Six Decades of Innovation
Willmar Poultry Company (WPC) first opened its doors in July of 1945 under the name Willmar Poultry and Egg Company. The founders, Albin Norling, Albert Huisinga and Herman Nelson were, among other things, turkey farmers who relied on processors to pay growers a fair price for their birds. The three men didn’t feel this was the case. In what would become a major theme for the next six decades, those founders decided to take processing into their own hands; they believed they could do things better for themselves. Herman Nelson, Albert’s brother-in-law, soon sold out of the business, leaving the Huisinga and Norling families in charge; the two families still run the business today.
In 1951, Albert’s nephew, Ted Huisinga, joined the company. He immediately recognized ways to improve procedures at the processing plant. Because of Ted, WPC began to ship its birds eviserated and on ice in lieu of the “New York-dressed” style, which was standard at the time. After WPC got into hatching, Ted designed plastic poult boxes to replace costly, single-use cardboard boxes. The new poult boxes were easy to sanitize and reuse, and they are the industry standard today. In 1958, Albin Norling’s son Ray joined the company.
“Doing it better in-house” didn’t stop at the hatchery. Albert Huisinga spent a lot of time in the 1950s and 1960s convincing local farmers to start growing turkeys, but the growers complained about the high cost of medications, barn supplies and feed. To support those farmers, WPC purchased equipment, supplies, and medications in large amounts and began marketing farming equipment. WPC also began operating its feed mill, Farm Service Elevator, at this time in order to mill and mix local grain for turkey farmers. Sharing its bulk purchasing power allowed WPC to sell to those area farmers and give them a better price than they were able to get on their own.
This business model was so successful that in 1970, WPC created a retail branch (PALS – Poultry and Livestock Supplies) solely for the eqiupment, propane, medication and feed additive products. Once PALS was formally established, a warehouse was built at its present location. This expansion came during the leadership of Ted Huisinga and Ray Norling.
Ted Huisinga and Ray Norling were at the forefront of much of the Minnesota turkey industry’s growth during the 1960s and 1970s. Following Al and Albin’s theme of “we can do it better in-house,” Ted and Ray poured resources into research and development in all areas of the business. They worked very closely with researchers at the University of Minnesota and other industry experts to track, control, and in some cases, help eradicate disease from Minnesota flocks. After a devastating hatchery fire in 1978, they adopted and perfected automated incubation controls in their new hatchery, which catapulted WPC to the top of the industry in terms of poult production.
After the hatchery fire and ultimate success of the incubation technology, Huisinga and Norling became known as businessmen who were not afraid to take a risk on new technology. In 1985, after most turkey farmers had moved from the Quonset style barns to the now iconic pole style barn, PALS began marketing the Pal-Tech Zone, a microprocessor that served as the brain to turkey barns. This technology both improved air quality and decreased energy costs by controlling the barn doors and air vents. This allowed each zone to receive its ideal air flow.
Accomplishments like the incubation technology and the PAL-Tech zone, and Ted and Ray’s reputation as R&D supporters, led entrepreneurs and researchers to seek them out to fund their ideas. As a result, their family of affiliated companies grew to include Nova-Tech Engineering, which creates humane and cost-effective beak and claw treat processes for poultry, and Epitopix, which researches and creates autogenous and USDA-licensed vaccines using its patented SRP© technology. The MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar exists because Ted and Ray, in concert with Nova-Tech Engineering, had a vision of a technologically advanced, collaborative community for companies to start or grow businesses in all aspects of the life sciences.
Today, Ted Huisinga and Ray Norling lead twelve affiliated companies, including PALS, under the umbrella of Life-Science Innovations, and employ over 1,500 people across the country. Their companies do business on six continents. They own the country’s largest private technology campus and continue to support high-level research and development to support and grow their foundational industry – turkeys. They place high value on stewardship, innovation and integrity, and show no signs of slowing down.
PALS is located in Willmar, Minnesota. We market animal health supplies and equipment. Located in our building is our sister company, PALS Propane, and our company diagnostic lab.