Potato storage today has come a long way from the wooden shed out back older generations remember. Today, improved aeration systems, thicker gauge steel and innovative designs mean companies like ours can easily build potato storage sheds that hold 215,000 hundredweight and stretch 420 feet in length or more. But, is bigger always better? It entirely depends on your priorities. Building a single large, rather than two or more smaller potato storage buildings, offers both upsides and down.
At its simplest, effective storage is that which maintains the quality of your product (both mitigating loss and minimizing shrinkage) in the most economically efficient way possible. If we’re talking about a new build, efficiency almost always correlates to size. A bigger building not only divides the cost of steel over more inventory volume, it offers more efficient aerating, monitoring, cleaning, prepping, etc., compared to managing two or more separate locations. There’s a reason Home Depot, Costco and others follow the “big box” model: a single huge building that houses every operation offers the most efficient cost per square foot.
That said, there are other factors to take into consideration. Choosing the building that will be most efficient for you may depend on your current equipment, available manpower, management style, and/or monitoring preferences, as well as your future plans. Some of our buyers have even pointed out that the buildings they invest in need to best suit property resale, since the buildings may last beyond one’s farming days.
Much comes down to location, location, location. For some farmers, storing all inventory in a single location reduces travel time, simplifies loading and unloading, and improves monitoring ease. Others, especially those who have fields that are geographically distant from each other, opt for two or more storage locations over trucking to a central location.
The economics of storage only work, of course, so long as inventory is kept in excellent condition throughout the storage period. It can feel a little scary to store really large volumes in one location because any soft spot is more challenging to manage. In a worst-case scenario, where you have no choice but to pull the good inventory out to save it, some processors will respond by cutting your contract price.
While today’s monitoring cables and aeration technologies have greatly reduced the likelihood of spoilage, some farmers still feel more comfortable spreading risk between multiple smaller storage buildings. No matter how economically advantageous it is on paper, if a big building keeps you awake at night because you’re worried about having all of your inventory in one location, it’s not the right fit for your farm.
For something as seemingly simple as an empty space to store one’s harvest, there’s a lot to take into consideration. It is not too much to expect that your storage should make your job easier and safer, save you time, and maintain the great condition of your product, all at a financially reasonable price.