This machine shapes taters for customers across the globe, and it's manufactured in eastern Idaho - East Idaho News

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This machine shapes taters for customers across the globe, and it’s manufactured in eastern Idaho

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The Nex-Gem Lab Former made at Idaho Steel Products at 255 East Anderson in Idaho Falls, forms and shapes potato products. See how it works in the animation above. | Courtesy Idaho Steel
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Do you want to know what’s happening in the eastern Idaho business scene? We’ve got you covered. Here is a rundown of this week’s business news across the valley.



Machine made at Idaho Falls company can form potatoes into almost any shape

Idaho Steel crew in front of the Nex-Gem Lab Former
The Idaho Steel crew at the PACK EXPO in Las Vegas pose for a photo in front of the Nex-Gem Lab Former. | Courtesy Jon Christensen

IDAHO FALLS — Most people never give a second thought to the shape of their tater tots, hash brown patties, fries or other potato products.

A machine designed by an Idaho Falls company was created to form potatoes into just about any shape for restaurants and retailers across the globe. It’s called the Nex-Gem Lab Former.

Jon Christensen, Idaho Steel Product’s vice president of sales and marketing, is at a Las Vegas trade show this week showcasing the device. He tells it allows customers to experiment with different shapes.

“Those who make hash browns for McDonald’s, for example, are always trying to come up with interesting shapes that can be released in the market,” Christensen says. “People who go to a McDonald’s anywhere in the world (will get a) hash brown patty made on the machine that was (built) in Idaho Falls.”

Multiple machines are involved in cleaning, peeling, cutting, cooking and mixing potatoes. The Nex-Gem is the final step of the process. A dough-like mixture of potatoes is poured into the machine for forming. It can shape 20,000 pounds of potatoes an hour. See what it’s like in the animation above.

“This machine is incredible,” says Christensen. “It knows if it has water running, if its bearings change. It knows if it has oil to run the bearings. If it doesn’t have those things and is not being taken care of, it won’t turn on.”

Multiple clients in eastern Idaho use the Nex-Gem, but it’s a device that’s available to any food processor.

Idaho Steel Products has been a leader in the potato processing equipment industry since the 1970s, according to Christensen. Its most famous machine is the world’s largest drum dryer, which helps prepare potatoes for dehydration.

RELATED | This machine helps prepare potatoes for dehydration and a local company has the largest one in the world

The company began as a stainless steel fabrication shop in 1918, its website says. Christensen’s grandfather, Lynn Bradshaw, was a frequent Idaho Steel customer who worked at a potato plant in Firth. He bought the company from Don Lortz in 1991.

Idaho Steel started producing automated potato processing equipment in 2010 to be more competitive, and this is the company’s third generation of the Nex-Gem Lab Former since then.

Christensen is thrilled to spread the Idaho name all over the world as he showcases new technology to customers.

“This is one machine we (developed) that people know us for. It says … ‘Idaho’ right on it,” he says.

And the capabilities of the device are only going to improve from here, says Christensen.

“This revolutionary innovation embodies our commitment to fostering creativity and driving food industry advancements. With the Nex-Gem Lab Former, we are confident that businesses can produce captivating products that resonate with consumers and elevate their experiences,” Christensen says in a news release.

nex gem lab former
Courtesy Andrea Todd


Idaho Falls company ranked No. 2 on Top 100 small commercial printer list

IDAHO FALLS – AlphaGraphics Idaho Falls has earned the No. 2 spot on WhatTheyThink’s Top 100 Small Commercial Printer List for 2023.

This significant achievement underscores the company’s dedication to excellence in the printing industry. WhatTheyThink’s Top 100 Small Commercial Printer List is a highly regarded recognition that formally designates AlphaGraphics Idaho Falls as one of the top 100 small commercial printing operations in North America.

In 2022, the leading printing operations in North America collectively generated a staggering half a billion dollars in revenue, totaling an impressive $520.6 million. This notable figure represents a substantial 5.8% increase compared to the previous year, highlighting the printing industry’s continued growth and resilience.

AlphaGraphics Idaho Falls achieved a more than 10% increase in revenues last year compared to 2021.


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