DICKINSON – Due to security concerns and overcrowded space, North Dakota State University’s Dickinson Research Extension Center plans to build new store and lab space to improve agricultural research for local farmers and ranchers.
With statutory funding of $2.2 million, the research center, located off State Avenue, is currently working with architects to develop plans for what the new lab will look like and the size of that building, said director Chris Augustine. If all goes as planned, construction crews could start work by August, he added.
The proposed location, located in an area of land northwest of the research center, will house the laboratory and workshop. Currently, the store and the lab, or seed store, are separate and within walking distance of each other. Augustin noted that the lab portion of the building will face west, while the store will face State Avenue, which will be ideal for larger equipment and trailers entering the premises.
The workshop space is intended for welding, fixing agricultural equipment and carrying out any other fabrication. The lab space is for combining grain samples, harvesting forages and where seeds can be dried and cleaned.
“We do research for farmers and the idea is that research and awareness increase their profitability; so it increases the tax base. And also, it would be more money to invest in infrastructure for people, as well as improving the livelihoods of the producers we serve,” Augustin said.
The current lab is a “repurposed green bin” that dates back to the 1960s, Augustin said, adding that it has no heating or air conditioning except for a small wall unit that’s plugged in for the months of summer. summer.
“My first summer here was in 2020 and the staff would show up in August around 4am. At that point, I’m walking the dog and I’m like, ‘Why are you guys coming so early?’ Well, they showed me that it’s so hot and there’s no ventilation and things like that. They show up at 4 a.m. and they put in their eight hours and get home at 2 p.m. before it gets 100 degrees outside,” Augustin said. “So we made a bandage things of his (like) this air-conditioned wall unit to help things along. But still, the coldest we can still get is like 80 degrees. So it’s still uncomfortable. So it’s a safety issue for the team here. How do we recruit and retain good scientists to do this research that our local farmers and ranchers need? »
When researchers work on the seeds in March, for example, they will have to wear gloves because there is no heat in the building. This process is meticulous, but can be extremely difficult when counting individual seeds with gloves on, Augustin added.
Augustin and his team are also looking at other research outreach centers — called “sister stations” — in North Dakota, like the one at Hettinger that was built in 2015 for $1.8 million on 8,900 square feet. .
“They have a very efficient design. And honestly, if we could put this building here, that would be perfect,” he said, adding, “But we don’t know what square footage we’re looking for. Things are much more expensive today than a few years ago.
Unlike other research centers, there is no greenhouse at the Dickinson Research Center. However, it is something Augustin would like to see in the design plans should they go ahead with this mission in the years to come.
The research center has received support from local lawmakers from Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson; Representative Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson; to Rep. Vicky Steiner, R-Dickinson. Steiner noted that during a tour of the research center’s lab, she noticed how inadequate current conditions are for scientists.
“…As they were passing the seeds around, it was getting really dusty in there. And I just thought if the state was going to ask young people to do research and work in a facility and its standards lower is not acceptable to me and we have the availability of federal funds for maintenance,” Steiner said.
Once the new workshop/laboratory is built, the spaces currently in use will be transformed into storage spaces, Augustin noted.
“…I am very grateful for a dedicated team that we have (and) also very grateful for the support of our local elected officials who saw the need to do this so that we could fix our stuff, make our stuff so that we can do more research,” he noted.
The project completion date is tentatively set for June 30, 2023.