Upgrading the Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant in a Pandemic

by | Oct 30, 2023

Despite pandemic delays, Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant managed to upgrade and expand its seed cleaning plant.

When Alastair Truesdale became plant manager of Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant he had a vision. He knew the plant was dated but he saw potential. With the amount of business going through it and new technology available, he knew the plant could upgrade, expand and become more.

“The new manager was very progressive. He came along and it’s one of those things if you don’t keep up with changes in agriculture or any business to keep the business upgraded. It lags behind and then all sudden  you’re struggling to find ways to get it back into shape,” Larry Hildebrandt, board member of Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant, says in a phone interview.

The Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant in Carstairs, Alta. was originally built in 1961 and was a wooden structure. The original facility ran until 1987 when a new steel facility was constructed. The 1987 plant is still operating as of today and has received upgrades over the years. In 2012 a colour sorter was added to the plant with the largest upgrades have happened with the recent upgrade.

Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant before upgrades

The 1987 built Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant in Carstairs, Alta. facility before recent upgrades. Photo: Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant

Truesdale decided to start working at the plant in 2015. He had originally immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland in 2012 and had travelled around Western Canada working in sales for seed cleaning and handling equipment. As he found himself wanting to settle down an opportunity presented itself at Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant.

“I had very much enjoyed getting to see so much of the country while visiting seed plants and grain elevators across the Prairies, but I  didn’t want to stay on the road. And then I took the job here because I knew that Dwayne Trotier was going to retire sometime in the future and felt that it was a great Alberta location,” he explains in a phone interview.

Truesdale worked under Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant General Manager Dwayne Trotier for a few years before Trotier retired and Truesdale took over running the plant in 2019 working with Cam Reid as plant operator and the plant’s bookkeeper Anke Wierenga, along with some seasonal employees. As Truesdale took over running the plant he looked at annual operations and knew there were ways they could increase capacity and keep the plant busy year round, not just for six months in the winter following harvest.

“(Truesdale) knew all the machines and and he just said, ‘Well, we can increase our capacity,” Hildebrandt says. “You got four or five months where (the plant) kind of sits idle — they do maintenance and stuff. But we he said, ‘Well, we could do other cleaning, Canada Malting’s always looking for grain to be cleaned. And there’s other things that that can be cleaned, other businesses.’”

The Mountain View Seed Cleaning board could see the opportunity in Truesdale’s vision and gave him the go ahead to start on the project. An engineer was hired to complete a feasibility study of the plant and identify areas where upgrades or expansions could be made. The decision was made to upgrade the cleaning and treating systems, add a second scale and receiving system, and build 10 additional storage bins.

“We renovated the plant, moved around cleaners to improve the flow,  added  an additional scale, outside storage bins and a new unload system. So we had a complete overhaul in the last couple of years,” Truesdale says.

Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant construction

The Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant in Carstairs, Alta. facility during construction to expand the plant. Photo: Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant

With the upgrades the plant now has doubled it’s receiving, cleaning and screening capacity using two truck scales for loading and unloading. The interior 80 foot scale unloads 2,000 bushels per hour, while the exterior 100 foot scale unload 10,000 bushels per hour. There was also two all-in-one cleaners added including on which allows for 250 bushels of seed to be cleaned per hour and a small lab scale that cleans 10 bushels per hour — these upgrads provide the plant with two more options for commercial cleaning. Future plans will see upgrades to both cleaning lines, increasing cleaning capacity to a combined 1,600 bushels of grain per hour.

“The hope is that with the small lab scale cleaner we can test samples, conduct training, or clean small, high value, lots for research and pedigree seed.” Truesdale explains. This will take time as it needs to be set up and a customer base built for it.

The renovations weren’t easy though as the team embarked on them in 2020 as the global COVID-19 pandemic started to unfold. The pandemic caused supply chain constraints and fluctuating prices which impacted construction.

“COVID came in and kind of slowed things down and inflated prices astronomically very quickly. So it was a challenge that way on the financing side, because we’d have a quote, and they’d say, ‘Well, this quote’s good for seven days.’ Well, seven days is not a long time,” Hildebrandt says, adding the board needed to meet and sign off on everything which was hard to do on such short timelines.

The upgrades also required a new electrical room to be built at the plant as the old one couldn’t handle the capacity of the new technology being installed. The electrician they worked with told them usually it would take eight to 10 weeks for the parts required to come in but due to the pandemic delivery was delayed in some cases nine months.

Originally they had planned for construction to be done and have the plant upgrades up and running by the start of the 2022-23 grain cleaning season in October. With the delays though the plant upgrades weren’t fully operational until January 2023.

“Once everything got started we were able to work the bugs out easily. The supply chain delays just cost us a few months and then we’re playing catch up with our cleaning through the season,” Truesdale explains.

Before the upgrades Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant was cleaning around 500,000 bushels of grain annually, it’s estimated they’ll be able to clean around 1,000,000 bushels per year now. Truesdale is excited for the 2023-24 grain cleaning season as it will be the first one with the upgraded plant fully operational for the full year.

Header photo — The 1987 built Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant in Carstairs, Alta. facility following recent upgrades. Photo: Mountain View Seed Cleaning Plant

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