In March 2018, Epitopix was acquired by Vaxxinova, a Netherlands-based company specializing in animal health.
With 2.7 acres under the roof, the hatchery is equipped to hatch 61 million eggs a year. Designed to produce high quality poults, the hatchery features Jamesway single-stage incubation equipment and a high pressure humidification system. This system allows for more accurate regulation of the relative humidity in all the production areas – from the egg room through incubation, hatching, servicing and poult holding.
Select Genetics opened its new diagnostic lab in Willmar, MN. At 1,400 square feet, the space has improved workflow and increased testing capacity. Poultry health, biosecurity and animal welfare are critical to raising turkeys. According to Dr. Ben Wileman, Director of Avian Sciences, ‘The lab plays a central role in monitoring and maintaining the health of our turkeys. This investment has given us an efficient, high throughput facility.’
Select Genetics was formed in March 2017 by the merger of Willmar Poultry Company dba Ag Forte, and Valley of the Moon Commercial Poults, which was an Aviagen company in direct competition with the Hybrid turkey breeds. The purpose was to expand the nationwide distribution channel for the high performing genetics found in the Nicholas turkey breeds.
A north load out has been added on to Farm Service Elevator. The new addition decreases load out time for trucks from 15 minutes to 5 minutes, increases the quality of pellets, and can prepare feed before the trucks even arrive by tracking through GPS. The ability to blend different feeds as they are being loaded onto the feed trucks will increase the amount of diets accommodated for flocks. Farm Service Elevator has shown our values of stewardship and innovation by adding on this new load out system, becoming one of the first elevators in the country to use this ground-breaking technology that will be around for decades to come.
In 2017, hog equipment became the #1 selling industry for PALS. Additionally, PALS helped design, build and install one of the first positive pressure sow units in the state of Minnesota, which aids in the prevention of disease through ventilation filtration.
In 1945, three local farmers came together and started a company to process their own turkey meat. Those farmers included Albert Huisinga, Herman Nelson and Albin Norling.
On June, 30th 2016 the first day-age poults were placed at Nursery Brooder 1. Decades of research and development on an entirely new way to brood poults continues as we strive to find the most efficient way to improve overall poult performance. This facility is currently being repurposed to research innovative opportunities to increase poult performance rates.
Ray began his career at Willmar Poultry Company in 1958. His father, Albin Norling, was one of the original founders of the business in 1945, and Ray came on board “temporarily” to assist with some of the bookkeeping. He then became Office Manager. Soon he was involved in every aspect of the business, including Hatchery Manager and PALS Manager. Ray is currently President Emeritus of Willmar Poultry Company and several affiliated companies. He has served on turkey industry boards and committees, and has received the Lifetime Achievement award at both the state and national level. He likes to golf, especially while spending his winters in Arizona, and is active in his home community and church.
Within a year and a half of the devastating West Side Hatchery fire, a new state-of-the-art hatchery was constructed in Willmar’s Industrial Park. Known as the IPH, it was the first hatchery in the country to utilize computerized environmental controls for its incubators. Those computers precisely control and monitor conditions within each incubator. The IPH expanded in 2008 to add a service center in a separate building. The design allows the incubators to be free of feathers and down since poults finish hatching and receive services in the other facility.
In 2005, Life-Science Innovations was formed to centralize administrative functions, capital support and executive leadership for the growing family of affiliated WPC companies. LSI is housed on the MinnWest Technology Campus and is comprised of professionals working in the areas of Accounting, Payroll, IT and Human Resources. LSI also holds the executive team and a small R&D group.
To capitalize on the expanding poultry market in China, Nova-Tech established Nova-Tech China in Shanghai. The first three containers of Nova-Tech machines arrived within three months, and installations soon followed.
Realizing the potential for Epitopix intellectual property in combating human disease, Epitopix and WPC formed Syntiron to adapt the Epitopix SRP technology to the development of human vaccines. Based in St. Paul, Syntiron leases 3 labs in a building owned by the University of Minnesota.
July of 1995 marked 50 years in business for WPC and its affiliated companies. The company celebrated by publishing a company history that was widely distributed amongst the divisions.
In 1953, WPC decided to get out of the processing business and focus its efforts on hatching. By 1960, WPC either owned or had interest in four hatcheries in Minnesota and consolidating those operations was completed in 1966 when the West Side Hatchery was built. The hatchery was expanded twice between 1966 and 1970 making it the largest turkey hatchery in the world. WPC hatched nearly 8 million poults in 1970.
In 1948, while attending a poultry convention, Albin Norling bought an incubator with a 20,000 egg capacity. Al and Albin decided to install the incubator in the back of the processing plant as a means of keeping the facility running year-round instead of seasonally to process turkeys for the holidays. That year they hatched 35,000 poults. By 1950, the company had a total of five incubators and was hatching over 1 million poults annually.
After attending the University of Minnesota on the GI Bill, Ted Huisinga joined WPC to work for his uncle Albert. Ted immediately began improving the processing plant’s procedures and increased its capacity.
