Nearly 900 attendees converge on Palm Springs, Calif., to see the latest in milling technology.

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. — Flour millers from North America and more than 20 other countries gathered in the Southern California desert May 4-8 for the 119th Annual International Association of Operative Millers’ Conference and Expo.

Held at the Renaissance Palm Springs hotel, the conference attracted nearly 900 participants, up slightly from the previous year in Omaha.

“The attendees said they liked the venue — especially the layout of the hotel and convention center and the fact that the conference was in Palm Springs,” said Melinda Farris, executive vice-president of the I.A.O.M. “I heard many suggestions that we should cycle back to Palm Springs on a regular basis.”

The conference included educational programming that focused on five topics: product protection, technical operations, employee management, facility management and specialty milling. The educational program closed with a milling roundtable that featured Tom Zemanick of Kice Industries, Tom Byrnes Jr. of Blower Engineering, Mike Branson of Sefar, Inc., Jeff Seeger of Great Western Mfg. Co., Inc. and Jeff Gwirtz of JAG Services, Inc.

Most of the discussion centered on topics relating to pneumatic conveying and sifters.

“We added a specialty milling track to the schedule this year,” Ms. Farris said. “We plan to bring it back in 2016.”

Expo and product showcase

Ms. Farris said 110 companies presented milling and processing equipment, and related services on the Expo floor.

The following companies held demonstrations of their latest products:

• Electro-Sensors, Inc., wireless hazard monitoring, a comprehensive solution combining sensors, advanced technology and intuitive software at a lower installed cost than traditional wired systems.

• Bühler, Inc., Matador MJZH, developed for the mechanical destruction of more than 99% of insect eggs in flour or semolina.

• Vortex, loading spout, featuring an outer sleeve that is rivet free and utilizes steel cable guides rather than less durable plastic.

• FAWEMA North America, flour packer, redesigned to run flour bags from 2 to 4 lbs in either single-, double- or triple-fill mode, offering flexibility in terms of fill rates and bag sizes that may be run by just one packer.

• Bratney Companies, Cimbria SEA Chrome color sorter, featuring standard TRU color cameras with 0.1 mm resolution and the ability to add NIR and InGaAs cameras, making it a versatile color sorter for milling applications.

One of the most talked about pieces of equipment on display was Bühler’s Plansifter Seginus, which the company said achieves up to 20% higher throughput capacity than other sifters of its size. The beltless drive is integrated in the bottom of the machine, resulting in a compact design that reduces the space needed by about 30%.

“There’s no motor,” said Tim McDougall, account manager for Bühler. “There’s an electronic magnet at the bottom of the sifter.”

The biggest advantage is the reduction of maintenance costs, he said.

“There’s no bearings, no motor and no belt, so there’s none of those pieces to maintain.”

Mr. McDougall said the company is testing the technology on larger sifters and also believes the magnetic drive could be utilized in other milling equipment.

Jones delivers keynote

Julie Miller Jones, a board certified nutritionist, delivered her keynote address at the I.M.E.F. breakfast. She examined the nutritional myths and facts about wheat, gluten and grains.

Dr. Jones discussed books such as “Wheat Belly” and “Grain Brain” in which the authors theorize that grain, particularly wheat, is the primary culprit in a spike in obesity and diabetes around the world.

“Are carbohydrates causing weight gain? No, the increase in the amount of calories consumed is causing it,” Dr. Jones said.

She noted that the average U.S. citizen is consuming 600 more calories per day than in 1970, with significant increases in fat, protein and sweeteners, while the caloric intake of fruits and vegetables has remained the same.

“We’re fat because we eat too much,” she said. “The portions are too big. We are eating too many Ding Dongs and donuts and not enough rice, white bread and other carbohydrate staple foods.”

She added that if you look at the global population, those who eat the most carbohydrate staple foods (rice, pasta, white bread and cereal), such as the Asian population have the lowest Body Mass Index.

Another misconception introduced in dietary literature in recent years is that people can get adequate fiber from just eating fruits and vegetables and forgoing grain fiber in their diet.

“Grain fiber in whole grain significantly decreases the risk of intestinal cancer,” Dr. Jones said. “With the others sources of fiber, there is not a big decrease. According to studies, you can cut the risk of intestinal cancer in half if you consume an adequate amount of fiber from grains.”

And while white flour has received a lot of negative publicity in recent years, Dr. Jones noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said the mandatory folic fortification of flour in North America and other parts of the world was one of the 10 most important public health measures taken during the last century. Flour fortification has decreased by half the number of children born with neural tube defects.

“You should be proud that the flour you produce has that sort of impact,” Dr. Jones told the millers in the audience.

She also addressed the recent trend toward more people eating gluten-free foods, even though there is no medical danger in consuming gluten.

