BARRHEAD - A multinational corporation has made a substantial investment in its Barrhead operation.
On Aug. 8, Nutrien Ag Solutions celebrated the official opening of its new $3.8 million fertilizer plant, replacing the old facility that had been in place since the late 1970s.
Nutrien Ag Solutions provides agricultural services and products in western Canada through more than 220 retail outlets. They also, through parent company Nutrien Ltd., serve the international market with outlets in the U.S., South America and Australia.
Branch manager Brad Sharrun said the project has been in the works for a long time, noting that they decided to replace the plant for several reasons, including safety for its workers and new technology for greater efficiency.
Nutrien Ag Solutions regional general manager Devon Hillyer expanded on the safety improvements, saying the old facility's 'bucket elevator systems' used ladders.
"Now we have pre-engineered legs that have allowed us to put staircases up. It is a lot easier for us to maintain," he said. "It's safer, and we can walk along the top and access any of the bins; plus overall, it is much nicer."
Sharrun also noted that with the old plant, it took upwards of one hour to load, while with the upgraded plant, they have reduced the time to between 10 and 15 minutes.
Sharrun added the new plant would serve the community for another 30-40 years.
"They don't last forever as fertilizer is so corrosive, but they will help us continue to serve our customers and local farmers for decades to come," he said.
History of Nutrien Ag Solutions in Barrhead
Hillyer, who was the general manager of the Barrhead plant from 2000 to 2010, said the company has had a long history locally, but admittedly, it hasn't always been under their current banner.
"(The original plant) goes back to 1978," he said. "(Alberta Wheat Pool) was going to build a brand new fertilizer facility just down the road, and the owner of this location said, 'Do I have a deal for you.'"
Hillyer added that over the years, the facility has changed hands through the sale and merger of companies, going from the Alberta Wheat Pool to Agricore, to Agricore United, Viterra, to Crop Services (Agrium), and eventually Nutrien Ag Solutions.
However, he said the one thing that has stayed the same over all those years is their support from the local agricultural community.
"We have always gotten great support from the local farming community, stemming not only from Barrhead but Sangudo, Mayerthorpe, Greencourt, Cherhill, Onoway, Neerlandia, and Fort Assiniboine. So we have a vast trough to draw on, and the growers have always supported us. It makes it easy to reinvest," Hillyer said. "And Barrhead has always been a very stable community, and it is growing, and people continue to funnel money into it through investment."
Town of Barrhead mayor Dave McKenzie said the investment the company has made is an example of the strength of the community.
“When a company of this nature chooses to invest this type of money in an upgrade, it not only bodes well in the investment they are making in their business, but the one they are making in the community," he said. "No one is going to make that kind of investment for an upgrade, unless the community has life. The Nutrien Ag Solutions plant upgrade is just one more indicator that our community is alive and well."
McKenzie noted that when a company makes the type of investment that Nutrien Ag Solutions, and other companies, such as Pembina West Co-op have made (noting the replacement of their food store in 2018), it helps council market the community.
In fact, he said, later in the week, he would be touring two interested parties around town that had expressed interest in the community.
“And I tell you, it is nice to go around and show them the investments companies are making."