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A home for innovation

Ralco breaks ground for a new research farm

Photo by Deb Gau Above, Marshall city officials and Ralco leaders lifted shovels of dirt Thursday evening at a groundbreaking for the company’s new research farm. From left to right are Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes, Chamber of Commerce President Brad Gruhot, Ralco President Brian Knochenmus, Mindy Knochenmus, Lou Galbraith, Niter Knochenmus, Ralco President Emeritus Jon Knochenmus, and Ralco Vice President of Innovation Diane Wagner.

MARSHALL — It’s a milestone year for Ralco — the Marshall-based agricultural business has survived and grown for 50 years and through multiple generations. But they’re not stopping there.

Ralco president Brian Knochenmus and president emeritus Jon Knochenmus said the company’s newest development will help shape their next 50 years.

“I’m confident there’s going to be many great discoveries that come from this place, because of the people who work here,” Jon Knochenmus said.

On Thursday evening, Ralco broke ground for a new research farm, the Jon Knochenmus Center For Innovation, just north of Marshall. The farm site will include space for laboratories, greenhouses and research barns.

Jon Knochenmus said the groundbreaking was “a really humbling event.” The credit for the innovations Ralco makes can’t be taken by just one person, he said. “This body is made up of many members . . . There’s many people to thank.”

Brian Knochenmus said the Center for Innovation will continue following a path started by his grandfather Bob Galbraith in 1971. Ralco was founded on the idea of using natural ingredients and processes to help farmers raise animals and crops more efficiently, he said.

“This idea . . . maybe would have been a little bit crazy 50 years ago,” but it’s served the company well, Knochenmus said. Over the years, Ralco has innovated with products ranging from animal feed supplements, to soil and crop health products. Ralco currently has 21 patents, and is working on more.

Diane Wagner, vice president of innovation at Ralco, said construction at the Center For Innovation is already underway. The farmhouse is being converted into space for Ralco’s ruminant lab, diagnostic and microbiology lab, and chemistry lab. Ralco also plans to build swine nursery and poultry barns, and greenhouses for research on both row crops and high-value crops like potatoes, onions and tomatoes, she said.

Brian Knochenmus said the McLaughlin Estate was a great central location for a research farm. If you look out across the fields, you can see the Ralco distribution center along Highway 23. Plus, the farm site also neighbors about 60 acres of land the McLaughlin Estate donated to Southwest Minnesota State University for ag education.

“It’s a great opportunity to collaborate with the school of agriculture,” Knochenmus said. “It really couldn’t be a better location for us.”

But through it all, Knochenmus said, the reason for Ralco’s success has always been people.

“The reason we’re so committed to the Marshall area is because of the people that are here,” he said.

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