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Gene Haldorson was recently recognized as the longest tenured employee at VAA with 35 years of service. His influence on company culture as a mentor to the next generation and with almost four decades of experience in the engineering industry has not gone unnoticed.

A graduate from Minneapolis’ Dunwoody College of Technology and a former Partner of VAA, Haldorson’s career began at a design-build firm drawing grain handling facilities and feed manufacturing plants. Eventually he joined VAA’s then sister company, Grain Facility Design (GFD) in 1981. Pushing to establish GFD’s reputation in the industry, Haldorson helped propel GFD’s name into the agricultural spotlight. Within four years of joining VAA he was managing projects from Iowa to Montana. With the closing of GFD in 1990, he joined VAA to focus on facility design and process/equipment layout. Today, Haldorson’s approach to establishing and maintaining long-term client relationships has contributed to the firm’s business philosophy.

“You meet a lot of people in the industry and you want to be in a career where it is not just about the work – it is about the people and the value of relationships you have impacting the work you do together. It is more rewarding when you truly feel you have accomplished something together,” said Haldorson.

In honor of his 35 years at VAA, the three CEO’s (in photo L to R: current CEO, Jeff Schrock; former CEO, Scott Stangeland; and founder, Dick Van Sickle) shared their gratitude working with Haldorson and presented him with a custom plaque featuring one of his hand-drawn projects, a grain unit train facility in Dickinson, North Dakota.


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With a smorgasbord and cash donations, VAA employees participated in the Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) Prevent Hunger Campaign. This effort was part of a larger Minnesota (MN) March FoodShare Campaign that helps stock community food shelves for the year. VAA collected 266 lbs. of food and raised the equivalent of $1,800 throughout the month of March. Every dollar donated is worth nine dollars of purchasing power for the food shelf and is used to restock when supplies run low. A group of VAA employees brought the donations to the IOCP Food Shelf and spent the evening bagging 2,871 lbs. of food, feeding a total of 32 families.

While these events took place in March, food drives and donations are encouraged year-round! For details on how to donate and other upcoming events, visit the IOCP Food Shelf website. Whether it’s a contribution of non-perishable food, cash or your time, consider giving back to our community.


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Generally, our society has been demanding results that are bigger, better and produced faster – this trend does not stop at the feed industry. Changes in transportation, storage and sanitation are contributing to a shift in design considerations and capabilities for large-scale feed mills. By addressing the benefits of these trends, facilities can develop a master plan to either immediately incorporate them or allow flexibility for future growth and business development.

Clean is cool... in the food industry that is. As a result of stringent sanitation standards and a cultural demand for the details behind food production, there is added pressure put on all levels of the supply chain to improve the traceability of their products. One of the first laws affecting the feed industry was introduced in September 2016; the FDA issued a new rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that requires better regulation in pet food processing plants by integrating Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs). Public pressure from the grocery aisles is also gaining momentum as food consumers are eager to understand the details of ingredients and feed that makes it into their diet. For feed mills, a critical component of demonstrating CGMPs to the FDA and for public perception will be clear product tracing.

As technology in this field continues to improve and become more standardized, it will benefit feed facilities to stay up-to-date for a number of situations ranging from supply chain management to brand and legal protection during food recalls. The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) found some of the most common methods for tracing products include “pen/paper (alphanumeric notes), bar codes, radio frequency identification (RFID), and electronic systems.” The latter is the most efficient option for the feed mill industry; currently available software packages typically combine a number of tracking, measurement and accounting features.

Master plans in the near future will require traceability techniques throughout the process, from the intake of ingredients through end product consumption. Consider how this technology can be effectively incorporated into your facility.


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Generally, our society has been demanding results that are bigger, better and produced faster – this trend does not stop at the feed industry. Changes in transportation, storage and sanitation are contributing to a shift in design considerations and capabilities for large-scale feed mills. By addressing the benefits of these trends, facilities can develop a master plan to either immediately incorporate them or allow flexibility for future growth and business development.

Popular among the feed industry and extreme couponers everywhere, the “buying in bulk” strategy is becoming a popular cost saving measure when acquiring ingredients. As a result, it’s not surprising to find that, among larger feed mills, the average order of bulk ingredients (corn, soy bean meal and DDGS) has increased to roughly 90 tons at a time. Gathering and stock-piling all the ingredients requires facilities to support the larger bulk intake.

More and more facilities are including increased on-site storage capacity. Inside an existing mill tower, the typical storage capacity ranges from 25 to 100 tons. Larger feed mills and/or facilities intending to buy in bulk, plan for external storage options to fit their needs. These can take shape as either concrete silo or steel bin additions. As you formulate your facility’s master plan, take a moment to consider the ingredients in the process and how many tons per year of feed do you anticipate producing. When working with soy bean meal or similar ingredients, a specific type of silo unloader is needed for the ingredient transfer out of storage. The type of unloading equipment will depend on the selected storage structure. Additionally, the size and production rates of your facility will dictate the amount and type of storage needed for your feed mill.

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Generally, our society has been demanding results that are bigger, better and produced faster – this trend does not stop at the feed industry. Changes in transportation, storage and sanitation are contributing to a shift in design considerations and capabilities for large-scale feed mills. By addressing the benefits of these trends, facilities can develop a master plan to either immediately incorporate them or allow flexibility for future growth and business development.

In terms of transportation, combinations of trucks and trains are commonly used for receiving in the feed industry; however, a focus on rail receiving is emerging as a key feature in several recent, large-scale feed mills in the United States. Ultimately a cost-saving measure, mills are now receiving with the intention to store anywhere from one day to two weeks of ingredients. This is an especially effective strategy for larger mills, facilities in remote locations and states in which the major ingredients are not produced. Not only does rail receiving allow for faster production, it also broadens the markets available for feed mills in ingredient acquisition.

If you’re developing a master plan for a feed mill project, consider the location and intended size of the facility. Is the site near a Class I railroad? How many tons per year of feed do you anticipate producing? Another consideration in your master plan should be the need for specialized equipment. Certain ingredients, particularly different kinds of meal, require a hard car unloader to ease the receiving process. All of these factors will influence the benefit of using rail as your facility’s main receiving system.