O’Toole, Inc.’s Fertilizer Storage Dome: Where Simple Means Profitable

Above the Rest.

An aerial view of O'Toole, Inc.‘s 60-foot diameter fertilizer storage dome in Letts, Iowa. The dome can store 1500 tons of urea or other related products.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

From "Laughing Corn," by Carl Sandburg.

Fertile topsoil and effective fertilizer fuel the green cornfields of Iowa. Greg O’Toole’s company, O’Toole Inc., in Letts, Iowa, has been in the business of supplying farmers with what they need since 1981. Iowa grows more corn than any other state in the United States, at 2.5 billion bushels of corn a year, and the United States leads in corn production across the world, at 13.7 billion bushels a year, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Greg chose a Monolithic Dome to contain the urea he supplies to keep that corn and other crops growing.

“We can store 1500 tons of urea,” Greg said. “I’m very glad we got it. We used to have to run seven trucks a day to keep up with the in-season demand, and now it’s stored right there.”

Tunnel Entrance.

The 15-foot by 15-foot tunnel is big enough for skid steers to easily enter and offload material.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Bulk Door.

When raised, the bulk materials door facilitates a controlled release of materials, ensuring easy handling by skid loaders.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

O’Toole Inc., a full-service agronomy dealer, consistently updates to stay on the cutting edge with state-of-the-art seed treating systems and variable rate planting technology using soil types or yield maps. The same careful consideration went into finding the best contemporary solution for storage needs. Their new Monolithic Dome storage is 60 feet by 38 feet, with a bulk door that allows a controlled amount of material to flow out from under for easy handling by a skid steer. The storage features a corrosion-resistant exhaust ventilation system, and a side hatch located above the fill line inside the dome allows for worker access to the interior. The dome also features a 15-foot by 15-foot tunnel with a barrel-arched roof.

“It’s strong, too,” Greg said. “Once, we dropped a conveyor on top of that tunnel, and it never even got a crack.”

Urea has to avoid zinc, copper, brass, bronze, and iron, as they have corrosive properties. Monolithic Domes protect the interior from these caustic agents. In addition, urea’s moisture-absorbing tendency necessitates storage in a consistently dry environment—humid conditions result in caking and shrinkage of inventory. A simple 110-volt window air conditioner easily maintains optimal humidity levels.

“In the summertime, it gets really humid, and it’s hard to keep in good condition,” Greg said. “Having the dome cut the shrink in half. There’s no crust of any type.”

The Monolithic Dome storage facility can store a wide variety of materials. Plant fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK), and urea is a prime nitrogen source, often at the lowest cost per pound. The first year, the dome stored potash, a source of potassium.

“It all depends on the market conditions,” Greg said.

Monolithic Domes excel at moderating temperature fluctuations. They are super strong and weather-proof. Instead of evaporating or clumping up, the fertilizer gets transported to the plants, helping them be green, leafy, and healthy as they turn light to energy in photosynthesis. Good storage means less shrinkage and more savings for everyone involved in producing the crops that feed and fuel this country. Greg says the dome has done its job.

“The dome did what I expected,” Greg said. “No worries. We’re doing good.”

Top-Mounted Conveyor.

The top-mount conveyor makes loading the storage dome with fertilizer a cinch. Because of the strength of the Monolithic Dome, a small conveyor like this one easy for the dome to support.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Easy Access.

This hatch provides access to the stored material in the dome above the fill line. It is also home to the dehumidifying system—a 110-volt window air conditioner. The small, inexpensive, and quickly replaceable air conditioner has enough power to keep the material inside completely dry.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

A Workhorse.

This no-frills storage dome is a money-maker. O'Toole, Inc. can store a range of fertilizers long-term with hardly any maintenance expenses. If they buy when prices are low and products are plentiful, they can use them later when they’re hard to find.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0