(L to R) Syngenta Head of Heartland East Commercial Unit Jerry Johnson, Syngenta Site Manager Nelson Thorp, DeWitt County Farm Bureau President Tom Hieronymus, Clinton Mayor Carolyn Peters and Syngenta Megasites Lead Ramtin Ahmadi participate in a groundbreaking ceremony on Dec. 11. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
CLINTON – Syngenta broke ground Tuesday on a major expansion of its corn and soybean research facilities near Clinton, Ill.
When completed in summer 2013, the site will be the largest Syngenta corn and soybean trialing site in North America.
“We also have trait integration and our soy growth rooms, which is expanding quite considerably. We also have the plant production technology group based here, which looks at agronomic branch of how we would improve our offering, as well, to the customer,” said Ramtin Ahmadi, North American R&D business practice and megasites lead for Syngenta.
The company chose to expand the Central Illinois facility because of its geography.
“It’s also well located in the middle of the Heartland of corn, if you will, and soy. Illinois grows millions of acres every year of both. In addition to that, we have around us universities and colleges that offer a focus on agriculture that will obviously help us with regard to the skills that we need,” said Ahmadi.
The location has a long history in the seed business, beginning as Thorp Seed Company in 1936 and then joining with Funk Bros. Seed Company in Bloomington until 1973. The family business then helped to form the Golden Harvest brand, which Syngenta bought in 2004.
“From 2004 on, all we’ve done is expand. This is the biggest single expansion we’ve done, and we’re also working on a master plan for 14/15 and it’s not showing that we’re going to slow down any,” said Nelson Thorp, site manager for the Clinton product development site.
The company will triple the space devoted to soybean growth rooms, where they can turn up to four crops in one year inside in a controlled environment to integrate traits faster and get them to the farmer more quickly. They’ll also construct cold storage for grain and seed, as well as a new equipment maintenance shop and machinery storage building. Along with all of that comes the need for improved infrastructure.
“We’re out in the country, and they’re finally deciding that our phone lines aren’t big enough to handle all the data,” said Thorp. “Some days we’ll have a million points of data come out of this site because we’re collaborating with all of the other sites in the U.S.”
The location will also include facilities for company meetings that will bring employees from across the country and representatives from around the world to the area on a regular basis. Even more importantly, the expansion will increase the number of full-time jobs at the location by 20 percent.
“In this day and age, the economics is kind of slow and so it’s great to have this,” said Carolyn Peters, mayor of Clinton. “It will bring some jobs, and whether those jobs can pull from our workforce already or if they will bring in some new people that will buy houses and shop in our stores and send children to our schools, that will be exciting, and we will look forward to that.”
The research and development is very important to farmers as they use technology to compensate for a shrinking acreage base and a growing world population.
“The more R&D and technology that comes forth enables us as growers to feed a hungry world in the future,” said Tom Hieronymus, Dewitt County Farm Bureau president.
Construction on the project should begin next week with completion scheduled for July 1, 2013.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at email@example.com.