A.K. Acres Popcorn Co. contracts all of its popcorn production in
Southwest Nebraska and Northeast Colorado. The dry climate combined
with warm days and cool nights makes this area of the United States
an outstanding environment for the production of high quality popcorn.
In addition, this land is located above a large underground aquifer
which provides the popcorn crop with an abundant source of water.
The fact that our production is 100% irrigated means a stable supply
even in years of drought.
A. K. Acres Popcorn Co. selects popcorn varieties that are proven
in our test plots and desired by our customers. Popcorn is planted
anytime between April 20 and May 10. AK Acres monitors the growth
of the popcorn throughout the growing season to ensure it is grown
in accordance with our contract.
Our procedure to eliminate foreign materials begins at harvest.
Before the popcorn harvest begins farmers are required to thoroughly
clean their trucks and combines. We also ask the farmers to make
sure their equipment is in good working order and at the proper
settings for harvesting popcorn. In addition, all of our dump pits,
conveyors, elevator legs, and grain bins are thoroughly cleaned
and inspected before harvest.
Popcorn is harvested anytime between September 20 and October 31.
Popcorn is normally harvested with a moisture content of 14% to
17%. Popcorn harvested below 14% moisture may be too dry and may
not pop well. Popcorn harvested above 17% may be too wet and may
spoil when stored in our grain bins.
Samples are taken from every truckload of popcorn that is brought
into AK Acres. This equates to approximately one sample for every
35,000 lbs of popcorn brought in. These samples are used in determining
the moisture, the amount of foreign material, and the expansion
of the popcorn. Expansion is a ratio that compares the number of
cubic centimeters of popped popcorn to the number of grams of unpopped
popcorn. For example, an expansion of 42:1 means that 1 gram of
unpopped popcorn will produce approximately 42 cubic centimeters
of popped popcorn. Farmers who are able to produce high expansion
popcorn are given a bonus at the end of the year.
Harvested popcorn is stored in the AK Acres' storage facilities
where its moisture can be closely monitored. To ensure the highest
quality popcorn, AK Acres' storage facilities are equipped with
computer controlled aeration systems that continuously monitor the
humidity and temperature of the air. These computers are programmed
to turn large aeration fans on or off as necessary to keep the popcorn
moisture at the optimum level. To ensure quality we primarily use
natural air to dry the popcorn. Natural air-drying, as opposed to
natural gas heat, preserves the seed coat integrity and the appearance
of the popcorn for customer satisfaction and maximum expansion potential.
In addition to monitoring moisture, all stored popcorn is continuously
monitored by a professional insect & pest management service
to prevent insect or pest infestations.
After conditioning the popcorn to the correct moisture, the popcorn
is processed using advanced milling and cleaning equipment. Foreign
material, broken kernels, corncobs, and dirt are all removed in
this process. The cleaning process is able to remove 99.999% of
foreign material and broken kernels. There are four main machines
used to remove foreign material and broken kernels from popcorn:
Screen Cleaner (Stage 1): This machine uses shaking screens
and high powered blast fans to remove large pieces of foreign material
like cobs, leaves, pieces of dirt and rock, and field corn as well
as small pieces of foreign material like weed seeds, immature kernels,
dust, and broken kernels. This machine is composed of two types
of screens. The first screen has large holes that allow the popcorn
to pass through while the second screen has small holes that allow
the popcorn to pass over. When popcorn goes over the first screen
it falls through the holes and moves to the second screen, however
anything larger than the size of a popcorn kernel does not fall
through the holes in the screen and is removed from the popcorn.
After the popcorn falls through the first screen it lands on the
second screen. When popcorn goes over the second screen it passes
over the small holes, however anything smaller than the size of
a popcorn kernel falls through the holes in the screen and is removed
from the popcorn. In addition to the screens, large blast fans are
used to blow chaff and dust out of the popcorn. This machine is
able to remove approximately 98% of the foreign material and 90%
of the broken kernels brought in at harvest.
Gravity Table (Stage 2): Unlike the screen cleaner which
removes foreign material and broken kernels on the basis of size,
the gravity table removes impurities on the basis of density. A
gravity table uses high volume fans and a shaking perforated deck
to suspend the popcorn above the deck on a cushion of air. The angle
and shape of the deck causes the popcorn to move to different ends
of the deck depending on the popcorn's density. Broken, cracked,
and immature kernels move towards the back of the machine where
they are removed while all of the good kernels move toward the front
of the deck and exit the machine.
Destoner (Stage 3): A destoner is basically a smaller version
of a gravity table. This machine uses the same concept of a fan
and shaking perforated deck to suspend the popcorn on a cushion
of air. The purpose of this machine however is to remove foreign
objects that are very dense. Stones, clumps of dirt, and small pieces
of metal all move towards the back of the machine where they are
removed while all of the good kernels move toward the front of the
deck and exist the machine.
Optical Color Sorter (Stage 4): A color sorter uses advanced
high-resolution optics to visually inspect each kernel of popcorn
as it flows through the machine. The color sorter is able to detect
even the smallest piece of foreign material and the slightest defect
in a kernel of popcorn. Upon detection, all foreign material and
defective kernels are removed from the product stream by a quick
burst of air. This final stage in our cleaning process ensures that
only the best kernels of popcorn are packaged and shipped to our
All of our popcorn is immediately packaged after it is processed.
This ensures that the popcorn retains its moisture and does not
come into contact with foreign material including insects. Our popcorn
is packaged in 12.5 lb, 20 kg, and 50 lb bags. The 12.5 lb bag is
made of a durable clear plastic and is closed using a heat sealer.
The 20 kg and 50 lb bags come in three different types of material;
4-ply paper, woven poly, and paper-poly. The 4-ply paper bag is
made using three layers of paper and one layer of plastic. The inner
layer of plastic is used to keep moisture in the popcorn. The paper
bag is the most attractive of the three types of bags however it
is also the weakest. The woven poly bag is the strongest of the
three types of bags and is made by tightly weaving together small
strips of plastic. This bag also has an inner layer of plastic to
keep in moisture. Lastly, the paper-poly bag is basically the combination
of a paper bag and a poly bag. This bag has the appearance of a
paper bag and the strength of a poly bag. This bag is made by compressing
paper and plastic together into one material. This bag is a fairly
new design and is quickly becoming popular. All of the 20 kg and
50 lb bags are closed using a high speed sewing machine.
AK Acres Popcorn Company has the capability to load trucks, containers,
and rail cars. AK Acres has its own rail siding giving us the ability
to bring hopper cars and box cars directly into our facility for
loading. Because of this cost advantage, most of our exported popcorn
is shipped to the coastal ports via train.
All outbound trucks, containers, and railcars are cleaned before
loading. We also place a layer of paper on the floor of the trucks,
containers, and railcars to keep our popcorn separated from anything
that might get on the popcorn bags. To prevent insect or pest infestations
outbound trucks, containers, and railcars are fumigated before they
leave the facility.
Lastly, samples are taken from each shipment to verify the quality
and purity of the shipment. If any questions or problems should
arise we can go back to the sample to verify the type and quality
of popcorn that was shipped.