Purdue University opened its ADM Agricultural Innovation Center on Wednesday (Jan.18), heralding it as offering greater laboratory and classroom opportunities for students in the university's top-rated Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

The $4.2 million, 27,000-square-foot center was built with a $1.5 million contribution from Archer Daniels Midland Co., a longstanding partner with Purdue in the education of agricultural and biological engineering and agricultural systems management students. Construction of the steel-frame building on the south side of campus began last spring.

"This building reflects the commitment and dedication of Purdue and ADM to further enhance the experience of students in our nationally recognized undergraduate and graduate programs in agricultural and biological engineering," said university President France A. Córdova. "This facility will help ensure that these programs will continue to produce the innovators that the industry needs."

U.S. News & World Report in September rated Purdue's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering as the best such undergraduate specialty program in the country. Earlier in the year, it also ranked the graduate program as the top ABE specialty.

The center, which replaces a small, outdated building, provides opportunities for students to use the largest tractors, combines and other agricultural machinery to better understand the operation of the equipment and its components, document performance and improve designs. Equipment considered small by today's standards did not fit in the previous shop.

The space includes classrooms for students to interact in small groups, using computers, LCD panels and writable walls so they can complete assignments, develop designs and build equipment in the shop area.

There also is a conference room where students can meet with industrial project sponsors and potential employers.

"The facility provides a broad range of experiences and opportunities for students all in one place," said department head Bernard Engel.

ADM's contribution, to be given over three years, is funded through ADM Cares, which directs up to 1 percent of the company's pretax profits to initiatives and organizations that drive social, economic and environmental progress worldwide.