Grainfarmers is looking to recruit extra farmers to back a new central storage facility in Northamptonshire.

The farmer-owned business has a shortlist of sites along the A14 corridor and plans to build a 35,000t store.

Grainfarmers’ Rob Sanderson said eight large-scale arable farmers had invested over £11,000 of venture capital to cover initial consultancy fees, planning applications and civil engineering.

The critical start-up tonnage for the project was 25-30,000t, Mr Sanderson said. “Through sponsorship we have already secured about 60% of this.”

The project was hoping to tempt up to 15 more major arable farmers to come on board. Subject to a successful planning application, construction would begin shortly after harvest 2008, with the store taking grain from harvest 2009.

‘Filling a hole’

Grainfarmers hoped to secure grant assistance under the new Rural Development Programme for England, to help with infrastructure costs like laboratory, weighbridge and drying facilities.

Although the site’s initial capacity was pegged for 35,000t, all the locations shortlisted were capable of increasing to 100,000t of storage. The project already had a steering group of about 25 farmers, Mr Sanderson added.

A modern central store in Northamptonshire would “fill a hole” in Grainfarmers’ national network of 10 central stores. “Within a 45-mile radious of Kettering there are about 900,000t of arable crops currently produced,” Mr Sanderson said.

An English Farming and Food Partnerships survey of farmers in the region last year revealed that a lack of adequate grain storage was hampering farmers’ efforts to add value to arable crops.

EFFP’s Paul Rhodes said: “About 80% of on-farm storage in the East Midlands is over 15 years old and becoming increasingly dilapidated. Increasingly there are issues with quality and capacity.