75 years

75 Years

June 30, 2021 laura

It’s Willmar Poultry Group’s 75th Anniversary! As we celebrate this momentous milestone, we have made it our mission to align our 75th anniversary activities with 5 of our Core Values: Stewardship, Trustworthiness, Excellence, Innovation, and Employee Wellbeing. 

The purpose of this blog and all posts going forward through the remainder of our 75th year is to highlight our value of Stewardship. Our definition of stewardship is, “Our investment of time, talent, and treasure will do great things in the long run. We make decisions based on our responsibility to our employees, our customers, our stakeholders and our community.” Some of the ways that we plan on showing Stewardship include: 

  • We make innovative decisions for the long-term rather than short-term gains 
  • We meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability/success of future generations
  • We have the will to persevere; don’t give up, don’t give in, there’s always a solution
  • We are committed to the success of the company above our own individual interests 
  • We are engaged in fostering a strengths-based servant leadership culture in all of our partnerships 

This 75th year, we have committed to highlighting various acts of stewardship – both company and employee facing. Some examples would be a business decision that will help keep our organization around for generations to come, involvement and giving back to our community, investing in our employees and more. Stay tuned for more to come! We hope you follow along with us!

Stewardship: Ted’s Favorite Value

June 30, 2021 laura

Over the past year, the value of Stewardship has been highlighted as a guiding principle throughout the organization’s history. While Stewardship wasn’t defined as a value in the organization back in 1945, the idea of decision-making being focused on future decades rather than the next quarter has been passed on from generation to generation.  This value guided our original founders in the early years, guided Ted and Ray over the last several decades, and continues to guide the current leadership team today.  It is also the value that Ted said was closest to his heart, during an interview in 2013.



Over the years, many pivotal decisions have been made that have shaped the future of the organization.  Decisions such as rebuilding the hatchery with state of the art novel technology after a devastating fire in 1978, purchasing the Willmar Regional Treatment Center Campus in 2005 to allow space for our organization to grow, finding work placements for employees affected by the HPAI pandemic, and many more. Ted understood the decisions made by leadership affected not only the future of the organization and those who worked for it, but they also had a huge impact on the community.  Ted and the entire leadership team took the value of Stewardship to heart, and our organization thrives in large part due to this way of forward thinking instilled in the core of who we are.

Nova-Tech’s ShrimpWorks

May 21, 2021 laura

Nova-Tech Engineering was founded in 1992 in Willmar, MN in partnership with Willmar Poultry Company. From the beginning, Nova-Tech was focused on the future and fueled by innovation and creativity.   

Today, Nova-Tech’s equipment can be found in over 600 hatcheries in more than 55 countries and 6 continents around the world. They are well on their way to living out their purpose of creating revolutionary solutions that advance their customers’ ability to feed the world.  In 2015, a shrimp manufacturer contacted Nova-Tech to develop an automated method for processing shrimp. Market research ensued, followed by the development of a shrimp platform in Nova-Tech’s Engineering Department.  

In March of 2021, Nova-Tech Engineering launched the innovative platform: ShrimpWorks. ShrimpWorks is a fully customizable platform that combines multiple processes into one: Automated Heading, De-Veining, Peeling and Sorting. This results in less down-time between processes and fresher shrimp. With ShrimpWorks, there is no need to hold the shrimp overnight before processing: fresh is best! The processes adjust to each shrimp, large or small, without any setting or mechanical modifications, to provide high-quality outcome and optimal yield each and every time. With over 30 years of experience innovating and fostering meaningful partnerships within the poultry industry, Nova-Tech is ready to do the same for the seafood industry, starting with ShrimpWorks.  

To learn more about ShrimpWorks, click here 

MinnWest: Giving Back

April 1, 2021 laura

One aspect of Stewardship is the responsibility to give back to the company, to employees, and to the community. The MinnWest Technology Campus sets a great example of this.

MinnWest Technology Campus is, and has been, involved in an endless number of programs and initiatives that positively impact our community and the economic development in our region. Several examples include the YMCA, Grow MN, Vision2040, the Minnesota Agriculture Leadership Program, Willmar Fests, Works over Water, MN Chamber, Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, Willmar Public School, New London-Spicer Public Schools, Willmar Stingers, Ridgewater College, Willmar Area Community Foundation,  KCEO (Kandiyohi CEO) and the Kandiyohi County Food Shelf. They have been especially invested in the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce as well as several STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives.

Being a technology campus, MinnWest is intentional about supporting and encouraging youth to explore STEM career opportunities. One way they do this is by providing scholarships to individuals planning to go into a STEM field. Additionally, they sponsor and support local robotics teams. In 2018, the MinnWest Technology Campus sponsored Robotics Night with the Willmar Stingers baseball team at the ballpark. During the baseball game, six different robotics teams took the field to show off their custom-made robots and all their features. Additionally, the Robotics Night doubled as a fundraiser to benefit the local teams. To learn more about that unique event, click here.

