EFFINGHAM, Ill. – Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) recently opened a new 284,000-sq.-ft. premix blending facility in Effingham, Illinois. The new mill serves the premix and dry ingredient blending needs for use in finished pet foods and treats as well as animal feed for dairy, beef, swine, poultry, aquaculture and other specialty products. Currently 80% of production serves the pet food processing industry.

The new $35 million facility consolidates three previous ADM locations in Effingham and brings the mixing, packaging, storage, distribution operations and 64 Effingham full-time employees all under one roof. Chuck Loefer, vice president of ADM Animal Nutrition, says that to continue growing, ADM needed a new facility. “We went from a handful of products to hundreds of products in just a few years. The volumes through the existing ADM locations in Effingham doubled and then tripled in recent years. We updated and upgraded multiple production lines, optimized and utilized every square inch of the facilities. We needed a whole new plant that could meet new needs and evolving needs.”

At the ribbon cutting ceremony on May 7, Effingham Mayor Jeff Bloemker said the city and ADM have had a good relationship for many years with both having a strong foundation in agriculture. A special zoning height variance was granted by the city for a 13-story mixing tower, a key feature in the facility’s state-of-the-art automated mixing and blending capabilities. The mixing tower is the home of the in-plant transfer system for major, minor and micro ingredients. All ingredients first flow up into the mixing tower then using the power of gravity are fed down through the system and are precisely blended with bulk ingredients and micro ingredients into customized blends specific to each customer. The various processing steps, some of which are sifting, cleaning and sizing, determined the required height of the tower as well as extra space built in for flexibility to meet the needs of future customers.

Vince Macciocchi, ADM senior vice president and president of ADM’s nutrition business unit, also addressed the audience at the ribbon cutting ceremony and said ADM Animal Nutrition is focused on developing solutions, ingredients and products for the animal health industry. “Animal nutrition inside of ADM is one of the five key growth pillars of the entire company,” Macciocchi said. “We’re investing in the business, and we’re investing in the space as evidenced by this new facility here today, our facility that was previously opened in Glencoe, Minnesota, and our ongoing construction and our soon- to-be-open facilities in Columbus, Nebraska, and Quincy, Illinois. Additionally, we’re moving into other areas in the pet space evidenced by our Crosswinds acquisition from a year ago. Obviously, you can see by these investments, we are heavily committed to this space.”

With more than 400 ingredient options, ADM Animal Nutrition provides vitamin and trace mineral premixes, dry ingredient blends, specialty ingredients and food additives. There are 200 to 300 ingredients unique to pet food applications and about 150 ingredients common across most animal feed applications. Recipes can be as simple as two or three ingredients up to 30 or 40 ingredients. And every mixer-full is a different lot that customers expect to contain the exact same ingredients in the same precise quantities lot after lot.

Filling ADM micro ingredient binsThe new facility features multiple batching systems from APEC/WEM with simultaneous weighing for increased efficiency and output. As part of the facility’s high-tech quality and process control, a bar code system uniquely identifies each item through its entire journey within the facility from receiving to shipping and out the door. Ingredients also pass through ferrous and non-ferrous metal detection systems multiple times from receiving to packaging.

In-line screening, sizing and sifting capabilities and self-cleaning, material-handling equipment allows for greater product purity, particle size density and better overall precision. “The automation we’ve gained here obviously increases efficiency, but improved food safety features such as self-cleaning equipment, air blow downs and the design of the conveyors that move the product also contribute to a more efficient and sanitary environment,” said Steve Allen, plant manager. Automated self-cleaning features will help the plant reduce the time required for product changeovers.

Conditioned air in the entire tower controls humidity and maintains product quality. An aspiration system for the 64-bin micro-bin system in the tower pulls in dust as the bins are filled to help maintain a clean, food-safe environment. The bulk receiving area in the tower with a grated floor is not for someone with a fear of heights, but it does help keep the area free from dust. All bulk ingredients come in and are cleaned before they are stored in the bulk ingredient bins. Rotary cleaners screen out any oversized pieces or raw materials that may come in from the receiving side.

Blended product flows out of the tower into the facility’s packaging area. The facility has five state-of-the-art bagging lines from Premier Tech Chronos, three big bag filling lines and two industrial bagging lines. The two industrial bagging lines are completely automated from bagging to case packing to palletizing and feature push-button changeover. The push of one button switches everything over to a new program. The automated packaging lines further improve process efficiencies and reduce physically demanding repetitive tasks.

The facility was designed not only to accommodate ADM’s current premix animal nutrition business but also includes room to expand in the future. “Our industry is always changing and the standards are getting higher,” Loefer said. “People want to make sure their animals are getting the very highest quality feed and food. It’s about using the best and newest technologies to deliver great value for our customer. It means faster service, more customization to meet every need, higher capacity and the very highest quality. We’re excited about everything this plant can offer and we hope our customers are too.”

Read more about the nitty gritty of pet food processing on our Operations page.