I get a lot of phone calls and emails from growers looking for advice about building additional potato storage. Though every farm is unique, one piece of advice that works in virtually every situation is this: think big.
Make no mistake: I am not advocating that growers take on impossible debt or build much bigger than they need. Rather, I mean all farmers, regardless of size, should follow corporate farms’ decisive and numbers-oriented style of decision-making.
Operators of large-scale farms know their priorities and keep their eye on exactly what they need to achieve their short- and long-term business goals. They are usually well organized through any decision-making process. When it comes to building a new storage facility, they will systematically analyze how a new building will fit into short- and long-range storage and bin yard plans. They typically recognize that the design and creation of a new build takes time, so they invest early rather than waiting until they need the building right now. And they generally don’t cut financial corners. While small and cheap might solve a short-term problem, customers who base their decisions on those factors are rarely happy a year later.
Corporate farmers are also usually skilled at looking at the whole picture: considering outside influences like processor requirements, changing markets, future needs, etc. They recognize that design decisions should be dictated not only by what one currently stores and who one currently sells to, but by what one may store and who one may sell to in the future.
For example, while you might not currently require storage upgrades like refrigeration, heating or additional air right now, it makes good business sense to consider whether your operation might require any of those into the future. Might you expand the farm and take on more acres? Might you change from processing to more delicate, harder-to-store fresh-pack potatoes? Adding an extra wall or a larger fan house when the storage building is under construction is a whole lot easier and more cost-effective than trying to retrofit those elements a few years down the road.