Not Your Standard Field of Dreams

- Jon Moreland

Build it and they will come? I doubt it. Although it is located in Iowa, Shoeless Joe Jackson hasn’t made a miraculous appearance out of the cornfield. Recently, I was running samples at our latest project (a new testing facility) in Des Moines, Iowa, and the movie “Field of Dreams” came to mind.

The Petkus N.A. Test Facilities are capable of conditioning and treating seed at full commercial rates, meaning no more lab tests with questionable capacity mockups. This project mirrors an expansion or small-line project that a seed company would take on, and neither should use the same project planning approach as Ray Kinsella — maybe if I reference Kevin Costner you will recall?

Volumes have been written about project planning, so let’s push the engineering and equipment decisions downstream. I want to focus on the early stages. Before considering possibility and feasibility, we should first consider reasonability, or “why?” It is inevitable that this is the first part of the process. It might happen at ASTA meetings, at the bar or on the back of a napkin, but it’s still planning, or brainstorming, if you will.

For our test facility project, the “why” questions were numerous and some pretty obvious. We are focused on bringing innovative processing equipment to market, and on bringing a full product line into a new market. We have a point to prove in developing equipment that addresses specific issues in the market.

For example, our data show the operational characteristics of the Petkus MultiCoater reduce Heubach values in seed treatment application compared to standard batch treaters. While the data is intriguing, we knew we would have to prove it. We needed a solid testing model to prove this at commercial levels, with your seed and on your terms. Not only does this give us concrete, relevant results, but the facility also allows us to discuss and prove larger, broader concepts than just what we might be focusing on that specific day.

For a seed conditioning facility, the “why” questions of capital improvement will surely revolve around similar questions:

· Are facilities antiquated to the point that inefficiency costs more than a new facility investment?
· Do your capacities need to increase to stay relevant?
· Would a niche line off to the side create additional cash flow? Think processing organic product with segregated conditioning lines.
· Or are you, like us, bringing new product to existing markets or breaking into new markets with existing product?

For your next strategic planning session, sub out Ray Kinsella, Terence Mann and the micro bus and bring in your key staff. Spend time posing the “why” question, and I think you’ll be pleased with the feedback and direction. If the “why” makes sense, then explore the possibility and feasibility, allowing you to go the distance. Who knows, solid planning may keep your brother-in-law from foreclosing on the family business.