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Designing grain facilities for efficiency and the environment

Kurt Rosentrater of Iowa State University highlights the imperative for grain facilities to consider carbon footprint in design and operation at GEAPS Exchange.

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Steven Kilger

Kurt Rosentrater professor Iowa State University spoke at Grain Elevator and Processing Society's (GEAPS)  2024 exchange about a new consideration grain companies may have to start implementing in new facility design — it's carbon footprint. Grain elevators and facilities play a crucial role in the storage and handling of agricultural products, making their design and operation a critical factor in maximizing efficiencies and reducing environmental footprints. By understanding the basics of facility design, management can make informed choices that result in cost-effective, flexible and effective storage and handling facilities.

Carbon emissions can be categorized into three scopes: scope one emissions, scope two emissions, and scope three emissions.

  • Scope one emissions refer to the direct emissions from the facility itself, such as emissions from fermenters or other energy production processes.
  • Scope two emissions are indirect emissions resulting from the electricity purchased from the grid or municipality, where the facility needs to account for the CO2 emissions produced by the power company.
  • Scope three emissions encompass the entire supply chain, from the farm to the consumer and even beyond. This includes the carbon footprint of ingredient suppliers, packaging, and energy use by consumers.

While private companies may not be mandated to report scope three emissions, public companies or those aiming to meet consumer demands for sustainability may require their suppliers to provide carbon footprint information.

Rosentrater gave examples of way that facilities can be built and run to reduce its carbon foot print. Including:

  • Utilizing renewable energy sources
  • Optimizing thermal efficiency
  • Lighting and motor control
  • Nutrient recycling
  • Zero-waste Initiatives
  • Water Use and energy-intensive processes

Building a more carbon conscience facility can have several benefits for a brand.

Cost savings and profitability: Reducing energy and water consumption can lead to significant cost savings for grain facilities. By optimizing processes and adopting energy-efficient technologies, companies can improve their profitability while reducing their environmental footprint.

Brand image and consumer preferences: As sustainability becomes increasingly important to consumers, companies that can demonstrate their commitment to reducing carbon footprints and water consumption may gain a competitive edge. Large multinational manufacturers and customers may consider water and carbon footprints when selecting suppliers, making sustainability initiatives a crucial factor in maintaining brand image and loyalty. 

Sustainability is an ongoing process, and grain facilities need to continuously evaluate and improve their practices. Just like in quality management, implementing sustainability initiatives requires testing, measuring, and planning for future improvements. Adapting to changing regulations and market demands is essential for the long-term success and sustainability of grain facilities.

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