By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
JEROME – Scoular Co.’s new $13 million barley facility will initially process roughly 4 percent of the state’s total barley production but that number could increase significantly in the coming years if demand for the product produced there surges as expected.
During a Sept. 17 groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility, company officials said demand for the barley protein concentrate the plant will produce for the aquaculture and pet food industries is expected to increase substantially.
Scoular CEO Paul Maass said the company has “big visions to be able to expand and grow (the facility’s production).”
The 12,000-15,000-square-foot facility is expected to begin manufacturing in May.
The new operation is a partnership between Scoular, a global grain, feed and food ingredient company based out of Omaha, Neb., and Montana Microbial Products, which is based in Montana and developed the technology to create a barley protein concentrate that is a plant-based alternative protein used in aquaculture feed and pet food.
Idaho is one of the national leaders in aquaculture production and leads the nation in trout produced for food.
MMP Co-owner Bob Kearns said demand for the barley protein concentrate the facility will produce “is going to grow dramatically over the next five to 10 years and this plant provides the foundation for Scoular to continue to grow and produce product for that marketplace. This positions them to be a unique player in the protein ingredient business.”
“I’m really excited about where we are now,” he added. “I’m more excited about the future.”
A high-energy liquid feed supplement for cattle feeders will also be produced during the manufacturing process.
A fact sheet handed out during the groundbreaking ceremony said Scoular chose Jerome to build the facility because it “is central to Idaho’s world-renowned aquaculture, beef and dairy industries, as well as the state’s premier barley economy.”
Idaho barley industry leaders said the new facility is a big win for the state’s barley farmers and they were excited to hear that Scoular plans to expand production at the facility in the future.
“It’s a great development and I think this is just the beginning. It should grow from here, we hope,” said Blackfoot farmer Allen Young, the newest member of the Idaho Barley Commission.
Idaho leads the United States in barley production and Idaho farmers produce about one-third of the nation’s total barley crop. Most of the barley produced here is grown for malt for the beer-brewing industry, while the rest is grown for human food or animal feed.
Idaho growers produced 55 million bushels of barley last year off of 520,000 acres.
Scoular’s new facility is expected to add 10,000 to 12,000 new barley acres in Idaho over the next three years, company officials said.
“It’s a huge win for Idaho barley because these are new barley acres that won’t compete with malt acres,” said IBC Administrator Laura Wilder. “The protein concentrate industry is really growing and this could be a big boon for this area.”
Using barley in aquaculture and pet feed is an idea that the barley commission has researched, supported and encouraged for many years, and the early research into using barley for that purpose that the commission funded helped pave the way for the Scoular facility, Wilder said.
Former IBC Administrator Kelly Olson, who immediately preceded Wilder, said it’s a great example of how research funded by grower dollars can pay off in the long term.
“The Idaho Barley Commission stepped up early in the game as the technology was emerging to help fund fish feeding trials on a small scale,” Olson said following the groundbreaking ceremony.
She said the idea was a foreign concept at the time but the initial investment by the industry in the trials paid off big in the end.
Because Idaho is a long way from most of the major markets that the state’s agricultural products are shipped to, it always benefits farmers and ranchers when value can be added to those products before they leave the state, said Gov. Brad Little, a rancher and farmer from Emmett.
The new Scoular facility is a great example of that, he said.
“This is just the kind of thing we need in Idaho,” Little said. “We’re going to give our farmers better margins … I’m very pleased with this.”
Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould said Scoular’s decision to locate the facility in Idaho was a vote of confidence in Idaho farmers.
“Scoular (has) operations all around the world and they could have looked anywhere in the world and they chose Jerome, Idaho,” said Gould, who owns a ranch in Buhl. “I have to think one of the reasons for that (is the) fabulous producers we have here.”
She also told Scoular officials that they couldn’t have found a better home and assured them state officials and Idaho’s producers would do whatever they could to help the project succeed.
“We appreciate you for having trust and confidence is us and we’re not going to let you down,” Gould said.