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Regional farm co-op expanding grain-handling capacity

Temiskaming Agriculture Centre receives $1.7-million investment on elevator tower, storage
Temisk Ag Centre 2
Mercier Mill Services is the contractor involved in the upgrades being made to Co-opérative Régionale’s Temiskaming Agriculture Centre in Thornloe (Supplied photo).

Co-opérative Régionale de Nipissing Sudbury is making a substantial $1.7-million investment in upgrading their receiving and storage capacity at its Temiskaming Agriculture Centre in Thornloe.

“This would be the biggest one-time spend on agriculture for Co-op Régionale,” said agriculture manager Brandon Tuinema.

The agricultural landscape in northeastern Ontario is changing dramatically with outside interest in acquiring farmland and a more diverse crop base from existing farmers.

“We’re the last frontier in Ontario that has significant arable land available for production,” said Tuinema.

“You have better crops being planted that are producing better yields, better genetics, and so we need more storage to facilitate those producers.”

The operation at Highway 11 and Development Road was one of the oldest grain-handling facilities in the area and hadn’t seen a major investment for quite some time. Once known as Tem Grain, it was acquired by the co-op in 2001.

“Our members had spoken,” said Tuinema. “They wanted faster unloading capabilities and needed more storage for grain so they could capture more market gains in the winter, instead of selling it all at harvest when supply and demand work against you.”

Many farmers in the Temiskaming area grow oats, canola, soybeans, barley, and spring and winter wheat.

The co-op is constructing a 160-foot grain tower this summer with a bucket elevator that hoists grain from a ruck to the top of the structure where a pipe distributes it to the appropriate bin. 

Tuinema said they’ll be doubling their receiving capacity by installing the 10,000-bushel an hour elevator leg, which translates to 250 tonnes an hour.

The improvements will also boost storage capacity to 170,000 bushels with four wet bins at 60,000 bushels and one dry bin for 110,000 bushels.

These improvements should help overcome the regular harvest-time bottleneck of lacking enough storage for wet grain before it can reach the dryer. The four wet bins will have massive fans to keep cool air circulating through the product to keep it from getting mouldy.

The project contractor is Mercier Mill Services, an agriculture specialist based in Winchester in eastern Ontario, who’s been involved with facility expansion for the big grain-handling companies in the area.

“We’ve been involved with them for a long time,” said Tuinema. “They’ve seen the potential for decades in this area and are one of the few who would come up here and service our equipment."

Verner-based Co-opérative Régionale has 4,000 members working in agriculture, hardware and grocery stores, fuel and energy depots across northeastern Ontario in communities.

Besides the Thornloe facility, the co-op has agriculture sites in Verner, east of Sudbury, in the Algoma district at Echo Bay, east of Sault Ste. Marie.

Aside from new infrastructure, Tuinema said they’re also investing in personnel. 

As producers and customers become more sophisticated and require a different level of service and expertise, the co-op is hiring crop specialists, one of whom is expected to start on the job within a few weeks.