by Hannah Culak
Farmers rely on revenue from cottonseed as a critical element of their business plan. Regional cooperative PYCO Industries is at the forefront of growth and innovation in the cottonseed industry. PYCO recently expanded access to whole cottonseed markets through its acquisition of Cape & Sons. However, the company recently opened the largest lint processing room in the world to ensure growers get the maximum possible value from all the components of a cottonseed.
In 1988, the PYCO Board of Directors took initiative and made the decision to build a cottonseed oil refinery in order to better compete in the food market. The primary product produced by PYCO is cottonseed oil used by food companies, restaurants and home chefs. In addition, other by-products of cottonseed processing that PYCO markets include cottonseed meal, cottonseed hulls, and linters. Valuable to the livestock industry, whole cottonseed and cottonseed meal are key nutritional ingredients for dairy cattle operations. For the benefit of beef and dairy cattle rations, cottonseed hulls provide an exceptional form of fiber. Other products such as mattresses, upholstery padding, high-quality papers or plastics, and electrical components are made from cotton linters.
With a goal of maintaining the utmost modern and efficient processing facilities in the industry, PYCO rebuilt their lint room to maximize efficiency and create a safer environment. A long-time project in the making, this new renovation will drastically improve lint output, quality and environment, while decreasing energy and labor used in the process.
Les Howell, PYCO General Superintendent, has had a hand in previous re- models over the years, but nothing has come close to the project that has just been completed.
“This is the largest lint room ever built. No one moving forward will be building anything to this size because of the demand for cottonseed,” he said. “With the support of all our co-op members, PYCO is the biggest cottonseed crushing oil mill in the world.”
One of the decision drivers for the new lint room was to upgrade to ultra high-efficiency air filtration systems. The new filters will improve air quality both inside and outside the lint room.
Alex Gonzalez, PYCO Engineer, commented on the outcome of the new facilities and what their effects are going to be.
“Just to give you a rough idea, there are 1,100 motors inside of that building on 150 different machines,” Gonzalez said. “With miles of aeration pipe in the building, we end up cleaning up the environment a lot more. You end up exhausting air that is cleaner than the atmosphere.”
From the improved efficiency, the daily cottonseed processing capacity has increased to 2,000 tons from the 1,500 previously processed with the old facilities. Not only does the new lint room process 500 more tons of seed per day, it does so by operating at the same 10 megawatts of electricity as before. In addition to the greater, cleaner output of lint produced while decreasing the amount of energy used, labor input is reduced as well. The latest machines installed are fully automated, which lowers the workforce needed by about 25 percent.
Through his years working at PYCO, Howell can testify to just how much labor is needed to run the mill.
“With all the new construction and as fast as Lubbock is building and growing out here, it’s hard to find personnel to work here,” he said. “There’s not a lot of people who want to work in this industry due to the exposure of being outside in the West Texas extreme elements.”
The new lint room will help decrease labor needs due to its enhanced capabilities. With the number of machines available to run seed now, finding the manpower to run the machines won’t be as much of an issue. Howell said they will continue to strive for quality over quantity.
Moreover, PYCO and its members will benefit in the long-run from the new lint room. Howell mentioned the main benefit from the new facilities is the decrease in cost and producing better products.
“Another thing is it’s going to cost us less in government fees because we did this for the improvement of the filtration system,” he said. “It actually reduces our emissions by over 50 percent.”
For more than 80 years now, PYCO has exemplified their ultimate goal of maximizing the value of cottonseed for its owners. Through the cooperative, members have access to a broad market for their products, alongside a secure outlet for their seed. With the emphasis on energy conservation and environmental protection, the astounding improvement to its lint room empowers PYCO to continue being a leading force in the cottonseed industry.