Burgardt’s grain system

This computer-generated image of Al Burgardt’s grain system in Britt, Iowa, shows two new additions, highlighted in blue, that were added this year to increase capacity. 

BRITT, Iowa — Over the past several years, Al Burgardt has seen his operation grow.

A farmer in northern Iowa, Burgardt has added a dry storage bin, a tower grain dryer, wet grain handling and a dry grain air handling system to his corn and soybean operation.

All that expansion in the past few years has been part of a gradual plan, and he is reaping the benefits.

“I feel like I’m growing at the right pace,” Burgardt said. “We all have an ideal setup we’d like to have, but you can’t pay for it all in one year. You have to get it spread out and do things in a manner that allows you to have the capacities you want, but it takes you several years to get there.”

The key for Burgardt’s expansion is to make things more efficient on his farm. With outside costs for drying and storing grain always increasing, he has been able to utilize his own equipment to cut back.

“Having the ability to harvest that amount of bushels and get them in the dryer for the next day, the combine can be more efficient,” Burgardt said. “That takes some pressure off having to wait with more corn in the fields.”

He said he also has the ability to flash-dry some of his product to “get it out of the way.”

“We dried some corn early and hauled it all out because we didn’t want to wait in lines,” Burgardt said.

He has been working with Ag Advantage Systems based out of Thompson, Iowa, to assist in the expansion. Things have changed throughout this process, and he’s remained flexible. The key is making sure he’s staying within the scope he can afford, and what can be most effective, he said.

“Dollars are what drives it,” Burgardt said. “We can dry corn for less than half of what the elevator charges us to dry corn, and when you start handling the amount of bushels and paying for custom drying, you have to look for ways to make your operation as efficient as possible.”

Adam Abels, Burgardt’s GSI dealer at Ag Advantage Systems, has been involved in this process, and it started by simply learning what the ideal setup would be.

“We start off by quizzing him on what his current needs are and what his future potential is,” Abels said. “From there, we can pile different sizing of material and look at their existing site and what can fit. Then we maximize the cost per bushel in the bin.”

As markets fluctuate, so does the income that is available to expand. That means the plan may need to be adjusted. However, knowing what the end goal is will be helpful, Abels said.

“We like to plan two, three or four stages down the road,” Abels said. “They may not need it now, but that way they aren’t wasting money by having to redo something. If they did something one year, you don’t want to spend the labor to take it out. It’s always good to err on the side of caution and build on the larger side of things than the smaller side.”