Ag Innovation Campus Announces Partnership with Farmers Union Enterprises


CROOKSTON – The Ag Innovation Campus (AIC) is excited to announce a major sponsorship to ring in the new year. Farmers Union Enterprises, which comprises Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin’s Farmers Union organizations, is lending substantial financial support to the future crush and research facility in south Crookston.

“We are deeply appreciative of Farmers Union Enterprises support of the Ag Innovation Campus,” said AIC Chair Mike Skaug, who farms in Beltrami. “As an industry, we are joining hands to unlock the potential of the ag economy in this region as we prepare for our upcoming production launch.”

Farmers Union Enterprises joins AIC sponsors the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) and several other groups. Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish said the crush facility, which he recently toured, will help develop research and boost the region’s economic output.

“The Ag Innovation Campus is an investment into the future that will provide opportunities for agriculture,” Wertish said. “Farmers Union organizations are grassroots organizations that have been around for a long time, advancing policies for family farmers, and we look at this project the same way – it will advance the economic viability of family farms.”

In February, AIC officials will host staffers with Sen. Amy Klobuchar for a tour of the facility. The Crookston-based project will be built in three phases. Construction on Phase 1 – the crush plant – is complete, with operations beginning in spring 2023, when a formal event will be held. The AIC team will continue seeking new partners and fundraising sources in the months ahead.

“As construction begins on phase two and three, we envision that Crookston will become a new center of ag exploration,” Acting AIC CEO Tom Slunecka said.

As part of phases 2 & 3, this first-of-its-kind facility will feature:

  • The new home of AURI
  • Demonstration bays for innovative agriculture research​ conducted by new startup companies
  • A training site to develop the next generation of processing professionals in conjunction with local education centers and technology companies that want to showcase or train customers
  • A Regional Agricultural Education Center
  • A conference room with ability to host up to 100 people for ag research events
  • A venue to allow customers from around the world a direct connection to premium U.S. agricultural products

“The AIC is unique and very exciting,” AIC Plant Manager Bill Paulsen said. “There is a lack of a place people can go to to do their research and then go run their product through a crush facility and understand what it does on a bigger scale than a lab. Long term, our plan is to provide the ability for people across the country to research their products.”

‘A huge deal for producers’ 

The cutting-edge Campus will host a specialty crushing facility, allowing entrepreneurs from universities and private businesses, private seed developers and processing companies access to affordable processing, designed to lower costs while promoting growth of value-added products. The Campus is available to private industries to create products that benefit all parties, from farm gate to consumers. Education will also be a key component to the AIC, featuring state-of-the-art classrooms; a conference room that can host up to 100 people; laboratories; a training site to develop the next generation of processing professionals; and to allow customers around the world a direct connection to premium U.S. agricultural products.

A fully operational AIC will strive to boost the regional ag economy, creating dozens of good-paying jobs and crushing more than 60,000 tons per year of soybean meal, equating to about 2.5 million bushels. The AIC will support three crushing lines, each of which can be operated all on either organic, non-GMO or GM soybeans, as well as separately for each type of soybeans. In addition, the AIC anticipates that in the near future it will also work on other oil seeds, including cover crops. Profits from the facility will be granted to projects designed to advance agriculture, making the AIC a key source of new ideas.

“This facility really has the potential to revitalize the ag economy through Minnesota and the region,” AIC Director Trevore Brekken said. “As a farmer in this region, the Ag Innovation Campus will be a huge deal for producers.”

The AIC has myriad options for groups to participate in and all inquiries are welcome. Sponsorship is the best way to get a closer look at the many new technologies with the potential to reach full commercialization scale at the AIC.

“We’re going to develop and process products that consumers want today and tomorrow, not yesterday,” Slunecka said. “That’s the whole point of this center.”

For more sponsorship and career details, contact Tom Slunecka at 507-720-4052 or