Let’s crush this
Platinum Crush soy processing facility takes shape near Alta
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY – Farm News writer | Aug 26, 2023
ALTA — In late August 2021, news started circulating about Platinum Crush, LLC, a soybean processing facility to be built in Buena Vista County near Alta. Today, construction is well underway, and this $350 million project is on schedule to become operational this coming spring.
“Platinum Crush is positioned to maximize value from locally grown soybeans,” said Erik Lightner, CEO of Platinum Crush. “This plant will supply both food and fuel needs, and it will position northwest Iowa in the center of the global ag economy.”
When the plant becomes operational in the spring of 2024, it will crush 38.5 million bushels of soybeans annually, or 110,000 bushels daily. It will also create 50 to 60 high-quality jobs.
Platinum Crush will produce 847,000 tons of soybean meal per year, along with 77,000 tons of pelleted soybean hulls per year. The soymeal and soy hulls (which contain highly digestible fiber) will be used in livestock feed rations, Lightner noted.
The plant will also produce 450 million pounds of crude soybean oil per year.
“Our oil is degummed, since this is the first step in the value-added process for the oil,” Lightner explained.
Soybean oil from Platinum Crush can be used for a variety of applications, including the rapidly expanding, renewable diesel bioenergy segment.
“Soybean oil from Platinum Crush can also enter the food oils supply chain for further processing into products for human consumption,” Lightner added.
On Aug. 1, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig joined Lightner and his team, along with the plant’s co-developer, Nick Bowdish of Carroll, for a tour of the Platinum Crush construction site. State lawmakers Sen. Lynn Evans and Rep. Megan Jones also participated.
“Platinum Crush fits right in with the bioeconomy in Iowa,” Naig said. “The economic multiplier effect of this will play out for many years to come.”
Platinum Crush is part of a larger trend to create more soybean crush capacity across Iowa and eastern Nebraska.
“In northwest Iowa, for many years we looked at other places in the state or the country where corn and soybeans were being bid up, because there was high demand due to processing,” said Naig, who grew up near Cylinder. “When you bring on more ethanol and biodiesel and facilities like Platinum Crush, you’ve got buyers bidding for corn and soybeans in this area. This drives up the price locally, which helps farmers.”
Platinum Crush will also streamline the supply chain. This will save local soybean growers time, in addition to opening up a more direct relationship with the processor. Platinum Crush will be able to unload trucks quickly, saving farmers and truckers a great deal of time when they deliver soybeans to the plant, Lightner said.
“Our goal is to propel value-added agriculture forward in Iowa,” he added. “Developing key partnerships with producers and customers will help us position Platinum Crush for future growth.”
Building the team
Recruiting skilled talent to run a complex facility like Platinum Crush is essential to the success of this venture. Lightner, an ag industry professional with nearly 30 years of experience in oilseed processing and engineering, was named CEO of Platinum Crush in April 2023.
Combining the skills of an engineer with the vision of an entrepreneur, Lightner began his career with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) after graduating from Penn State. He has extensive experience throughout the Midwest and around the globe with oilseed processing, fats and oils where he gained experience with trading, transportation, and risk management tactics in the domestic and export markets.
Nelson later worked for West Central Cooperative and Heartland Co-op in senior leadership roles, where he focused on grain origination. Most recently, he led multiple commercial business platforms in the ethanol sector in various senior management positions for Louis Dreyfus Company.
Scott Frerichs, vice president of manufacturing and engineering at Platinum Crush, brings nearly 30 years of grain processing experience, from plant management to large construction projects to engineering best practices. Educated at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Frerichs grew his career with ADM, spanning five continents across oilseeds processing, fats and oils refining, cogeneration, and cocoa and chocolate manufacturing plants.
He is also well versed in the construction, start up and management of greenfield manufacturing facilities. In addition, joining Platinum Crush strengthens Frerichs’ connection with his rural roots of growing up on a 2,000-acre family farm near Columbia, South Dakota.
“Our team continues to grow at Platinum Crush,” Lightner said. “We’re pleased that this facility will not only offer a market for locally grown and locally processed soybeans, but it will have the ability to be nimble to respond to market needs. We’re excited to help Platinum Crush maximize these opportunities.”