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Looking long-term

Robertson Cheatham Farmers Co-op consolidates crop nutrients operations into new state-of-the-art facility in Springfield
By Chris Villines 2/23/2018


This drone photo gives an aerial perspective of the new Robertson Cheatham Farmers Cooperative Crop Nutrients Center, which debuted with a grand opening event on Jan. 31. The 29,000-square-foot building is located three miles north of downtown Springfield.
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Speed. Accuracy.

Efficiency. Talk to those associated with Robertson Cheatham Farmers Cooperative, and these words are accentuated when discussing the Co-op’s new Crop Nutrients Center in


Located on the north end of town along Highway 41, the 29,000-square-foot, 8,000-ton capacity building has opened for business to provide an unprecedented level of service for the storage, blending, and delivery of crop nutrients for the area’s farmers. A grand opening celebration was held on Jan. 31 and included tours of the facility, lunch, and vendor information booths from Ranco, Mosaic, Verdesian, Rainbow, Adams, and Tennessee Farmers Cooperative.

The new center, built by Missouri’s Owens Construction, consolidates crop nutrients operations for Robertson Cheatham’s four stores — Ashland City, Milldale, Sadlersville, and Springfield — into one central location. In addition to storing products such as urea, dap, potash, KMag, pelletized lime, and MESZ, the facility also houses sulfate of potash and a 6-12-18 blend for local tobacco farmers.

“We were getting to the point where the existing facilities and equipment we had at each store were going to need some work,” explains Randy Sutherland, general manager of Robertson Cheatham Farmers Co-op. “For the efficiency of our equipment and to be able to better manage inventory, we made the decision to put everything in one building. We wanted to build something that 50 years from now will still be a good source for storing and blending fertilizer for our farmers.

“And we really think it is going to help us not just in terms of blenders and loaders but also with equipment in the field. You’re spreading fertilizer with $300,000 trucks these days, and you can’t afford for them to be sitting still. The more we keep them running, the more we can operate efficiently and economically.”

This forward-thinking approach went into every facet of turning the facility from a concept to a reality, says Buddy Sneed, the Co-op’s board president. Buddy was part of a Robertson Cheatham contingent that toured fertilizer facilities at West Tennessee Co-ops in Carroll, Tipton, and Weakley Counties to gain insight and ideas prior to construction.

“We purchased the land six years ago with growth in mind and started really planning for this building about four years ago,” says Buddy, who farms some 6,500 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat with business partner Gary Tate. “Everyone got on board with the idea because the Co-op’s business has grown enough to justify taking this step. It was time to do something.”

The state-of-the-art facility features a 16-ton Adams Fertilizer Equipment horizontal blending system and an eight-bin Ranco Declining Weight blending system, which measure the output of each product as they are blending and adjust for variability caused by density or flow changes. The system constantly checks the amount of product being dispensed throughout the entire blend time. If the output varies by more than half a pound, an adjustment is made to the speed of the auger to compensate for this variance.

“It’s fast and it’s accurate,” says Tanner Pritchett, who was selected to manage the Crop Nutrients Center after proving himself as a TFC trainee at the Springfield store. “You’re skipping all the customary processes of blending that took so much time. The Ranco system does everything at once. We’ll be able to treat our urea with NutriSphere-N and our dap with Avail. The system is designed to load 200 tons an hour. It can load a truck in eight to 10 minutes as opposed to 20 or 30 minutes with a traditional-type blending system.”

Another cutting-edge, beneficial feature of the building, Tanner adds, is its heated floors.

“Many fertilizer buildings have a lot of slop and moisture, and that creates waste and shrink,” he says. “The heated floors draw the moisture out of the fertilizer to where you can keep it swept up. This will help us cut down on lost tonnage.”

Through the end of this year, Robertson Cheatham customers will have the option of picking up crop nutrients either at their branch store or at the new location. All crop nutrient products will transition to the center in 2019. Pull spreaders will be loaded at the new facility and delivered to the branch stores.

In addition to Tanner, the Crop Nutrients Center staff includes plant operator Russell Bryant, a full- and part-time loader, and sales specialists Bobby Ogg and Marie England, who will alternate between handling walk-in customers and working offsite with farmers.

“It’s going to be a team effort as we head into spring,” Tanner professes. “We wanted to become operational and work out any kinks before it’s crunch time. Everyone is going to be paddling when we hit the rapids for sure.”

Producers attending the grand opening event, such as Andy Mason of the Youngville community, were enthused about the new facility’s capabilities.

“There will be more consistency and accuracy on the formulations, and they’ll be able to get in and out with a load quicker,” said Andy, who operates a sod farm with two brother-in-laws. “It’s closer for me, so I’ll be able to get here and back home quicker. The technology here is amazing. I think it’s a very good thing for the member owners, a win-win.”

Fellow farmer Randy Chamberlain, who grows soybeans, corn, and tobacco on his farm in Pleasant View, was also encouraged by what he saw.

“Co-op does all my fertilizing, and now they’ll be able to get it to me a lot quicker,” Randy said. “It’s a state-of-the-art place. This is a large farming area, and the way we farm is getting more high-tech every year so we needed something like this.”

Randy Sutherland says he’s grateful for the “full support” Robertson Cheatham’s board has shown from the beginning of this new undertaking.

“They’re all full-time farmers with a lot of equipment and facilities themselves, so they understand the importance of measures that will help them save time and money,” he explains. “It wasn’t a hard sell at all. This is an exciting time for all of us and a change to the way we’ve been doing business. We’re very serious about finding ways to better serve our customers, and we feel the new Crop Nutrients Center will help accomplish that mission.”

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