The former Michigan BioDiesel plant in Bangor was once supplied with soybean oil by Zeeland Farm Services, until a large jump in international demand for soy several years ago made soybean oil too expensive for biodiesel production.
Now the Zeeland-based, family-owned soybean processing business has acquired an aborted ethanol plant site in Ithaca, in Gratiot County.
ZFS recently announced its new affiliate, ZFS Ithaca LLC, as the new owner of the partially developed 435-acre site. It was previously owned by Liberty Renewable Fuels LLC, which halted construction there in 2008 on a plant that was going to produce 110 million gallons of ethanol per year, according to Ethanol Producer Magazine. The business failed as financing ran out during the recession.
Cliff Meeuwsen, president of ZFS, said the planned ethanol plant was “a fairly large one,” with a key improvement at the site being a completed rail connection. The defunct company had also poured concrete for partially completed grain storage and a small office building.
Meeuwsen said the site is “in the middle of some of the best agricultural land in the state. They grow a lot of soybeans and corn around there, and that’s good for what we have planned over there.”
However, he added that those plans are still “in flux” and not fully developed yet, as ZFS talks to potential partners “about the site and what the uses could be.”
“Our plans for the development include anything from soy processing and corn processing to feed and fertilizer facilities,” he said.
According to Ethanol Producer Magazine, ZFS has two operating ethanol plants outside Michigan: a 50 million gallon per year plant in Cambridge, Neb.; and a 110 million gallon plant in Clearfield, Pa. The publication also reports that ZFS sells ethanol-blended gasoline in Nebraska, as well as blends of biodiesel. It also began selling E85 ethanol-blended fuel in Michigan earlier this year.
ZFS is leasing the agricultural land on the Ithaca site to farmers who are raising crops on it, according to Meeuwsen.
ZFS has the only soy processing plant in Michigan, which it opened in Zeeland in 1996. The company now buys from 10 million to 11 million bushels of soybeans per year, from which it extracts oil and protein. The biggest market for ZFS is protein for use in livestock feed for cattle, hogs and poultry.
“Our export is growing,” said Meeuwsen, “thus we are looking at the Ithaca site for possibilities in soy processing.”
Trucking of agricultural products is also a key part of ZFS business, which was how the company began during World War II.
“We are looking forward to working with the community and surrounding areas of Ithaca and to providing service to the local farm communities,” said Meeuwsen, in the ZFS announcement about the Ithaca acquisition.
ZFS is a diversified agri-business and transportation firm comprised of four separate divisions: Zeeland Farm Services Inc.; Zeeland Farm Soya Inc.; Zeeland Freight Services Inc.; and Zeeland Food Services Inc.