Ardent Mills is driven by a clear purpose and mission – to enhance people’s quality of life and standard of health. With their new state-of-the-art mill in Florida, they are leading the way in efficiency, quality, and quantity. The mill is testament to the long-standing partnership between Ardent Mills and Bühler and perfectly embodies their path to ensure food security for an ever-growing population.
Lukas Hofstetter, February 2023
It’s one of those perfect sunny winter days in Florida that have inspired millions of Americans to move to the southernmost State. The 160-foot silos tower into the crystal-clear blue sky, and the first rays of sunshine illuminate the milling complex, promising another beautiful day with temperatures in the low 70s, around 20 degrees Celsius. As much as Dan Dye appreciates the warm weather having flown in from the headquarters in Denver, Colorado, his objective is to make sure his colleagues running Ardent Mills’ latest mill have everything they need to operate the company’s newest facility efficiently and safely.
As the CEO of North America’s largest producer of conventional wheat flour enters the facility in Port Redwing, just south of Tampa Bay on the Gulf coast of Florida, the calm but busy atmosphere of the mill is apparent. He knows each one of the workers personally, chats about the ongoing football season, and takes a genuine interest in everyone’s well-being. As he greets the staff and catches up on the latest news out of the Sunshine State, the standard-setting mill runs like clockwork, almost unnoticed in the background, producing 800 tons of flour in a 24-hour day, six days a week. The fact that Dye can dedicate a great portion of his time to check in on his team is evidence of two key pillars for Ardent Mills’ success: Its focus on its people and its great level of trust in the reliability of the equipment in this one-of-a-kind facility.
“Our people work really hard. They see the importance of the work they do, and they’re very proud to be able to help to feed people. When it’s more than just a job or a piece of equipment, there’s a shared purpose behind it. I believe that shows in all 35 community mills of our group in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico,” says Dye. It’s this spirit that helped create what is now known as Ardent Mills. “After 33 years at Cargill, I had the unique opportunity to move to Ardent Mills when the joint venture between Conagra Brands, Cargill, and CHS was announced in 2013. It’s been an exciting journey to create a new organization, to shape culture, and to be part of the flour milling community.”
Our people work really hard. They see the importance of the work they do, and they’re very proud to be able to help to feed people.
Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills
Bringing together different companies, cultures, and ways of doing things is a challenging endeavor in any industry. In flour milling – a calling that permanently balances art and technology and relies to a great extent on personal experience and learned nuances – the challenges are even greater. But then so are the opportunities. “Milling is one of the more traditional industries. But if you think of it, it’s also very fast-paced. A mill never stands still and there’s always room for innovation, for example, if we look at the last 10 years, the technology continues to improve to help us to get more yield, become more energy-efficient, or work more precisely to name just a few benefits,” he explains. Implementing new technology and finding new ways of serving the myriad of customers all over North America played a key role in turning Ardent Mills from a merger of three major players into one company with a clear mission: to enhance the quality of life and standard of health.
While Dye is getting briefed on the latest performance data of the facility by Steve Neely, Plant Manager at Ardent Mills, Tyler Adair puts on his safety gear and heads into the mill with the distinctive gait of a miller on a mission. He’s the Head Miller of the Port Redwing Mill and is responsible for the smooth operations of one of the most modern mills in the world. “We work two 12-hour shifts, six days per week. Our output is 800 tons of flour per day, so everything needs to run like clockwork – all the time,” he explains. His job certainly comes with a fundamental understanding of the responsibility of providing a key staple food to millions of consumers.
Adair’s path to become Head Miller of Ardent Mills’ flagship facility was paved by his desire to combine his passion for engineering and creating something meaningful with his skills. “After high school, I got my bachelor’s degree in Milling Science and Management at Kansas State University. I was immediately hooked by the unique combination of science and art in flour milling. From there, my journey took me to Ardent Mills in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and now I’m here in Florida thanks to the development opportunities Ardent Mills offered me throughout my career,” he says.
The mill in Port Redwing is critical in feeding an ever-growing population. Florida is the third most populous state in the United States. Despite its population of over 22 million, it was the fastest growing state between 2021 and 2022 with an increase of 1.9%. With such staggering growth comes an ever-increasing appetite for flour-based foods – and the need for reliable storage capacity in a State prone to be hit by hurricanes, which can disrupt supply chains for several days or even weeks.
