The management of 8th Avenue Food and Provisions, parent company of Dakota Growers Pasta in Carrington, has announced plans for $2 million in upgrades to the grain receiving and facility at the plant to improve efficiency.

"We plan on developing about 6 acres with a grain probe, grading and scales," said Jason Jarrett, plant superintendent at Dakota Pasta Growers. "We want to improve efficiency so there is a shorter time on the site."

Dakota Growers purchases and receives grain year-round for its operation although there is a higher potential of delays in receiving grain in the weeks during and immediately after harvest.

"On a busy day, we want to reduce time on site from one hour and 15 minutes to somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes," Jarrett said.

Currently, a busy day at the plant sees about 30 trucks delivering grain. When completed, they anticipate handling 50 to 55 trucks per day with the drivers spending less time waiting at the facility. The upgraded facility will utilize the same number of workers but allow them to be more efficient and handle more grain in less time, Jarrett said.

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Dakota Growers receives durum from about a 300-mile radius of Carrington as well as by rail shipment. The durum is milled into flour used to produce pasta at Carrington and at 8th Avenue's New Hope, Minnesota, pasta plant.

"It can put us in a position to improve plant capacity to provide flour to a Virginia pasta plant that 8th Avenue just acquired," Jarrett said.

Dakota Growers is one of several pasta processing plants owned and operated by 8th Avenue, one of the largest pasta producers in the United States.

Dakota Growers was originally built as a cooperative operation owned by regional farmers. The plant began operation in 1993. The cooperative sold the plant in 2014 and it has been operated by private corporations including 8th Avenue, the most recent.

"Dakota Growers has been here a lot of years and changed a lot over those years," said Laurie Dietz, executive director of the Carrington Chamber of Commerce. "They continue to be a bright spot on our prairie, Carrington wouldn't be the same without them."

The planned upgrade expands the role of Dakota Growers within 8th Avenue's organization, Jarrett said.

"This is a great opportunity for the Carrington plant," he said. "It shows 8th Avenue's commitment to investing in the Carrington site."

Jarrett said the plant is like "any manufacturing facility facing challenges to find labor." He notes that the demand for pasta has been steady. Approximately 300 people work at the plant currently.

Project completion is planned for the end of July 2022, he said.

"That will be just in time for harvest," Jarrett said.