Life-Science Innovations & Affiliates is a unique organization, in that most of our companies do business with each other as well as with external business customers. To the outside world, it may look like our companies exist in two separate domains – either agriculture or technology – but to us, bringing technology and agriculture together makes our companies successful.
Most of our companies derive from Willmar Poultry Company (WPC, Ag Forte) whose researchers and scientists developed new and novel technologies over the decades in order to benefit the turkey industry. When any such new technology proved marketable, the division that created the technology often became its own company.
Throughout nearly seven decades, our scientists and researchers have focused on innovative solutions that help our customers bring better products to the world. We listen to our customers and anticipate their needs, and they know our word is our bond.
We understand that business as usual is never good enough, and our companies foster environments of creativity, discovery and collaboration within themselves and with each other. As Chairman of the Board Ted Huisinga says, “together we are better, smarter and more creative than we could ever hope to be apart.”
The Willmar Poultry Company was formed in 1945, as a specialty breeder and hatcher of day-old turkey poults. In 2000, in an effort to better serve customers across the country, Ag Forte was formed through the acquisition of assets in Missouri, Virginia and Kansas. Both companies grew into their respective regional markets over the next decade, and in 2009, WPC and Ag Forte merged to form Willmar Poultry Company dba Ag Forte. Combined, the company now represents 30% of the country’s turkey hatchery business. We are a proud leader in this industry and intend to continue our focus of further expansion through our core focus of innovation in the health and quality of turkeys.
In the early days of Willmar Poultry Company’s history, its founders successfully recruited and convinced local farmers to begin raising turkeys. Because the industry was so new, those growers often found themselves at the mercy of suppliers’ high prices for equipment and medication. As a response, WPC began wholesaling some equipment and medical supplies out of its hatchery. In 1955, PALS (Poultry And Livestock Supplies) formed as a separate company to specialize in supplying equipment and medication needed by local growers to raise their birds. Eventually, PALS expanded out of poultry to include equipment for the area hog industry. PALS also refers to our propane company.
Like so many of our affiliated companies, Farm Service Elevator was born of local demand for high quality, affordable turkey farming products. In response, WPC and several other investors bought Farm Service Elevator in 1954; shortly afterward, WPC bought out the other investors and incorporated FSE as an independent company. Farm Service Elevator produces feed for WPC dba Ag Forte, WPF and independent turkey growers in the area. It currently processes 6 million bushels of corn a year.
Willmar Poultry Farms:
Willmar Poultry Farms began as Willmar Poultry Company’s farm operations, including breeder lay and commercial grow out farms. In the 1960s, WPF incorporated as a separate company. In the 1980s, WPC brought the breeding side of the business back under its umbrella, while WPF retained the commercial grow out side. WPF grows turkeys for sister company Turkey Valley Farms as well as for Sara Lee and Jennie-O Turkey Store. WPF manages the diagnostic lab, whose technicians work closely with the WPF and WPC veterinarians, the University of Minnesota and the state lab to diagnose disease and track mortalities.
Transportation plays a large role in the organization. Our logistic coordinators, commercial drivers, mechanics and truck sanitation crews work hard each day to ensure that our customers receive their goods in a timely, professional manner. What used to be a division of PALS was formed into Willmar Logistics in 2012. The Willmar Logistics drivers haul eggs from our breeder farms to our hatcheries, poults from our hatcheries to growers, grown turkeys from our commercial farms to our processing plant, and feed and propane both to our own farms and to commercial growers. The mechanics provide maintenance and repair to our fleet, and the sanitation crews ensure the bio-security of farm vehicles.
During the 1980s, WPC began to seek innovative ways to improve the health of its turkey breeding stock. In order to combat Salmonella, E. coli, Pasturella (fowl cholera), and Hemorrhagic Enteritis virus, WPC created and licensed a vaccine laboratory with the USDA, and selected a premier team of scientists to pioneer novel vaccine technology. Through many years of research, the team developed groundbreaking technology in the form of Siderophore Receptor and Porin (SRP®) vaccines. This revolutionary vaccine process immunizes against bacterial infections utilizing a cell-free purified extract of Siderophore Receptor and Porin proteins. Epitopix, LLC formed in 2002 to commercialize SRP® Technology and to discover new vaccine technologies that improve animal health and human food safety. Epitopix owns intellectual property rights to all of its discoveries.
Nova-Tech was established in 1992 as a 2-person company in Willmar, Minnesota. What began as one person’s passion to leverage emerging technology to benefit agriculture is now a global reality. After rapid growth over the last 20 years, it now holds seven US patents and employs over 100 professionals. Its flagship equipment (Poultry Service Processing [PSP], Microwave Claw Processor [MCP] and Infrared Beak Treat [IRBT]) can be found in over 250 hatcheries in more than 30 countries and 6 continents around the world. Nova-Tech’s machines revolutionized how poultry is handled in hatcheries. The MCP and IRBT machines safely and humanely treat the beaks and claws of turkeys, ducks and chickens without the use of blades, which used to be standard practice. In 2013, Nova-Tech opened a subsidiary, Nova-Tech China, to better serve the emerging Chinese market. In May of 2013, Nova-Tech shipped its first of many containers to China. At Nova-Tech, innovation is more than word; it is the core of business. Nova-Tech’s mission is to create revolutionary agricultural solutions that outpace the expectations of its customers. The Nova-Tech research and development team is committed to discovering novel applications of technology and lease them to the entire agricultural industry.
Turkey Valley Farms formed in 2005 in partnership with independent turkey growers to process in Marshall, MN and market 110 million pounds yearly under the Turkey Valley Farms label. The state-of-the-art processing plant is 110,000 square feet and processes whole birds, bone-in breast, fresh and frozen turkey, tray-pack products and deboned breasts and thighs. Turkey Valley Farms processes 150 million pounds of live Minnesota-grown birds into a wide variety of products which are packaged in private or packer label, including our own Turkey Valley Farms label, Super Turk, Holden Farms, Country Day, Midwest Best, Country Buy and as many as 100 Private labels.
Formed in 2005. The MinnWest Technology Campus was born out of a strong desire to innovate with a collective spirit of collaboration. An unusual combination of history and technology makes MinnWest one of the most picturesque, unique business communities in the country. 100 acres of manicured lawns, majestic buildings, mature trees and lakeside views provide a setting that is unmatched by other technology parks. Our iconic red roofed cottages were built in the beginning of the 20th century and are renovated to suit each occupant’s needs. The collaborative atmosphere, cutting edge infrastructure and community of like-minded tenants provides an opportunity for innovation and growth that would simply not be possible in isolation. The campus is owned equally by Nova-Tech Engineering and Life-Science Innovations. The MinnWest management team is focused on recruiting and selecting companies that match the mission of MinnWest Technology Campus, and to upkeep and improve the campus facilities and shared programs in a cost-efficient manner for campus tenants.
In 2004, realizing the potential for Epitopix IP in combating human disease, Epitopix and WPC formed Syntiron LLC to adapt the Epitopix Siderophore Receptor and Porin (SRP©) technology to the development of human vaccines. Through its licensing agreements with Epitopix, Syntiron has exclusive rights to a family of patents protecting its SRP technology, production methods and other key discoveries in the human vaccines market. This patent portfolio consists of over 70 granted patents in the U.S., Europe and other countries, nearly 70 pending patent applications, and numerous patent drafts.