 40 units of seed.
Dannewitz said the black box is becoming more popular with producers because it is easier to manage and it can be used from one season to the next.
The most popular distribution method, however, is true bulk loads that go out a semi trailer at a time, which makes up about 70 percent of the seed at the Redwood Falls sight.
There are up to 22 different seed varieties that pass through the production facility, and ensuring purity in the seed that is produced is a top priority for the facility. Very specific measures have been put in place to ensure all of the seed that goes into each unit is made up of the variety it claims to be.
“We thoroughly clean everything out after each variety is conditioned and packaged,” said Dannewitz.
The seed that comes in is grown by a number of contracted farmers in the midwest that live and work in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin, said Dannewitz.
“Every farmer we contract with must meet our quality standards,” said Dannewitz, adding each site that is under contract is inspected three times each growing season. “If the seed does not meet our standard, it does not come on this site.”
The seed that is grown by its contracted farmers is based on demand, said Dannewitz, adding the more people are asking for a certain variety the more of that is planted.
Once the seed comes to the production site, it goes through the conditioning process that includes several steps that work to cull the undesirable seed based on everything from size to color. Seeds go through various screenings to get the ideal bean that goes into the bag.
Dannewitz added a sample of the seed also goes through a germination process to make sure it will actually grow.
After all, a seed that does not grow in the field is not worth much no matter how nice it looks, said Dannewitz.
“We cull about 6 percent of the beans that come into the site,” said Dannewitz.
The production and research facilities south of Redwood Falls sit on an 80-acre site, with the production site taking up a significant amount of space to ensure its warehouse is big enough to store the seed until it is ready to go out.
With millions of units being produced each season the site turns over its entire warehouse capacity about seven to eight times each season, said Dannewitz. The busiest time of the year for the site is from October through May as the 40-plus employees get seed ready for the new planting season.
“Safety is our top priority,” added Dannewitz, as she pointed out several different measures that have been put in place throughout the warehouse, such as mirrors at row intersections to ensure those moving pallets of seed are safe.
“During the busy time there is a lot being moved in here,” said Dannewitz.
The Redwood Falls production facility is the second largest of its type in the Monsanto Company, said Dannewitz, adding each employee who works at the facility takes pride in what they do.
That, she added, is how it can continue to offer the highest quality seed to its customers.