PEOTONE, Ill. — The Scoular Company works with seedsmen, agronomists and farmers to ensure crops are grown to meet customer standards.
“Scoular has been working with farmers and buying grain for 127 years,” said Greg Lickteig, director of The Scoular Company. “We are an employee-owned company which makes us different from our competition because our employees have a vested interest in ownership and success of our company.”
The company, based in Omaha, Nebraska, has over 100 businesses throughout North America.
“And we have operations in South America and Asia,” Lickteig told visitors during a tour that was held on the first day of the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange 2019 and Specialty Grain Conference.
“Our No. 1 objective is to supply customers like you with a high quality product, consistently at a competitive price,” the company director told the group who toured the Scoular Andres Production Facility during the event that was hosted by the U.S. Soybean Export Council and the Specialty Soya & Grains Alliance.
“This facility began operation in December 2015, and we have acquired our non-GMO Project certification, food safety certification and organic certification,” said John Aretakis, merchandiser for specialty grains at Scoular. “We are 100% non-GMO at this facility, so we do not handle any GMO products to avoid incidence of contamination.”
The food safety programs at the facility revolve around keeping grain identity preserved based on variety.
“Because of our location, we’re able to access the largest inland container port in Chicago,” Aretakis said. “And because of Lake Michigan we are in a temperate climate, so farmers are able to grow a longer season variety of soybeans in this area.”
Monitoring grain quality is a priority at Scoular.
“Every 15 to 20 minutes we’re testing the quality of the grain as it moves through our equipment,” Aretakis said. “We have very strict clean-out procedures to assure there is no contamination throughout the facility.”
All outbound containers are checked for cleanliness, holes and smells.
“We are very strict on the quality of container we accept at this facility,” Aretakis said.
Soybeans processed at the Scoular facility at a minimum go through four pieces of equipment and up to six if necessary.
“The first piece of equipment is an air screener that has 16 screens to clean out foreign matter and splits,” Aretakis said. “The de-stoner is used to make sure there are no stones in our shipments.”
A color sorter machine includes a camera.
“Beans that do not meet our quality are extracted by a shot of air,” Aretakis said. “The gravity table sorts by density and weight, which allows us to segregate the smaller, less dense beans.”
Every year is different for farmers growing soybeans.
“Some years there are high split problems so the Harada Belt Sorter is an excellent machine for removing splits,” Aretakis said. “The aspirator is the final air kiss goodbye before the beans are packaged or shipped out in bulk.”
Grain is shipped from Scoular in several different types of packaging including 1 metric ton totes, 500 kilogram totes, 30 kilogram bags and bulk containers.
More than 300 buyers from 55 countries attended the conference.
Participants traveled to Jeff O’Connor’s farm near Kankakee to learn more about U.S. grain production. O’Connor raises corn, soybeans and some wheat on his farm.
“I’ve been raising non-GMO soybeans on some of my acres for the last six years, and I’ve done some seed production and planted non-GMO corn, as well,” he said.
O’Connor has sold non-GMO soybeans to Scoular for the past six years.
“I’ve learned to be successful long term with non-GMO or identity preserved grain, you need to have a relationship with the buyer,” he said. “Because there’s going to be years when soybean quality is poor, so you need to have a relationship so they know you’re doing the best you can.”
The Kankakee County farmer has seen a growing demand for non-GMO and identity preserved soybean varieties.
“The strength for us in northeast Illinois or any place with intermodal facilities is when we can take soybeans from a farmer’s grain bin directly into a container at a facility, the quality of that product is as high as it’s ever been,” he said. “Those containers should never go back empty to countries.”
Ahmad Sulaeman, chairman of the Indonesia Soy and Food Beverage Network, learned by visiting the U.S. facilities that farmers produce several types of soybeans.
“We assumed all soybeans from the U.S. are GMO, but now we know there are many kinds like organic and non-GMO,” he said.
Sulaeman, who studied at the University of Nebraska, where he obtained his Ph.D. in nutrition, said he likes to promote the benefits of consuming soy foods.
“We import 3 million metric tons of soybeans from the U.S. per year, and about 90% of those are used to make tempeh and tofu,” Sulaeman said. “We would also like to export our soybean products to the U.S.”
For more information about the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange 2019 and Specialty Grain Conference, go to www.grainconference.org.