Drivers along Selby Road might catch a glimpse of a tannish, nondescript-looking feedstock facility.
While there's not much to the box-like structure from the exterior, on the interior it is a state-of-the-art operations that will further research into animal and aquatic life nutrition.
On Thursday, Ohio State University officials dedicated the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center Feedstock Processing Research Facility and opened it up for tours.
Jack Bardall, manager of the research operations, said the project was in the works for a long time. Back in the mid-1980s, OARDC officials recognized a need to replace the feed mill built in 1965, and in 1997 the university received state funding for the project. However, it was not until around 2005 when design began, with the ground-breaking in 2007.
Bobby Moser, dean of OSU's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said the culmination of those efforts is not a feed mill, but a $6.5 million research facility where some very specialized diets can be formulated and mixed. The state provided $5.5 million of the funding, and Moser thanked state legislators Ron Amstutz, Bob Gibbs and Dave Hall for their support.
"I think this will have a direct impact on state's economy," Moser said, because research conducted there will support state's largest industry: agriculture. The ag industry contributes about $98 billion to the state's economy, he added.
About 1 million jobs are connected to agriculture, said OARDC Director Steve Slack. The new project is an example of an investment in the ag industry.
Slack estimated about half of the money agriculture contributes to the economy is related to the animal sector and the plants that feed into it. OARDC has world-class scientists working on animal nutrition and other projects, and the infrastructure for that work must follow, Slack said.
One of the selling points for the processing plant is how everything can be cleaned completely before working on a new feed project, said Dave Benfield, an associate director at OARDC.
Bardall said the ability to clean the mixers, grinders and truck that delivers the feed is valuable for research because it eliminates cross-contamination. And, it makes the facility unique, he added.
OARDC scientists are working on 50 projects involving 200 different rations of feed, Bardall said.
Slack said projects like this one are done through partnerships.
In addition to the state, Alicia Sweet Hupp, president and chief executive officer of Sweet Manufacturing, and Larry Hammond of California Pellet Mill were recognized for their companies' involvement. Both supplied equipment at discounted rates.
Hupp said her father, W. Dean Sweet, who died in 2005, was involved from the inception. He was an OSU graduate and wanted to help support the facility. The company manufacturers elevators and conveyors.
It was important to the Sweet family and company to become involved because the facility would serve as an educational tool for the university and the research will provide data that will benefit the lives of many, Hupp said.
Hammond said the new operation is impressive because Bardall and the scientists can replicate anything done in a commercial plant, but have greater control and the ability to conduct research.
Brian Gwin, a project manager with Wayne Economic Development Council, said if a company needs sponsored research done, the feedstock facility might attract a company and jobs.
Mayor Bob Breneman said the facility makes OARDC and Wooster stand out, and it will bring a technology base to the city that will be critical for research in animal sciences.