CHEDA Board OKs $100K loan to Boll's Northstar Lime, LLC

Business will convert Crystal's spent lime into pellets for soil remediation

Mike Christopherson
At Tuesday's CHEDA Board meeting at Valley Technology Park, Bryan Boll, left foreground, listens to a question posed by CHEDA Board President Wayne Melbye, in green shirt in the background. Seated next to Boll is Phil Schramm of Boll Family Farms.

The Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority Board of Directors on Tuesday approved a $100,000 loan to rural Crookston farmer Bryan Boll and his new business venture, Northstar Lime, LLC. The business will be housed in the former Simplot building on Crookston’s southern edge, which Boll has purchased.

Northstar Lime, launched in October 2020, will take the spent lime produced by American Crystal Sugar – the lime is a byproduct of creating sugar; it’s used to filter out impurities – and convert it into pellets that will be shipped to farmers, who will use it to remediate the soil in their fields.

“The big piles you see at American Crystal, most of that is spent lime,” said Boll, who attended Tuesday’s CHEDA Board meeting. “It’s very valuable for agriculture for soil remediation. …In the interest of sustainability, we’re trying not to landfill it and instead reuse it.”

The loan dollars will used to buy drying equipment for the spent lime, which is in powder form and, with 30% moisture, is considered “wet lime.”

Although he said it will take a few years to “get there,” Boll said the goal is to employ 20 full-time staff, year-round.

After a couple special meetings and even an emergency meeting last Friday, Tuesday’s meeting was the first regularly scheduled meeting for the CHEDA Board, which is now comprised of Mayor Dale Stainbrook and six Crookston City Council members. Council member Wayne Melbye was named board president at a special board meeting Monday evening, and City Administrator Amy Finch was named interim CHEDA executive director at Friday’s emergency board meeting, a position she will hold until a community development director is hired to run the new City Community Development Department. At Monday’s special meeting, the board also voted 7-0 to terminate CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth.

The board voted 7-0 in favor of approving the loan to Boll. The funds will come from the revolving loan fund, which, FInch said, has a sufficient balance to cover the financing.

The chemical make-up of soil in the immediate area doesn’t require much in the way of lime-inspired remediation, Boll explained, so the plan will be to haul the pellets elsewhere, by rail or truck, where the soil composition benefits more from lime being applied to it. Boll said farmers in central Minnesota, central North Dakota, Montana and Canada need lime to remediate their soil.

Boll said he’s been hauling spent lime for American Crystal for the past 10 to 15 years and spreading it for area farmers who need it, but he said there’s not enough farmland with a need for lime in the immediate area to use all of the lime that Crystal produces.

The key to bringing Northstar Lime from vision to reality was finding a process to pelletize the lime, which is easier to haul and easier to spread on farm fields. Boll said he was able to work with a couple of companies to fine-tune the pelletizing process, and the task now is to determine which one of three pellet options they have come up with will work best. Using pellets, he said, farmers won’t need any specialized equipment to spread the lime; their current equipment will suffice.

The $100,000 loan will have a 15-year term, with 4.25% interest. With Boll estimating that it will take 120 days to get Northstar Lime up and running, the loan terms allow him to not make his first payment for six months.

Other financing partners include the Small Business Administration, Northwest Regional Development Commission, and Boll’s primary lender, Unity Bank.