Alta, IA soybean processing facility on track for april 30

The roughly $375 million Platinum Crush soybean processing plant in Alta, IA is on track to begin operations in spring 2024.

According to CEO Erik Lightner, pre-commissioning of the plant is expected to begin in January. The target startup date is April 30, and the plant should be at capacity within two weeks.

The plant, on Highway 7 on the outskirts between Alta and Storm Lake, will have a nameplate capacity of 38.5 million bushels of soybeans per year. In a year, the plant will be able to produce 450 million pounds of soybean oil, 847,000 tons of soybean meal, and 77,000 tons of pelleted soybean hulls.

“We’re confident that we will have the ability to process more than that, but that is the listed capacity,” Lightner says. Platinum Crush has almost 1 million bushels in storage already.

The state-of-the-art plant is being financed by a group of investors whom Lightner declines to identify, other than to say “they’re Iowans” who have backgrounds in agriculture and that “they’re the right people doing the right thing at the right time.”

Eleven employees already have been hired, including a plant manager. In all, the plant will likely employ 55-65 people, Lightner says. Process operators are expected to need eight to 12 weeks of job training, while other roles might need six to eight weeks of training.

“We should be, by the end of March, up to 80-90% fully staffed,” he notes.

Sourcing Local Soybeans

Platinum Crush officials expect the plant will draw soybean crops from a radius of roughly 50 to 75 miles. The company says its customers will be able to dump a truck of soybeans within 40 seconds.

“Many coops, many processors, they just don’t have the ability to receive and to move beans that fast,” Lightner claims. “We’ve had a lot of very positive comments [about] just how quickly we can bring in trucks, get them unloaded, and get them back on the way. Because, nobody wants a combine sitting there waiting on a truck.”

The plant is sprawled out on 40 to 60 acres, though in total the plant controls a 440-acre parcel, he says. The additional acreage would give the plant the opportunity to expand in the future.

The products of the plant will find their way to various end-uses, among them food, livestock fodder, and biodiesel.

“Right now there’s a huge demand domestically, for soybean oil for the renewable diesel market,” Lightner adds. Some of the plant’s soy products will be exported, while others will find a market locally, particularly as livestock fodder. 