Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Corrugated Steel Grain Storage Bins: A Grain Storage Trend with Momentum

I recently drove 1,500 miles across Kansas, Nebraska, and Eastern Colorado. One of the trends I noticed was the growing number of shiny new silver steel corrugated grain storage bins that seem to have popped up everywhere. They were of various sizes, set up across the landscapes of corn, wheat, and soybean country, on farms, next to ethanol plants, on railroad lines and in the small town co-ops.

A few decades ago, corn cribs still stood amongst the farm buildings, there were concrete stave silos, bunker silos, large town elevators, and tall blue low-oxygen Harvestore silos were all the rage. Many Harvestores have since been removed or their use abandoned. Wooden corn and grain cribs have deteriorated and were not replaced.

Wooden wheat cribs in Saskatchewan Canada

Older concrete elevators are located throughout cities along rail lines throughout the nation, and world.

Concrete City Elevator

Factors Driving Demand for New Grain Bins
Grain wouldn't do us much good if we couldn't store it safely and in the developing nations the storage and transportation infrastructure is the main challenge in achieving food security. Now, with Gavilon, Cargill, ADM, and large-scale farmers trying to time the sale of their grain, storage has become more important than ever to the producer here in the U.S. and abroad. Every year seems to break the previous year's corn production record, further increasing storage needs.

When, for example, southern U.S. acres switched from cotton to corn the demand for construction of bins increased as it created a need for corn storage in a region lacking. The ethanol industry uses steel grain storage bins at their locations, which has been a big boost to sales in the recent past. One additional factor driving demand this past decade is that the railroads have gone to requiring grain loading stoppage points which load 100 rail cars to increase their efficiency, instead of just 1-2 hopper car stops at the small pick up points previously.

The Sukup Manufacturing Company
To use the Sukup Manufacturing company out of Iowa as an example, they report that sales have been very strong the past 4-5 years, and even 1-2 years. Their company website states that their sales have grown by five times since they started producing the bins in 2001. A Sukup salesperson that I visited with also reports strong international sales, especially in Denmark, Germany, France, and some in Mexico, and Brazil. The +500 acre farmer with a need to dry grain (mostly corn) is their most likely candidate for building a bin on site.

The Sukup family, with several generations of family members having degrees in agricultural and industrial engineering, has acquired other grain bin production businesses over this past decade. Of interest on their website, "The company is now competing with other bin manufacturers who are owned by some big players, including Berkshire Hathaway and a large New York City-based investment group. The grain bin business is not for the faint of heart." Sukup is now in the top three of seven major bin manufacturers.

Bin Average Cost 2010
If a farmer decides to erect a steel grain bin on his farm today, the price will include the cost of the bin, construction, electrical, fans, augers and other chosen equipment, plus foundation costs. An average farm sized bin might be a 9-ring 48-foot diameter bin. General storage bin costs upon construction would be approximately $1.25/bushel. A 50,000 bushel storage bin (no drying costs included), might cost $62,500.

The Manufacturers Include....

Some major players providing steel bins and related equipment:
  1. GSI Grain Systems of GSI Group headquartered in Assumption, Illinois with locations in Brazil, Mexico, China, Malaysia, Poland and South Africa.
  2. Chief Industries Inc - Chief's Agri Group has locations in Nebraska, England, France, and Brazil.
  3. Sukup Manufacturing, Sheffield, Iowa, with six other Midwestern locations. (family owned and operated)
  4. Brock Grain Systems is a Division of CTB, Inc. (Milford, Indiana) is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.
  5. Behlen Manufacturing Co. of Columbus, Nebraska.
  6. SCAFCO, Spokane, Washington.
  1. Sioux Steel, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
  2. Twister, Canada.
  3. Sakundiak Equipment, Saskatchewan.
  4. Prairie Steel, Canada.
  5. TOBB Products, Lebanon, Missouri.
  6. Rowe Manufacturing, Gladbrook, Iowa.
  7. NRW Manufacturing, Manitoba.
  8. Meridian Manufacturing Group, owned by WGI Westman Group Inc, Winnipeg.
  9. Intersystems, Omaha, Nebraska.
  10. Enzminger Steel, Jamestown, North Dakota. [See Titan prices listed]
  11. Crippen International, Dallas, Texas
  12. Bridgeview Manufacturing, Saskatchewan.
  13. Skyway Grain Systems, Calgary, Alberta.

This sector of companies, many privately owned, is a bright spot in our economy right now, and, also, in our national goal of increasing our manufacturing exports.