Ag Innovation Campus hires project manager ahead of July milestone

Even a global pandemic isn’t stopping the Ag Innovation Campus from continuing to push forward ahead of its upcoming groundbreaking. In April, Jim Lambert was tabbed as project manager and will serve as point person while the regional crush and biodiesel facility continues making inroads in Crookston.

“I’ve always had a passion for agriculture,” says Lambert, who grew up on a southwest Nebraska farm. “This is a perfect fit for me.”

Lambert possesses more than 30 years of experience in value-added agriculture in various capacities, including food processing, research and development, corporate quality control, production management, the canning, dairy and sugar industries, respectively. He’s been involved in biofuels for the past five years.

“(My work) has taken me all over the country,” says Lambert, who now live in Lake Crystal. “And this Campus, it’s a big project, but it’s going to be a great project.”

He praised the AIC team he’ll be working alongside, including farmer leaders, Ag Management Solutions CEO Tom Slunecka and Minnesota Soybean’s Senior Director of Product Development and Commercialization Mike Youngerberg.

“They’re a great team,” Lambert said. “They’re engaged, very enthusiastic, lots of knowledge, trememdous background and a passion for what they do.”

Earlier in May, Lambert traveled the seven hours to Crookston, site of the future Ag Innovation Campus, to visited with AIC board members and AURI officials, and introduced himself to city leaders. Lambert gave an update on the latest with the AIC.

“Jim has hit the ground running and in just a few weeks has dramatically changed the trajectory of the project,” says Ag Management Solutions CEO Tom Slunecka.

This month, Gov. Walz signed the ag omnibus bill, which clarified the funding language to ensure the $5 million in state funds will go toward the AIC. The funds will be released in July and will be used to invest in equipment and costs related to permits.

“We’re in a transition period right now,” Lambert says. “It’s a project that’s really going to start to pick up in the coming months.”

The initial phase of the smaller-scale crush facility will have a maximum daily capacity of 240 tons. Currently, the AIC is in the middle of its permitting process. Lambert is hopeful groundbreaking on the facility will begin this fall with an eye toward completing in 2021.

“Anytime is an opportune time for a project like this,” he says. “It has lots of merit.”

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