Our output is 800 tons of flour per day, so everything needs to run like clockwork – all the time.
Tyler Adair, Head Miller at Ardent Mills
“Our on-site storage capacity is 4.1 million bushels of raw material storage. That allows us to continue producing around the clock in case of emergency,” explains Adair. A bushel is a standard unit of volume in the United States. That’s an impressive 111,000 tons of storage capacity. “From our silos, the grain is transported to our mills. We have the latest Bühler equipment from cleaning to grinding, conveying, sifting, dusting, and bagging. It was clear to us from day one that to fulfill these incredible demands, we needed best-in-class equipment,” says Adair.
Ardent Mills produces 800 tons of flour per day to help feed an ever-increasing population in Florida.
That’s where Sven Kunz and his team come into play. He heads Bühler’s sales department for Milling Solutions in North America and was responsible for the Port Redwing mill from the first meeting to the start up in March 2022. His eyes light up as he looks back at the biggest project in his career. “We knew from day one that this was going to be anything but another mill for Ardent Mills. Florida is a key market for them, and the mill here in Port Redwing was never intended to be one more piece of the already incredibly large Ardent Mills puzzle, but a flag-bearer for the flour milling industry in North America,” he explains.
Kunz and his team dug deep. Bühler and Ardent Mills challenged each other to build an infrastructure that can ensure food security for over 20 million Floridians and increase efficiency, transparency, and traceability with each grain processed. The result? Two separately running mills, A and B, with a total area of 63,000 square feet (5,852 square meters) which already includes the space required for a future mill C. The heart of the mill is Bühler’s latest grinding system, which is making headlines throughout the milling industry.
“Our integrated grinding system Arrius is at the heart of the mill. It really sets new standards in grinding efficiency and energy savings. Seeing it in operation here at Ardent Mills delivering at the highest level is living proof of our innovation power,” explains Kunz. A total of 36 Arrius make the Port Redwing mill one of the most modern milling operations in the world. Tyler Adair shares Kunz’s enthusiasm about Arrius: “Thanks to the integrated design of Arrius, we’re able to pick up about 10% efficiency from an energy consumption standpoint.” A true milestone in times of rising energy costs and inflation –
not to mention the positive impacts on sustainability initiatives. Building the mill, however, was one of the toughest tasks in Kunz’s decades in the milling industry. “Right when we started with the groundwork, the Coronavirus started spreading around the world. Since milling is considered critical infrastructure, we were able to continue building. The safety of everyone involved was always our top priority, and it is only due to the flexibility, dedication, and willingness to go the extra mile of all partners involved that we were able to meet the deadlines,” recalls Kunz.
Overcoming such daunting challenges together is what forges a long-lasting partnership. Dan Dye knows exactly what he expects – and what he gets – from Bühler in this partnership. “Bühler is having a tremendous impact on our journey. Not just as a provider of high-end technology, but as a thought leader in the industry,” he explains. He took a lot of food for thought home from the Bühler Networking Days 2022 in Uzwil, Switzerland and is still impressed by one particular speech.
“Ranjay Gulati’s keynote on ‘finding your purpose’ still resonates with me. Participating at an event with industry leaders that feed
4 billion people is a stark reminder of why we do what we do, the responsibility we share, and the tremendous opportunities we have to accelerate our impact when we collaborate and innovate on all levels,” says Dye.
“I carried that message home to Ardent Mills and challenged each one of us to take a moment to think about their purpose. I don’t believe there’s a more powerful driver than knowing that what you do matters, that your work is essential to provide safe, nutritious, and healthy food for millions of consumers day in, day out.”
Our markets keep moving and growing at an incredible rate. We challenge each other constantly to increase sustainability and food security as we ensure the most efficient usage of our resources in demanding times.
Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills
This sense of purpose combined with a strong entrepreneurial spirit is at the heart of Ardent Mills’ success. As Dan Dye overlooks the bustling Tampa Bay area on top of one of the 160-foot silos together with Tyler Adair and Sven Kunz, the path forward is as clear as the crystal-blue Florida sky. “Our markets keep moving and growing at an incredible rate. We challenge each other constantly to increase sustainability and food security as we ensure the most efficient usage of our resources in demanding times. I look forward to the next steps we will be taking together.” With mill A and B humming in the background, it seems only a matter of time until Ardent Mills will call Kunz and his team to start working on mill C.
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