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Afgritech breaks ground on 4,000-square-foot expansion at Watertown plant

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Workers began demolishing a wall this week at Afgritech LLC, making space for a 4,000-square-foot loading garage to be built at the 200 Willow St. plant, previously the Blue Seal Feeds mill.

To be completed in November, the expansion comes after the company set up shop here in the fall of 2011. Improvements were needed to keep pace with farmers’ demand for dairy bypass protein meal across the Northeast, plant manager Harold E. Rozanski said. Included in the plan is the installation of six 100-ton silos that will be added to the 14 grain bins that store feed at the plant, holding from 15 to 30 tons apiece.

By enabling the company to produce and store more product, additional silos will increase the plant’s production by about 25 percent, Mr. Rozanski said. Because the plant’s production schedule is now maxed out, he said, the expansion is needed to add customer contracts at feed mills across the Northeast.

“This will give us the capacity to store more tonnage and serve additional farmers,” Mr. Rozanski said. “Right now we have to stop production to wait for trucks when our storage bins are full, so this will allow us to make product continuously.”

The average time it takes to load trucks is expected to be chopped from 40 to 20 minutes thanks to the improvements. The project will also enable the plant, which now employs nine workers, to hire up to three mill operators. Work shifts will be added on weekends at the plant, which now operates five days a week with three shifts.

The expansion includes the installation of an 80-foot scale to weigh larger truckloads at the new loading garage, replacing a 60-foot scale. The garage’s ceiling will be six inches higher than the 13-foot height of the current garage, creating more space to accommodate today’s large trucks.

Called AminoMax Pro, Afgritech’s bypass protein meal is produced by using automated equipment to mix raw soybean meal and canola oil. The process heats and cools the blended product. The high protein content of the cattle feed has been popular among farmers, Mr. Rozanski said, because it helps increase milk production.

Afgritech now works with about a dozen feed companies that are located mainly in Pennsylvania and Vermont, Mr. Rozanski said. But increased production capacity at the plant should enable it to expand its footprint at dairy farms in the East Coast region and into Canada and other countries, such as India and Egypt. Afgritech is a joint venture owned by Carrs Billington Agriculture, Stanwix, England, and Afgri Operations Ltd., Centurion, South Africa.

“We continue to get inquiries around the globe,” Mr. Rozanski said. “Watertown has been a good place for us to grow.”

The project’s general contractor is Mill Technology, Muncy, Pa. Subcontractors include Maple Grove Enterprises, Arcade, and DC Building Systems, Watertown.

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