Sugar beet harvest could set records

Amalgamated Sugar has struck a deal with Austrian company Agrana Group to build a betaine plant.

Amalgamated Sugar Co. recently signed a joint-venture agreement with Vienna-based fruit, starch and sugar enterprise The Agrana Group to build a betaine crystallization plant at Agrana’s facility in Tulln, Austria.

Work on the nearly $40 million project is slated to start in early 2019 and take about a year.

Betaine is a by-product of sugar beets. It is extracted in the sugar production process. The vitamin-rich substance is used as a feed constituent to help animals naturally retain proper water and salt concentrations. It’s also used in food supplements, sports drinks and cosmetic products.

Amalgamated Sugar has been extracting liquid betaine from sugar beet molasses since 1994. The Boise-based company started producing crystalline betaine in 2005. The Beta Pura joint venture’s Austria plant will be the third production site in the world where natural, high-quality crystalline is produced, Amalgamated said in a news release.

Amalgamated Sugar is a world leader in crystalline betaine technology, company President and CEO John McCreedy said. “Our growers and company staff are looking forward to working with Agrana in this market. Leveraging the technology developed by our subsidiary company, Amalgamated Research LLC, is an important strategic initiative for our future.”

Amalgamated Sugar Communications Specialist Jessica McAnally said the research subsidiary developed the technology to separate betaine from sugar beet molasses, and is one of two companies in the world that can separate and crystallize betaine. Amalgamated Sugar produces liquid betaine at its plants in Twin Falls and Nampa, Idaho. The company produces crystalline betaine in Nampa.

“This allows us to expand into different markets,” she said. “We are hoping to expand in the feed market and also possibly the cosmetics market.” She expects the new joint venture to “positively affect the payments we are able to provide our grower-owners.”

Amalgamated Sugar parent cooperative Snake River Sugar Co.’s more than 750 members grow sugar beets on more than 180,000 acres in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Amalgamated said it is the second-largest producer of sugar from beets in the U.S. Sugar prices remain at 1980s levels, the American Sugar Alliance reported.

Agrana converts agricultural raw materials into food and other products. The company employs about 8,700 people at 59 sites around the world.

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

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