AgReliant combines modern seed service with deep local history | Business, Finance & Technology

By | August 20, 2020

AgReliant Genetics provides modern seed technology and soybean conditioning, while being the heir to a long history of farming in Kankakee County.

AgReliant Genetics is located at 3046 S. Lowe Road, Aroma Park. These days AgReliant sells corn and soybean seeds through a sales force in the field. Locally, they also organize the growing of soybean seed in the area, relying on a network of cooperative local farmers. Those farmers meticulously clean their equipment to gather the best possible uniform seed for soybean growers. Once brought to AgReliant, those beans are rigorously tested for cleanliness and condition.

AgReliant is independent, the largest independent in the business. Thus, it is able to offer completely unbiased advice to farmers. They offer a wide range of genetic options, giving the farmer the best possible result for his or her soil.

An acre and a half of refrigerated warehouse kept at 50 degrees and 50 percent humidity stores corn seed over the summer, maintaining its quality until needed.

About two years ago, AgReliant switched its Aroma Park facility to a soybean conditioning one. The decision was a result of growing soybean sales, along with a desire to be more efficient. The Aroma Park corn capacity was shifted to other AgReliant Genetics production sites.

Gerald Arseneau Jr. is the inventory and quality coordinator. He notes that the acreage devoted to soybeans is at least three times what it used to be. The plant can process 400-500 bushels of soybeans an hour. A farm might produce as many as 20,000 bushels.

All of this was just the latest change to serve today’s farmer in a facility deeply rooted in the agricultural tradition of Kankakee County.

The site housed Lowe Seed from 1900 until 1984. It had been started by W.H. Lowe. After Lowe died in 1933, his son Lawrence headed the firm. The late Lura Lynn Ryan, the first lady of Illinois when George Ryan was governor, was Lawrence’s daughter.

In 1950 the company was sold to Edward J. Strasma. His son, Norm, joined the firm, becoming vice president in 1971 and then president in 1979. In 1960, the Strasmas brought out the trademark Golden Goliath seed.

In 1984, the firm was sold again, this time to Payco Seeds of Minnesota. In 1989, it was acquired by the Akin family, who introduced the AgriGold brand. Since 2000 it has been AgReliant.

Arseneau has seen all those changes through his family history. In addition to his 39-year tenure, his grandfather Newton Koenig worked there for 40 years. His father, Gerald Arseneau, worked there part time. He also has two sons working for AgReliant part time.

Jeremy Thompson, location manager for AgReliant, is well aware of the antiquity of the business. He collects memorabilia from past years. Even now, he meets residents of Aroma Park who remember being hired by Lowe as teens to detassel corn. That’s history now, as corn is no longer handled there and detasseling is now largely mechanical.

On the other hand, he also meets local folks who don’t know what happens at AgReliant, other than having a vague idea it is agricultural.

Thompson is still in love with the seasonal changes that occur in the world of agriculture. There are different things to do every part of the year.

“It is a fun group to work with,” he says of those at the plant. AgReliant has 13 full-time workers year-round. It expands to as many as 35 during the busy February-March-April months when they are selling and delivering seed to farmers.