Albert Huisinga and Albin Norling quickly bought out their third partner. At the time, the plant operated only seasonally, processing birds for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
WPC bought Midwest Data LLC, in 1980 in order to capitalize on its mainframe computing capabilities. Midwest Data’s core business was providing software solutions for telephone companies across the Midwest. The MWD team of programmers helped bring data processing and software technology to many of the WPC companies.
On November 17, 1978, during a large-scale fumigation project, WPC’s flagship West Side Hatchery caught fire and burned to the ground. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the hatchery was empty of birds. In an unprecedented show of support, WPC competitors stepped up and hatched eggs for them, helping to save the company.
On May 23, 2013, Ray Norling and Ted Huisinga were awarded the Siehl Prize for Excellence in Agriculture (Production Agriculture). Often referred to as the Nobel Prize for Minnesota agriculture, the Siehl Prize is awarded annually in three categories – Production, Agribusiness and Knowledge. The prize is funded by an endowment from Eldon Siehl to the University of Minnesota College of Food and Natural Sciences (CFANS). Mr. Siehl believed that it is vital to honor the three legs of agriculture in a prestigious way since it plays such an important role in our state, our country, and indeed our world.
In 2011, LSI Executive VP, Rick Huisinga, served as Chairman of the National Turkey Federation and given the honor of presenting President Obama with the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a pardoning ceremony at the White House. LSI worked with Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the local FFA to promote the event. Four Willmar High School FFA students helped care for and tame a selected flock of toms in preparation for the big day. The two chosen birds were affectionately known in Minnesota as Ted and Ray, though the White House officially named them Liberty and Peace. After the ceremony, Liberty and Peace retired to the farm at Mount Vernon.
In 2010, the affiliated companies of WPC celebrated 65 years in business. To celebrate, Ted Huisinga and Ray Norling took the Willmar-area Christmas party attendees on a surprise shopping trip to the local Best Buy.
Epitopix entered into a global licensing agreement with Pfizer Animal Health (now Zoetis) for Epitopix’s E. coli O157 vaccine; licensing of the Epitopix Salmonella Newport vaccine followed in 2011.
In 2010, LSI sold Midwest Data to a competing telecommunications software company.
After Nova-Tech Engineering found great success with its PSP and IRBT machines, it became clear it would need more space. While searching for a new home, the State of Minnesota approached Nova-Tech and LSI about acquiring the shuttered state hospital campus in Willmar. In 2006, LSI and Nova-Tech purchased 37 buildings with option for 7 additional buildings (400,000 sq. feet of office/research space and 110 acres) from the state and created the nation’s largest privately owned technology park, known as the MinnWest Technology Campus.
Turkey Valley Farms is formed in partnership with independent turkey growers to process in Marshall and market 110 million pounds yearly under the Turkey Valley Farms label.
Epitopix established and licensed its first proprietary veterinary vaccine production facility on the west side of Willmar, sharing a building with Nova-Tech Engineering.
Epitopix was formed in 2002 to consolidate WPC’s vaccine R&D and the development of SRP technology into a distinct company.
In 1999, Willmar Poultry Company hatched its 1 billionth egg.
While researching turkey diseases at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Daryll Emery approached WPC about a novel vaccine technology he was developing called Siderophore Receptors and Porins (SRP). WPC brought Dr. Emery together with its other scientists to continue SRP research, and in 1991, SRP vaccines were successfully introduced to WPC’s breeder operation.
Since its very early days, WPC and its veterinarians worked closely with state and national industry groups, the University of Minnesota and the state Board of Animal Health to track and treat diseases. As turkey farming became bigger business in our area, staying ahead of disease outbreaks became increasingly difficult. In the 1980s, vaccine development became, and remains to this day, a top R&D priority. The WPC scientists created autogenous vaccines for its breeder and commercial flocks that targeted a specific pathogen at a specific farm. Today, Epitopix continues autogenous vaccine production for our flocks and for commercial and contract growers in the area.
In 1985, WPC partnered with Marc Gorans to develop automation and robotic systems to process poults in the service room. After many years of exhaustive R&D, Marc Gorans and WPC officially formed Nova-Tech Engineering in 1992. Nova-Tech’s machines are leased to turkey, chicken and duck hatching customers in North America, Europe and Asia.
WPC and Ag Forte began merging operations in 2009 to form Willmar Poultry Company dba Ag Forte. Ag Forte is now the leading supplier of day-of-age poults to growers and companies across North America.
As demand for affordable feed, propane, barn equipment and supplies, and medication increased, Willmar Poultry Company diversified and expanded by creating PALS (Poultry and Livestock Supplies), Willmar Poultry Farms and Farm Service Elevator Company.
In order to better utilize the hatching and vaccine technology that Nova-Tech, Epitopix and WPC have developed, Willmar Poultry Company partnered with Rick VanderSpek in the year 2000 to form Ag Forte. In the immediate years following the partnership, Ag Forte acquired breeding and hatching facilities from Pilgrim’s Pride, ConAgra and Elite Genetics. The acquisitions from Elite Genetics in Kansas produce grandparent breeding stock for Ag Forte (WPC) and Cargill. Combined WPC and Ag Forte represent 30% of the United State’s turkey hatchery business.