When you head north on 127 Expressway toward Ithaca, the massive 4 million bushel ZFS Ithaca, LLC., an affiliate of Zeeland Farm Services, soybean processing plant is hard to miss. The sprawling site of more than 400 acres has the capacity to process 40 million bushels a year.
According to Eric Meeuwsen, general manager of ZFS Ithaca saw the need to add a new location since their facility in Zeeland couldn’t keep up with the growing demand as the state’s soybean and animal production has increased over the years.
“That led us to look into a new location to further process soybeans in Michigan and add value to the soybean crop, both for the producer and to the end user and lower protein prices,” said Meeuwsen.
The plant will begin processing later this year. When that day comes, Meeuwsen anticipates soybean basis to be increased and lower the consumer price.
“A lot of that’s due to less transportation,” he said. “Instead of hauling beans out of state and meal back into Michigan, it will be processed locally which will help both ends of the spectrum.”
The location was chosen in the middle of the state. Getting trucks or trains in and out of the plant should be easier because of access to U.S. 127 and the Great Lakes Central Rail Line. Meeuwsen expects the majority of the soybeans to come from a 150-mile radius of Ithaca.
“That’ll help move some of the outbound products out on rail,” he said. “[We brought] gas and electric to the site, other big infrastructure needs for grain processing. We looked at other locations and this one was a strategic fit for what we wanted to do long term.”
Michigan grows roughly 100 million bushels of soybeans. Between the Ithaca and Zeeland locations, Meeuwsen is confident the two will be able to process half of those bushels.
The elevator has been receiving some old crop bushels, and when harvest starts to pick up, Meeuwsen expects to get more new crop beans. He also expressed his gratitude to the city of Ithaca, Gratiot County, and Michigan with their support of the plant.