“Most of the people are on this diet for reasons not related to having celiac disease or wheat allergy,” she said. “They think keeping gluten out of the diet is healthier. But gluten-free food is less nutritious and higher in calories, so it probably isn’t very healthy for those who don’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy.”

New officers elected

The I.A.O.M. elected a new president, vice-president and treasurer during the annual conference.

Roy Loepp, director of quality with Seaboard Overseas and Trading Group in Shawnee Mission, Kas., was elected the 111th president of the association. Brad Allen, vice-president and operations lead for Ardent Mills in Denver, was unanimously elected vice-president.

Mr. Loepp has been an active member of the I.A.O.M. since 1990 and has been a member of the I.A.O.M. Education Committee since 2000.

From 2014-15 Mr. Loepp was president of the I.M.E.F., a philanthropic partner of the I.A.O.M. that funds a variety of educational programs related to the grain milling industry.

Mr. Loepp is a native of Inman, Kas., and graduated from Kansas State University in 1989 with a degree in milling science and management. Upon graduation, he joined Cargill as a production manager and worked with the company in plants in Topeka, Kas., and Springfield, Ill. In 1995, he took a milling technologist position at Seaboard Corp. in Shawnee Mission. Since, he has served numerous divisions of Seaboard with roles in engineering, operations and technical services.

During his acceptance speech at the I.A.O.M. Banquet on May 7, Mr. Loepp said the theme for his presidency would be “Building a Proud Global Fellowship.”

He said the word “building” implies that there is room for improvement within the organization. He said it is imperative to grow interest in the milling industry among the next generation.

“We have to build synergies with like-minded organizations,” Mr. Loepp said. “One organization is obviously Kansas State University. In order for us to be more successful, we have to have Kansas State and the Department of Grain Science and Industry be as successful as possible.”

Mr. Loepp also urged millers to be proud of the work they do, saying that he believes their task is a “divine one” and referencing a Bible verse that describes the importance of feeding the world.

“Basically what that says is we are given a resource in agriculture and that food doesn’t magically appear on the table,” he said. “We have to work for it. We are in divine partnership with God to give food to a growing world population.”

He also emphasized the word “global” and reminded the audience that North America produces only about 10% of the world’s wheat and 5% of its flour.

“Although we have good international representation, we can make it that much bigger,” he said. “We have a message to take to the world and we have materials and resources for education.”

Finally, Mr. Loepp said growing the fellowship within the I.A.O.M. is paramount. He said working together with other millers to produce millions of tonnes of flour each year that is consumed by people all over the world is immensely satisfying.

“The food has to be safe, and it has to meet specification,” he said. “That’s not a small task.”

As vice-president, Mr. Allen will be responsible for overseeing preparations for the association’s 2016 conference in Columbus, Ohio. He is in line to serve as the association’s president from 2016-17. He has been an active member of the I.A.O.M. since 1996.

Mr. Allen has served as a member of the I.A.O.M. Employee Relations Committee since 2002. While serving as I.A.O.M. vice-president, he also will be president of the I.M.E.F.

Steve Doyle, vice-president of King Milling Co., Lowell, Mich., was elected 2015-16 I.A.O.M. treasurer. That puts him in line to become I.A.O.M. vice-president in 2016-17 and president in 2017-18.

Olson honored

Also during the banquet and awards ceremony, Bill Olson, regional manager of the milling division for Corbion-Caravan, received the Thaddeus B. Bownik Outstanding Service award.

I.M.E.F. scholarship

Kody O’Brien was selected as the recipient of the I.M.E.F. Scholarship Program for Professionals. The scholarships will provide tuition for Mr. O’Brien to enroll in a resident milling course. Mr. O’Brien noted that he hopes to complement his existing knowledge and expertise through the resident milling course.

Having worked in the same mill for 10 years, Mr. O’Brien said he is excited about the chance to see and learn how milling processes vary at different mills. He is interested in learning more about how techniques are applied within a diverse industry. He said that he sees participation in the course as a way to broaden his awareness and gain knowledge to bring new ideas back to his facility and help to educate others.

Mr. O’Brien has been with Rogers Foods, Ltd. in Chilliwack, B.C., for 10 years. He started in the packing department, and two years later he was promoted to miller.

The I.M.E.F. Scholarship program was established in 2008 to support the education of undergraduates in the sciences of grain milling. In 2012, the program was expanded to include training opportunities for professionals already working in the industry.

Ms. Farris said a live auction during the banquet raised $24,600 for the I.M.E.F. and more than $60,000 total was raised during the conference.

Since its establishment, the I.M.E.F. has raised more than $800,000.

Next stop: Columbus, Ohio

The 120th I.A.O.M. Conference and Expo will take place April 4-8, 2016, in Columbus.

Ohio is a hotbed for the soft wheat flour milling industry with nearly a dozen mills located in the state, including the Mondel?z Toledo facility, which is the second largest in North America in terms of daily production capacity at 31,000 cwts.