Talented, hardworking and all-round dependable
Some might not understand the amount of technology that goes into pork production, but Ben did when he approached Iowa Select Farms about an internship two summers ago. Set to graduate this May from Iowa State University with a degree in ag systems technology (AST) and animal science (and already starting his Masters), Ben is technically a research associate, however he’s better described as an all-around dependable, talented and hardworking project manager capable of contributing to all areas of the company.
Ben joined Iowa Select Farms in the summer of 2014 after he approached a recruiter and expressed his interest in a production internship with a spin on ag engineering. Raised on the western slopes of Colorado, Ben already had experience caring for pigs, coal mining and logging all before college and wanted to dig more into how things worked. Ben was assigned a project in transportation services, overseeing a research trial to determine the precise time and temperature settings for newly-acquired dryers used to “bake” the trucks and trailers after washing. To keep up with the volume of trailers the drying bays needed to be efficient, but if the baking time or temperature wasn’t robust enough to kill off any leftover viruses on the trailer then they would fail inspection and need to be washed, sanitized and dried again. Once the trial was completed, Ben presented the research, helped implement the protocols and train the truck wash staff on the new processes and bake times.
Ben continued to work on special projects throughout the school year and this past summer once again interned with Iowa Select Farms, this time leading a feed flowability trial to find ways to prevent “bridging”—a common but complex challenge producers face when their feed bins limit the flow of feed into the augers. At the same time, he evaluated propane and electricity usage at the sow farms and finishers to understand the correlation with production performance. In addition to those roles, Ben asked to learn more about the ventilation and environmental control systems used to keep the animals comfortable in the barns. He was paired with Dr. John Stinn, Environmental Projects Manager, to set up and test the new ventilation systems in new and remodeled barns and also troubleshoot barns with ventilation problems.
Fast forward to his current role, and that’s a highly collaborative installation and research project on positive pressure filtration, an innovative technology and significant investment Iowa Select Farms is making to prevent the spread of viruses into sow farms.
Positive pressure filtration pulls the air into the facility through special dormers lining one side of each barn, then through HEPA filter banks, up into the attic then down into the barns through ceiling inlets, explains Ben. The effort to retrofit existing barns takes a tremendous effort on the part of construction teams, the employees at the farm and many people in between. “It’s an amazing project to be a part of,” said Ben, who does barn walk through's for quality assurance, programs and monitors the controllers, trains staff, coordinates with contractors and a whole host of other responsibilities to ensure the process is going according to plan.
Ben also collaborates with an air quality and ag engineering research team at Iowa State University to measure and monitor potential leakage, fan performance, electrical use and air quality within the barns, data that is important to the researchers as more and more producers are showing interest in adopting the filtration technology. Results from Ben’s collaboration will help improve the performance of these barns to further improve pig comfort, health, and productivity.
“Ben has been invaluable to this positive pressure filtration project,” said John. “The passion he carries for Iowa Select Farms and raising pigs is evident to anyone who has the opportunity to work with him.”
“The experience has been fun and definitely challenging,” said Ben. “My coursework equipped me for these challenges from a technical standpoint, but the experiences have prepared me for a career in this field.” #billionpounds