CHESTERVILLE — Management at the local SynAgri fertilizer plant showcased $500,000-worth of improvements made to the facility this year.
Dozens of farmers attended the open house event last Wednesday (Sept. 28), in the shadow of the company’s 85-foot fertilizer blending tower erected last spring.
Built in sections by Green Lea Ag Centre of Elgin, the 90-tonne, nine-hopper tower — a new local landmark jutting above County Rd. 43 at Chesterville’s west end —served as the most prominent indicator of the SynAgri expansion. Other changes included expanded bays in the fertilizer storage building below the tower, and a pile of round tubes sitting on the ground nearby.
A harbinger of further progress, those tubes are scheduled to go up alongside the tower this month. In a further boost to throughput and efficiency at the facility, the "micro-tubes," as plant manager Brad Johnston describes them, will carry bulk micro-nutrients up into the tower — much faster than the front-end-loader and hopper method employed this season.
"It’s our invention," Johnston boasted.
A quest for efficiency drove the local investment. "This allows us to be more efficient in what we do, and what the customer needs, and to be more competitive for the near future," said SynAgri regional manager Steve Wellein.
The project was a vote of confidence in Chesterville, and part of a consolidation that saw the closure of SynAgri’s Bourget outlet. "We looked at the strength of agriculture in the area, we looked at the roads, the customers we have, and the good staff like Brad (Johnston) and Darryl (Acres)," Weillen, a Cornwall resident, explained.
On a tour around the grounds, SynAgri president Richard Samuel of Montreal professed to being "very happy" with the results. Chesterville is among 10 similar tower projects undertaken by SynAgri in Ontario and Quebec this year alone. "We have 20 plants operating now," added Samuel.
SynAgri is jointly owned by Cargill and Yara companies.
Samuel called the local investment "a strong indication to the marketplace that we’re committed ... and that we don’t want to pass on any inefficiencies to (agricultural) producers."
Delivering value to customers "so they can enjoy success, too," is the company’s primary aim, he said. "We’re not here to ship tons of fertilizer. We’re here to bring value to the marketplace."
Johnston said the expansion had boosted this year’s fertilizer sales in Chesterville to over 5,000 tonnes, compared to 4,800 tonnes in 2004. The tower "allowed us to process more in a day, and it allowed us to sell more," he said, predicting further growth in the future.
Employment at the facility averages three full-time positions through the year.
Open house visitors also toured the plant’s pesticide building, which was doubled in size two years ago. They also lunched at a free barbecue under a big tent and took in presentations from Dekalb seed company reps.