For Project Milwaukee: What's on Our Plate?, we profile a local business with a global reach that manufactures equipment that allows other companies to make food. Chad Lorensen is the Business Development Manager for Schenck AccuRate, a Bulk Solids Metering Technology company making equipment for food manufacturers, located in Whitewater. Mike Karas is the marketing communications manager. They spoke with Stephanie Lecci.
Growers will send samples of their stored potatoes to the Hancock Agricultural Research Station to see how well a bin is holding up, and whether they need to ship it to a manufacturer sooner rather than later, or adjust the temperature.
Using a juicer, researchers at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station will analyze the potato's juice for levels of sucrose and glucose. Sucrose determines how long a potato will store; glucose, the potatoes color.
The Hancock Agricultural Research Station also has its own "fry lab" to show how a potato will fry up after being stored.
While these storage bins at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station are impressive, with potatoes stacked 16 feet high, acting superintendent Mary LeMere says a farm operation will have many more of these units to store 75% of their fall harvest.
This test bin at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station was being used to see how well a test variety of potatoes would hold up in storage.
At the Hancock Agricultural Research Station, the researchers grade potatoes for growers so they know what kind of yield they're getting each harvest season.
This machine takes potatoes down a conveyor belt and then "kicker" paddles along the belt divide potatoes by weight and size into the appropriate bin.
This grader, according to interim superintendent Mary LeMere from the Hancock Agricultural Research Center, is an older model compared with what farmers use on their farms to determine the sizes of their potato yields.
A lot of potatoes go through research at the Hancock Ag Station.
Heartland Farms, located in central Wisconsin, near Hancock in Waushara County, is 14,000 acres and dedicated to mostly growing potatoes for potato chips.
Heartland Farms, located in central Wisconsin, plants its potato seed in April and harvests in August, shipping from September almost up until the following harvest season.
Heartland Farms has its own "fry lab" in which it tests the color of the potatoes in its stores before shipping them out to potato chip makers like Frito-Lay and Kettle.
The potatoes are cleaned before they are shipped to make sure they are free of all foreign matter, like dirt and cornstalk.
After being cleaned, the potatoes are then graded, or sorted, according to size as they make their way through Heartland Farm's process to be shipped.
Heartland Farms can store more than three truckloads worth of potatoes, meaning potatoes can be going through cleaning and grading process while others are being loaded into trucks.
The potatoes move along a conveyor belt from the storage bins to make their way into the trucks to be shipped.
The potatoes move along the conveyor belt, at a fairly rapid clip, to be loaded into the truck for shipment.
These Heartland Farms potatoes are being moved out of the large storage bins up a conveyor to be loaded into an insulated semi to be shipped.
It takes about 10 minutes for Heartland Farms to completely load a semi truck with its shipment of potatoes.
Contributor Chris Hallberg lives in Wauwatosa. He recently returned from a ten-month Fulbright Fellowship in El Salvador where he met up with two Stone Creek employees who were visiting a coffee farm, and produced this audio essay for our Project Milwaukee: What's on Our Plate? series.
Today, we continue our Project Milwaukee Series: What’s On Our Plate? We’re exploring the impact the food industry has on the local economy. As we reported yesterday, more than 14,000 people in the greater Milwaukee area work for food and beverage manufacturers. But the number grows by thousands, when you include the workforce involved in building machinery for the food industry and moving its products, as well as making them more appealing. WUWM’s LaToya Dennis visited a few local employers that enhance Wisconsin’s food industry. When most people go to the grocery store, they probably don’t give much thought to all the work that goes into making the items on the shelves. I mean really, when was the last time you thought about what went into making your strawberry yogurt the perfect color? Well that’s what Dina Dicks does every day. She works for CHR Hanson in West Allis. The company makes coloring and other food additives. Dina and I met in one of the company lab.
We learn about the present and future of food manufacturing here in the Milwaukee area as part of our Project Milwaukee: What's on Our Plate? series. Shelley Jurewicz is Vice President of Economic Development for the Milwaukee 7. The organization has just issued a report on the Milwaukee region’s food and beverage manufacturing industry.