$10 million Wheat Innovation Center opens in Manhattan

By Corene Brisendine

The Kansas Wheat Commission celebrated the bringing together of researchers, producers and customers Friday. Its new facility, the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center at 1990 Kimball Ave., drew throngs of people during a ribbon cutting and open house Friday afternoon.

“What’s significant about it is it sits right next to the Grain Science Complex,” said Justin Gilpin, CEO of the wheat commission. “You’ve got wheat genetics, flour milling, grain milling, value added and marketing all within a parking lot. We can bring customers, researchers, and farmers all in here together. This is unique not only to Kansas, but also the world, to have this so centralized.”

Gilpin said when the Kansas Department of Agriculture moves in next to the NBAF site, it will create even more synergy among the participants by adding governmental regulators in the mix.

“Wheat is the No.-1 crop in this state, so bringing wheat customers, farmers here together and being able to leverage it with what’s going on with Kansas State University and the Department of Agriculture, it’s going to make it that much more powerful,” he said.

While the building is located on K-State property, the building is owned by Kansas wheat farmers through the Kansas Wheat Commission, he said. The commission has leased the property for the next 50 years, making it a stable site for everyone in the wheat industry to gather and reap the benefits of its central location.

The $10.3-million building was funded mostly through a 1.5-cent-per-bushel wheat check-off collected from Kansas farmers.

According to a press release by the commission, “It represents the single largest investment by wheat farmers in the nation.”

The 35,000-square-foot building houses 15,000 square feet of laboratories.

The labs are currently occupied by Heartland Plan Innovations, where researchers are developing a line of wheat that grows more quickly than normal varieties. The laboratory section includes 13 environmentally controlled growth chambers, and space that can be used by the K-State Wheat Genetics and Resource Center.

In addition to the laboratories, 10,000 square feet is dedicated to greenhouses. One of the four greenhouses is air-conditioned, allowing researchers to grow wheat during the harshest summer heat, when wheat growth is not optimal. All four greenhouses have automatic shade control, ventilation and watering systems. There is also a “headhouse,” for soil preparation; potting; and seed processing.

The remaining 10,000 square feet is dedicated to office space. Currently it is home of four tenants: the Kansas Wheat Commission, which includes the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers; the Kansas Wheat Alliance; Heartland Plan Innovations; and the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

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