Family Business Feature: Three of Iowa's family businesses partner to build feed mill that sets state apart from the rest of world

Nov 18, 2021

Family Business Feature: Three of Iowa's family businesses partner to build feed mill that sets state apart from the rest of world

By Katie Kreis

Three of Iowa’s leading multi-generational family businesses are partnering to build a feed mill unlike any other, positioning Iowa at the forefront of agricultural education and food production in the world. Kent Corporation, Sukup Manufacturing Co. and Todd & Sargent each contributed significantly to create the Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex at Iowa State University (ISU).

“The desires and dietary requirements of a growing world population will require innovative products and technology solutions,” said Gage Kent, chairman of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer of Kent Corporation, a family-owned business that made a lead gift of $8 million to the $21.2 million project. “This state-of-the-art facility will deliver on helping to meet that global challenge, right here in central Iowa.” 

Most Iowa residents and peers of the agriculture industry may know Kent for its animal nutrition brand, Kent Feeds, established in 1927. Today, Kent Corporation has grown from those humble beginnings to serve diverse markets from food, to beverages and ingredients, agriculture and pet care.

“Primary to our reason for giving the lead gift is to train work-ready individuals,” said Kent. “We believe strongly in investing in and retaining as many good people as possible for the benefit of Iowa’s future. We are thrilled to partner with other like-minded businesses to see this to completion.”

ISU, a supporter of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) Family Business Program, offers agricultural programs that rank in the top 4% of the world among other agriculture and forestry institutions. This excellence is reflected at the state, national and global levels.

“The state of Iowa has done such a good job creating opportunities based on our strengths as a state, and agriculture is a huge part of that,” said Jon Sargent, president and chief executive officer of Todd & Sargent, a family business that specializes in industrial design, engineering and construction services and won the bid for the ISU project. “There are only a handful of universities in the country (and the world) with this type of facility—and this will be the most advanced! The more we can leverage our unique strengths as a state, the farther we will go. This facility will help continue to drive the state of Iowa as an agricultural powerhouse.”

The feed mill boasts impressive statistics, into which Todd & Sargent poured their labors of love: 

  1. Facility eight rings in at 100-feet, 11-inches
  2. 1,030 cubic yards of concrete poured
  3. Four days to complete the continuous slipform pour (two 12-hour shifts)
  4. Each 12-hour shift averaged roughly 12’ per shift
  5.  70 people worked each shift
  6. 423 pieces of equipment will be installed in the completed facility


Not just an educational opportunity, the feed mill will support food production for a growing world. 

“There’s a reason Iowa is called the breadbasket of the world,” said Sargent. “As a top producer of corn, soybeans, hogs and eggs, our state makes an almost unbelievable contribution to the world’s food supply. These products make their way literally across the world to help feed people around the globe. We’re so proud to have partnered with other great multi-generational Iowa family businesses on this project. Kent Corporation, Sukup Manufacturing and Todd & Sargent have come together on this once-in-a-career project to serve the university, the agriculture industry and our community.”

As the only family-owned and operated company among its peers in the grain storage, drying and handling industry, Sukup Manufacturing is excited to give back to Iowa. The company supported the feed mill project with a large list of in-kind donations, including a total of 235,000 bushels of grain storage, grain handling equipment, a grain dryer, and related structural items and equipment accessories. 

“Sukup is a multi-generational family business, so we have a unique perspective on engaging the next generation and helping them access the tools to succeed,” said Steve Sukup, president and chief executive officer of Sukup Manufacturing Co. “This project is particularly special because of the long relationships that exist between the family businesses involved. Gage Kent and I were fraternity brothers, and we’ve known the Sargent family spending time in Clear Lake for many years. The collaboration with Kent Feeds, Todd & Sargent, and Sukup Manufacturing—three leading family-owned companies in the state—is a unique opportunity to be part of such a high-value project for the university.”

Sukup Manufacturing Co. is a member of the UNI Family Business Program. Recently branched off of Advance Iowa, the UNI Family Business Program has created a community of family businesses that learn about business governance, continuity, strategic planning, leadership transition and growth together. 

“We are excited to provide counsel, networking opportunities and support to family-owned and operated businesses like these three,” said Katie Kreis, program associate for the UNI Family Business Program. “As we continue to develop our mission, I’m grateful for the support of all three higer education institutions in the Regents system. Together, we can lend our expertise to Iowa families and their businesses and cheer on their successes, like we’re seeing with the Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex.”

With in-person and virtual peer groups, events, one-on-one consulting and more, the UNI Family Business Program is serving Iowa’s family businesses in every corner of the state. It is located in the Business and Community Services building at the University of Northern Iowa. For more information, visit

Images of the Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex courtesy of Todd & Sargent. Kent Corporation family photograph courtesy of Sukup Manufacturing family photograph courtesy of​.