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Fertilizer future

Coffee Farmers Cooperative’s new state-of-the-art facility is designed to meet agronomy needs for years to come
Story and photos by Mark Johnson 10/1/2021


Coffee Farmers Cooperative debuted its massive new fertilizer facility Friday, August 27, for an enthusiastic crowd of Co-op employees, vendors, and customers from across the state. A large contingent of TFC staff members were present to help prepare, serve food, and visit with attendees.
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Middle Tennessee agronomy just got a big boost. On Friday, August 27, Coffee Farmers Cooperative debuted its brand-new, state-of-the-art fertilizer facility with a celebratory cook-out event with some 200 guests in attendance. Tennessee Farmers Cooperative (TFC) and member Co-op staff, friends, and family — as well as vendors and representatives from related companies — gathered to enjoy good food and fellowship and to inspect the facility. As some attendees visited with friends, others explored the many impressive elements of the enormous structure located adjacent to the Co-op’s main store in Manchester.

“This facility represents a milestone for farmers in the Middle Tennessee area,” says TFC CEO Shannon Huff, who was in attendance. “The vision, thoughtfulness, and efficiency built into this facility will undoubtedly serve as a template for Co-ops in the years to come. I really think that the members of Coffee Farmers Co-op and the surrounding areas will see significant benefits in their operations thanks to the addition of this wonderful facility. I credit [Coffee Farmers Co-op Manager] Adam Trail, his staff, and the Coffee board of directors for making this a reality.”

Trail says the idea of a new facility was floated during a Coffee Farmers Co-op board meeting some four years ago.

“With the nature of how things are moving in farming around this area, we knew we needed to upgrade our facilities and become more efficient,” says Trail. “We began construction about a year ago, and of course, it was a challenge to undertake this during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we kept at it. We’re proud to have it finished and ready to go.”

The facility was designed and built to be operated by as few as two employees — one on the floor and the other in the control room. Both the receiving and blending equipment was provided by Doyle Manufacturing and features two of the company’s fully automated AUTOBATCH® blenders, as well as a variety of hoppers, conveyors, and elevators to receive products into the 15 bays. 

“The system eliminates the need for an expensive truck scale,” explains Doug Tabing, the Doyle representative who worked on the project with the Co-op. “These blenders provide a quality blend in just 10 seconds per ton and, with the conveyors, the system can load more than 400 tons per hour.”

Tabing explains that the system integrates with TFC’s Merchant software, which streamlines the ordering process.

“Once the Co-op staff person writes up the order, the recipe is kept in the system and is ready to blend that exact mixture when the customer is ready for it,” he says. “You don’t have to rewrite orders, which eliminates the possibility of human error.”

Trey Smith, manager of TFC’s Ag Equipment, USA, says the need for increased supply security and efficiency necessitated the construction of the facility.

“Adam and the [Coffee Farmers] board had the foresight to grow the agronomy business in this area,” Smith says. “They posed the question, ‘What are we going to do 10, 15 years down the road?’ I really credit them for asking the tough questions and moving forward with a solution.”

Smith says that the increased capacity and efficiency of the facility will fit the advancements in the on-farm spreading process.

“The equipment in general is getting larger,” he points out. “The traditional five- to seven-ton capacity, single max spreader truck is giving way to the high-clearance machines that can spread 500 to 800 acres in a single day. The old 10-ton tender is being replaced with 16-ton and 24-ton tenders. These are becoming the norm, so you need a facility that can take advantage of these advancements.”

Smith adds that the facility is unlike anything he’s seen over his three-decade tenure with Co-op.

“I couldn’t have dreamed of this when I first started working in this field,” he says. “There are things here that you’d expect to see on a spaceship! It is certainly built to address the needs of the future.”

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