Another way MinnWest has been involved in STEM in the past is through the STEM Student|Teacher of the Month which ran through the end of 2020. Throughout the year, students and teachers were nominated to become the STEM Student or Teacher of the Month. Each individual selected was then featured on the Lakeland Broadcasting radio stations with their unique STEM story. At the end of the year, one student or teacher was drawn to receive a $1,000 donation for their school to use on STEM initiatives!

Overall, MinnWest is instrumental in advocating for local businesses and business education. According to Joanna Schrupp, General Manager of MinnWest, “We want students to know and understand that there are careers in their own back yard. We want to help them grow and educate them on the opportunities in the area.” These are just a few of the many ways that MinnWest gives back to the community and those in the area.

Willmar’s Destination Playground

April 1, 2021 laura

Throughout the organization, employees are encouraged to get involved in the community through volunteer activities.  This could be as a member of a civic organization, donating supplies or time to a good cause, or volunteering skills and equipment to help with a project.  Employees have participated in projects such as painting at the YMCA for United Way Day of Action and raising money for the local area food shelf.  While these activities provide wonderful team building opportunities, they also promote collaboration and help connect our organization with the local community to help make a difference!


One experience employees still talk about is the opportunity to help with the Willmar Destination Playground project in the spring of 2017.  This was a project that started with an idea from community leaders in the summer of 2016 and resulted in a 19,000-square-foot playground facility, the largest in a five-state area, that is fully accessible to children with disabilities.  The project was fully funded through donations from local companies and the general public and built entirely by community volunteers.  The playground was designed by children from the Willmar area, and has special features including an igloo, a train, castles, and our personal favorite, a turkey barn, along with other fun surprises.


Teams from Nova-Tech Engineering, Select Genetics, and Life-Science Innovations joined in on the community build and volunteered their skills including cutting wood, building sections of the castles and igloo, painting, and organizing the building area.  Employees valued the chance to contribute to this community project: it gave them the opportunity to give back to the community while helping create a new gathering place for children (and adults) and have great bonding time with co-workers in the process!


MinnWest: Preserving History While Influencing the Future

January 12, 2021 laura

Throughout our organization’s history, our leaders have balanced taking risks with being good stewards of our businesses and our people. The MinnWest Technology Campus, located in Willmar, Minnesota, is the perfect example of this.

The campus has a proud history as one of Minnesota’s oldest, state-owned and operated healthcare facilities. Originally constructed in 1912, the charming stucco buildings display architectural details in the Spanish Colonial and Renaissance styles, which were popular at the time.

At the height of its operations, this historic healthcare facility provided hundreds of jobs, cared for hundreds of patients and created a strong foundation for our local economy.  In 2004, the state began implementing changes to its healthcare delivery system that would eventually relocate or cut most of those jobs, leaving many of the buildings on campus empty and idle. Soon, the once-bustling campus was vacant and its future uncertain.

In 2005, as many were still grieving the loss of jobs and apparent waste of a once-flourishing facility, creative minds were at work. Behind the scenes, Life-Science Innovations and Nova-Tech Engineering leaders were busy discussing one of the most innovative, yet risky projects ever undertaken in our area’s business history. They began asking questions like…

Could this campus be given new life as a hub for business innovation?

Could the history of these majestic buildings be preserved and protected?

Could the cornerstone of our area’s economic stability be restored?

The answers?

Yes, yes and yes!

In 2006, Life-Science Innovations and Nova-Tech Engineering purchased the 100-acre property, which is now called the MinnWest Technology Campus.  Since the purchase, significant effort and investment has gone into to renovating the campus to attract other local area businesses, with the hopes of continuing to expand. Currently, over 680 employees work on the MinnWest campus, employed by companies in agriculture, technology, and more. Maintaining the buildings built over a century ago while taking risks and investing in the future of the campus, our organization and the community is a great example of Stewardship.


Christmas Turkeys

January 12, 2021 laura

An important aspect of Stewardship is giving back to employees. Being that we are in the turkey industry, one way we do that is by providing our employees with a free turkey for Christmas. Now you may wonder, why Christmas and not Thanksgiving? Isn’t Thanksgiving the turkey holiday? First, every holiday is a turkey holiday for us. Second, we’re pretty busy around Thanksgiving so Christmas it is!

On a serious note, our organization has been donating turkeys for many years. It all started back in 1988 with our original processing plant, Heartland Foods Co. Our owners wanted to recognize employees by giving them one of our turkeys for Christmas, and 30 years later that tradition continues. Employees are given the option to keep their turkey or donate it. If donated, it is brought to the local food shelf on their behalf. It’s a great way for both the company and employees to give back!

It’s not a monumental action to provide a turkey around the holidays, but we believe it’s the little things matter.

