Building from the ground up: Construction of new feed mill tower complete

October 21st, 2021

AMES, Iowa – The large concrete structure that quite literally rose out of the ground near the intersection of Highway 30 and State Avenue Ames’s west side generated quite a buzz in conversations and on social media earlier this fall.

To answer the question on everyone’s minds: The structure is the new feed mill tower on the site of Iowa State University’s Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex, currently under construction on university-owned land. Once completed, the complex will include feed milling and mixing equipment, grain storage bins, grain drying and handling equipment, a warehouse and an educational building with classroom, lab and meeting spaces.

The process of building the feed mill tower took a mere four-and-a-half days, with two crews working 12-hours shifts, 24 hours a day, rain or shine. The main tower is more than 100 feet tall, and the front-end tower rises more than 44 feet. [Watch a timelapse video of the building process]

Jon Sargent, president and CEO of Todd & Sargent, the general contractor and design builder for the facility, said the structure was built from the ground up using what is known as a slipform process. There were two forms initially prepared on ground-level – an inside and an outside form. The void between the two forms was filled with rebar steel and cement to create the feed mill tower. Every four minutes throughout those four-and-a-half days, hydraulic jacks buried inside the walls activated to raise the facility up, inch by inch. Anywhere from 12-15 inches of cement were poured each hour while more than 100 tons of rebar were placed.

“This project is a dream come true for us,” said Daniel J. Robison, holder of the Dean’s Endowed Chair in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State. “The new feed mill and grain science complex is going to transform many of the things we do here at Iowa State University in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. We’re going to be training the next generation of thinkers and doers. People who will go into this industry and innovate and push forward the agricultural economy across our state and well beyond.”

Dirk Maier, director of the complex and professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, said this facility is long-overdue and will help propel Iowa State into the future.

“The purpose of this facility is unique in the world. This is really fulfilling a vision in terms of bringing the grain sciences, post-harvest engineering and feed technology faculty, students and programs together in one facility. This unique combination can’t be found at any university in this country or around the world,” Maier said.

The facility combines teaching, research, extension and international outreach conducted by the animal science and agricultural and biosystems engineering departments at Iowa State. It has also helped bring about the creation of a new feed technology minor, which started being offered in fall 2019.

Maier said an advantage of the minor is students from multiple degree programs at Iowa State can take specialized courses related to feed technology to become familiar with the grain and feed industries and explore career opportunities in animal nutrition and feed formulation, processing plant operations and business management, bio manufacturing systems technology, and equipment engineering, design and service.

Once the facility is up and running, students will receive hands-on training to prepare them to enter the grain and feed industry.

“One of the most amazing things about this place is it’s going to be run by students. We’re going to be developing the future leaders of the grain and feed industry,” said Tony Ewing, manager and associate director of the complex.

When finished, the complex will offer unparalleled continuing education opportunities for industry professionals and extension personnel from around the country and the world.

Funding for the $21.2 million facility has come exclusively from private donors, including Kent Corporation, Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Sukup Manufacturing Co., California Pellet Mill (CPM), Iowa Crop Improvement Association and NEW Cooperative.

The anticipated completion date of the feed mill and grain science complex is fall 2022. Renderings of what the outside of the facility will look like when finished can be seen on the feed mill’s website. A view of the construction progress can be seen on the live camera.


Dirk Maier, Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex, 515-294-0140,
Tony Ewing, Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex, 515-294-5045,
Whitney Baxter, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications, 515-294-2314,