The Japanese diet relies heavily on soybeans as a protein source, yet imported product is required to meet that demand. In fact, approximately 74 percent of soybean supply in Japan is sourced directly from the United States, making it the highest soybean supplier to the Pacific country.
As a food-grade export, achieving a high level of quality in soybean production is important in maintaining customer satisfaction. And it begins with controlling production output.
Indiana’s Ramon Loucks understands Japan’s attention to detail first-hand. Loucks is owner of IOM Grain, LLC – a grain handling operation in rural Portland that caters to the Japanese market for edible soy products. To meet their quality standards, Loucks contracts only to growers that produce non-GMO varieties grown to very strict standards. He monitors every step, from the type of variety used, to color selected, and he even knows the exact nutrient content in the soil.
“Our Japanese customers make us good. They are very detail oriented, and food safety issues go from variety selection to exactly what’s in the sack of grain,” he says. “They want consistently-pure, singular size soybeans that are stamped out like a wheel of a car.”
Each year, Loucks provides 40 to 50 tours of his facilities with his Japanese buyers to allow them a chance to see how their grain is being handled. It begins with a snapshot of exactly who grows their product, how it is cleaned, and what the end result is in packaging.
The cleaning aspect is always a focus.
Loucks and his team rely on a combination of machines to ensure the cleanest grain sample for his clients. Recently he made the decision to introduce a new cleaner to the mix with the Clipper Conquest 586 Precision Seed Cleaner – a cleaner that features two calibrated air gate controls for precision in air separation between the upper and lower fans.
“Those fans are very important to us because they take out the tiny particles of dust for a cleaner seed sample. And that’s big,” he says. “Air is air, but it’s how you apply it that impacts success.”
A.T. Ferrell introduced the Conquest 586 in 2001, with new features designed to produce more consistent results in seed cleaning compared to other seed cleaners on the market. It features a half-inch throw on eccentric cleaning shoe drives for maximum seed separation, a reverse incline back fan, bottom blast fan for under-seed cleaning, and an adjustable internal gate for uniform seed flow through the air columns.
Loucks has seen the impact of these features on his bottom line. Since installing the machine in December 2011, Loucks noticed a steep decline on his Good Grain Clean Out (GGCO) which he attributes to precision control.
“When we examine our trash, there’s always some good grain in our clean out, and that’s throwing good product away,” he explains. “When we put the new Clipper in, our GGCO narrowed hard. If you can dial those things in you’re making money because you’re controlling production.”
And Loucks knows that maintaining success in this market relies on controlling output and maximizing good grain.
“For the Japanese customer, if they are satisfied, we don’t hear from them. No news is truly good news.”