Farm Service Elevator North Load Out

November 30, 2020 laura

We know that in order to be good stewards of our company, we must make upgrades and invest in our facilities, our people, and technology. The perfect example of this has recently been on full display at our feed mill, Farm Service Elevator, with replacing their north load out in 2019!

The north load out was in need of repair, so the leaders of FSE took the opportunity to make improvements. The new technology gives us the capability to provide an increased number of diets by blending high protein and low protein rations. This new addition helps our customers and the end consumer. Here’s how:

  1. Load out time for trucks is decreased from 15 minutes to 5 minutes = increased efficiency for the mill to serve our customers better.
  2. Increased commercial turkey feed diets from 8 to 16 and slowly stepping down protein levels through feed blending = better cost for our customers and better flock performance –> poultry is kept at an affordable price for the end consumer!

Farm Service Elevator opened its doors in 1954 and the current feed milling facility has existed since the 1980’s. Farm Service Elevator has shown our values of stewardship and innovation through this new load out system, becoming one of the first independent feed milling facilities in the country to use this groundbreaking technology that will be around for decades to come. Congratulations to the team at Farm Service Elevator!

Read more about it in the West Central Tribune here!

HatchTech Partnership

September 16, 2020 admin

Dec 2, 2020

We are excited to announce that Willmar Poultry Innovations (LSI R&D) has signed an exclusivity deal with HatchTech, out of the Netherlands, to the be sole distributor of their HatchCare technology in the U.S. and Canada. This is a big milestone in the “HeadStart Project” that our R&D arm has been focused on for the past 1.5 years! You can read an initial story in the press here: 

HatchTech, WPI Enter Strategic Distribution Partnership 

Our next goal is to measure the amount of extra value a poult will deliver to a customer when marketed if started on feedwater, and light immediately at hatch. The HatchCare machine is the only product on the market that can accomplish this service. If you’re curious to see how this works, you can view videos on the system (currently used with chickens). Here’s a link to one example: 

Watch the Video 

You may be wondering…if these HatchCare machines have been used in chickens all these years, why hasn’t it been used in turkeys? Turkeys and chickens are pretty similar right? Surprisingly, they are much different in anatomy and behaviors. Turkey poults (baby turkeys) are larger and more fragile than chicks (baby chickens) and are more sensitive to temperature and light changesPoults need a little extra encouragement to drink water at the beginning of their life whereas chicks have an easier time finding water. Because of these differences between the two, there is a need for modifications to the process/machines and extra testing to ensure the best solution is created for these newborn poults.  

Over the past two years, our team has been focused on identifying the many pros and cons of implementing a turkey HatchCare system, and the data we have uncovered is exciting! After solving key issues, and confirming small-scale positive results many times in side-by-side controlled tests, we committed to building a system scaled-up to run large trials so we can compare full barns of our birds vs. full barns of control birds coming out of standard hatching processes. Covid has made this a much slower, more painful process to accomplish – but we’re getting it done!

To create a facility to run large-scale turkey trials, we’re repurposing a building to achieve the scale needed for testing. One of our major hurdles this year has been installation! These highly complex HatchCare machines usually require an experienced technical supervisor on-site for 4-6 weeks per machine, but Covid has restricted HatchTech from sending a technician from Europe. HatchTech proposed an innovative work-around, and we have been receiving remote support from Holland via a Microsoft Hololens 2 (an augmented reality headset). Without this technology, we would have never achieved our most recent milestone; our first HatchCare machine has been powered up!

(Ray Norling with the Hololens on; Jason Burnett looking on.)

Our HatchCare machine, paired with Nova-Tech equipment, a Viscon Heartbeat detection transfer line, and a specialized HatchTraveller delivery trailer will create the backbone of the technology used to execute our large-scale process. Recently, we teamed up with WPF and Select Genetics to execute a pair of initial major runs. We are happy to announce that the HatchCare machine worked great! The days were long and grueling, but we learned a ton. Our next large egg placement is set for the first week in January.

In the meantime, we’re focused on further optimization of our processes, installation of additional equipment, and improved coordination with our partners. Solidifying a system will unlock our ability to place large-scale trials weekly out of this facility and measure poult improvement all the way to the processing plant. Once we measure concrete benefit out of this new custom hatching system, we intend to launch a new custom hatching business for the organization to serve this unique niche and revolutionize turkey hatching!

Our organization’s core value of stewardship is central to this project. Without this mindset that drives our decision making, we would not have these innovative research & development projects that will keep our organization around for generations to come. Our definition of stewardship is, “Our investment of time, talent, and treasure will do great things in the long run. We make decisions based on our responsibility to our employees, our customers, our stakeholders and our community.” Not only will this project help our organization grow, but it will  increase the quality of life of the turkeys in our care, create value in our community with more job opportunities, and increase the quality of poults that our customers receive.