After a decade in the potato storage business, I’ve learned there’s a single piece of advice I can give that, no matter the situation, the operation or the farmer, proves relevant each and every time someone is considering upgrading their storage. It’s this: think beyond today.
If you buy yourself a new piece of equipment — a tractor, for example — and realize it’s not quite right for your operation, you have the option to trade that machine in a week, a month, a year down the road for something that suits you better. Storage bins, on the other hand, are a long-term investment and a fairly permanent installation. As such, you need to think of them not in terms of what you might need going into harvest this year, but how they’ll fit into your big-picture future plan.
If you are in a growth phase of your business, building to suit tomorrow’s needs could mean building bigger than you need for now, or building modularly to allow future expansion. Quonset style archwall buildings, for example, can be easily expanded by unbolting the existing end-wall, adding new arch sections and then reinstalling the original end-wall.
Building with the future in mind could also mean prioritizing efficient management, which will be an increasing necessity as your operation grows. For example, installing catwalks or opting for a double arch design with a central viewing area makes bin management much faster and easier. Given processors’ increasing concerns about contamination, being able to view the stack without actually stepping on the product is smart future-proofing for everyone regardless of size.
If there’s any possibility that you’ll be building additional storage in the future, remember that how you place today’s building will have a huge impact on where you can place your next buildings, too. So, think very, very seriously now about overall yard layout, taking into account major priorities like drainage and traffic access, as well as less immediately obvious priorities like where you’ll push the snow in the winter and the aesthetics of how you want multiple buildings to look from various angles.
If you feel uncertain as you make decisions to suit your long-range needs, look for help. Visit the yard of someone who has more storage than you and talk through what has worked for them and what they’d tweak or change if they could do it again. And, contact a manufacturer like us. I can tell you from personal experience: most manufacturers love working alongside a farmer to design storage options that uniquely suit an individual farm. Experts who specialize in storage every day can offer valuable insight into everything from building codes and environmental regulations, to the newest technologies and design options, to storage and yard design problem solving.
Your storage is a very major investment that you have just one opportunity to get right. Put in the time and thought to ensure you are well-prepared for tomorrow.