Global Center promotes grain and food science innovation [Video]

K-State’s Dean Ernie Minton shares progress on the College of Agriculture’s new multidisciplinary education complex.

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Elise Schafer, editor of Feed & Grain: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Feed & Grain Chat. I'm your host Elise Schafer, editor of Feed & Grain. This edition of Feed & Grain Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and is your source for the latest news, product and equipment information for the grain handling and feed manufacturing industries. 

Today, I'm joined on Zoom by Ernie Minton, dean of Kansas State University's College of Agriculture, and director of K-State Research and Extension. He's here today to reveal plans for K-state's Global Center for Grain and Food Innovation. Hi, Dean Minton. Thanks for joining me today.

Dean Ernie Minton, K-State University: Good morning, Elise, it's very good to be with you!

Schafer: Yes, well, let's get into it. Now, what is K State's mission for its new Grain and Food Center, and once it's completed, what will make it such a unique educational facility?

Minton: Yeah, absolutely. That's a great question. So just really quickly, a little bit of background, going back to 2015, and then again in 2021, deans of agriculture across the United States conducted a survey to determine the magnitude of deferred maintenance across buildings nationwide, actually, and this would be land grant universities, sort of the engine for food and agriculture research, and really the heart of the food system in the U.S.

K-State contributed some to that survey, as well, so we had a good feel for what the shape of our buildings that are used for instruction, research and extension activities. We have a unique department here at K-State called the Department of Grain Science and Industry and your listeners will be familiar with that. It really is one-of-a-kind, but the building that houses that department was among the worst in our portfolio. So, we knew going in that this building would need would need some attention. At the top of our list for renovation was Shellenberger and the feed technology hall, which basically housed the feed program.

When Kansas State University had an opportunity to get some state funding last year, we earmarked it for starting with this project. And you know, we could have razed the building — razed Shellenberger Hall and feed tech — and built it right on the same spot, but what we decided to do was move this department in closer proximity to faculty who work in the food science area, and also faculty who work with our feed and pet food faculty that are ruminant and non-ruminant nutritionist.

This new building — the Global Center, we've called it — will be housed between Call Hall, which has dairy and some other food science related kinds of disciplinary areas in it and Weber Hall, which has our meat science faculty and our nutritionist in the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry.

The Global Center will be physically connected to those two buildings. We think this will provide a unique opportunity for all those disciplines to interact with one another, not just the faculty, but the students, as well, because we believe strongly that these really challenging problems in the next several decades with regard to the food system, are going to be best handled with multidisciplinary team approaches to problem solving.

Schafer: Absolutely. So how will students and educators engage with each other and various disciplines across agriculture through the facilities at the center?

Minton: As I said, these buildings are going to be unique. I don't know exactly what to call it, sometimes referred to as skywalks, but there will be physical connections, and I think the building at this point, although it's still under design, is planned to be a three-story building. And the architects, at this point, envision it to be adjoined at all three levels. There will be tremendous opportunity for students to interact with one another and also for faculty interact with one another.

I should mention that our relatively new president, Dr. Rich Linton — who's come over following 10 years as the Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University — had just himself led the building of a rather large, really world-class Plant Sciences Initiative building at NC State. The thing about that building is it brought together a variety of disciplines in interdisciplinary spaces, and also there was space set aside for companies, so private sector companies to come in and work side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with faculty to really tackle problems. He reports this approach brought faculty who had never worked together previously in close proximity to one another. He laid out a strategy that challenged us that 30% of the this new building space would be dedicated to multidisciplinary research and innovation teams.

As we need to have space to house the Department of Grain Sciences and Industry, because they'll no longer have a home building, there will be opportunities for faculty from other parts of the campus to come over and participate in this multidisciplinary space — from engineering from business from other colleges, as well as the College of Agriculture. So, we think this is what makes it a really unique space and we're looking forward to it becoming available.

 Schafer: Yeah, it sounds like a wonderful approach. Now, what are the next steps in planning and when might the complex be ready for students and industry partners to reap its benefits?

 Minton: Yes, it's moving rather rapidly, but it is among the most complex — maybe it is the most complex architectural challenge — I'd say that we've had at K-State, maybe even in its history. There's some additional architectural planning, design to take place. Because of the source of the funds, which are related to pandemic relief funds that came to the state of Kansas, they have a use-by date, and so we have to have those funds expended by the fall of 2026. Not that far, actually, in the future. We anticipate the Global Center will be opened by then. We also have substantial renovations in their plan for Call and Weber Hall.

We're engaged currently in fundraising to help raise philanthropic funds to help with that project, and so we think the Global Center will be complete by the end of these renovations to the dairy processing facility, to the retail space. Folks from K-State are familiar with call Hall Ice Cream, so that space will be renovated as well, along with our meats laboratory and laboratory in Weber Hall, and those will probably extend out 2027 to 2028, somewhere in that timeframe.

 Schafer: Well, thank you so much for the update today. This is very exciting.

 Minton: Well, thank you, I appreciate it. I'm really excited to share this news. It's actually been awhile since we've had new buildings dedicated to the College of Agriculture at Kansas State, and so we're going to be really excited to have these new facilities to work in.

Schafer: Sounds wonderful and we'd be happy to have you back in the future.

Minton: Awesome, that'd be terrific.

Schafer: That's all for today's Feed and Grain Chat. If you'd like to see more videos like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel, sign up for the Industry Watch Daily eNewsletter, or go to and search for videos. Thank you again for watching and we hope to see you next time.