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Master of Agribusiness

Optimizing Wheat Blends for Customer Value Creation: A Special Case of Solvent Retention Capacity

Nikolas Haas, Riverdale, Utah, defended his thesis, “Optimizing Wheat Blends for Customer Value Creation: A Special Case of Solvent Retention Capacity,” March 31, 2011.  Haas is the Head Miller for Cargill in Ogden, Utah.  He will graduate from Kansas State University in May with a Master’s in Agribusiness (MAB). 

Millers have traditionally sold wheat flour to customers depending on moisture, ash and protein content and dough characteristics. One large commercial bakery has requested its flour suppliers to provide flour milled to specific solvent retention capacity (SRC), which will help their production be more efficient and decrease the amount of product breakage. SRC measures physical components of flour and provides information on the functionality of the flour during mixing and baking processes.

For his Master of Agribusiness thesis project, Haas created a model in Excel to determine the proper blending mixture requested by the bakery. The objective for the project is to develop a process to produce the most consistent flour that meets the customer’s individualized SRC specifications.

“Our customer wanted to have a consistent ingredient at all of their locations throughout the U.S. and asked us to meet that request. Through SRC testing, it is possible to control flour quality and consistency,” Haas said. “The optimization model has been successful at determining the correct percentages necessary to get the right flour blend.”

The ability to blend to specification will provide operational and economic value to the mill, as well as create value for existing and potential new customers, using the same process.

Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics and Haas’s thesis advisor, said, “This research was a very focused attempt by Nik to address a real problem he deals with in his work daily.  I am proud of what he did and how he can immediately apply it to increase the competitiveness of his company.  This is what the MAB is about – enhancing the competitiveness of our students and helping them transform their roles in their companies.”

K-State’s Master of Agribusiness (www.mab.ksu.edu) is an award-winning, distance-education degree program that focuses on food and agribusiness management.  Students and alumni work in every sector of the food and agribusiness sector and are located in more than 35 states within the United States and in 25 countries. 

“The opportunity to conduct research and write about it for my thesis helped me realize the critical role that I play in creating value for my employer and for the customers I serve,” Haas said. "I am grateful for the chance to reexamine the wheat blending process and use my skills to better serve my customers.  Along the way I developed a greater passion for the work that I’m engaged in.”

The full thesis publication can be found online on K-State’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/8387.