Bryan Mueller was monitoring the first grain to be loaded into his company’s US$5.5 million Agridome on a cold day last month when he was asked how he liked the new dome.
It was built for West Central Ag Services in Beltrami, Minnesota, a three-hour drive south of Winnipeg.
“Well, we just now finally started piling grain in today, just a little while ago in fact,” said Mueller, the company’s elevator manager.
“We’re doing wheat right now.”
He said the dome is not just a storage facility. Instead, it’s definitely a high-throughput handling facility.
“We have a reclaim of 30,000 bushels per hour, so we put it in there and take it back out very quickly. We had bunker storage before with a tarp, but once we started pulling it we had to take it all the way. You need six, seven or eight trains lined up to take it all in. Now we can be pulling in and out at the same time. It gives us a lot more flexibility.”
The unload consists of a tunnel in the floor with conveyors that run over to a leg that elevates the grain into the company’s indoor facilities.
Before the dome was erected on the pad, it was surrounded with non-permanent concrete silo walls, but no permanent 10-foot wall. Theoretically the tarp would suck down to the pile to keep it in place.
“Keeping the tarp on was always a hassle,” he said.
“The snow and ice were always bad, and that usually meant you’d wait until spring to get at the grain. Lost grade was also a factor in our decision to invest in this Agridome.
“It’s about $5.5 million. A lot of the supporting infrastructure was already there at the pad site. We designed it so we used existing pavement, electrical and loading equipment.
“What we really like is that the building is free-standing. No pillars. Nothing we have to drive around. It fit our existing configuration. We looked at square or rectangle style buildings, but they all forced us to re-make so many things, it just wasn’t worth it. This dome fit perfectly into the round bunker pad we already had.”
Mueller said if commodity prices are high and trains are available, it’s conceivable the Agridome might be empty by late winter or early spring, at which point it can serve double-duty as a fertilizer depot.
Mueller said the dome could be split into two different commodities.
“It probably could because it’s 360 feet, but we’d need some kind of high wall down the centre. You’d need two spouts going off to the sides.
“Labour to put it all together was pretty high, but the dome will last a long time, so it’s spread out. One thing that we really like is the fact that there are no pillars or columns. It’s way better than if we had gone for a more conventional building. If you’re working in there with pay loaders and trucks, this is far more convenient and should reduce risk of accidents.”