(NAPSI)—Although barges have been around at least since ancient Egypt, the innovations one 150-year-old company made to them in the 1930s has given a big boost to commerce in the U.S. today.

Here’s a look at then and now.

Then: In the late 1930s, Cargill’s trade business had expanded significantly as it made frequent use of inland waterways for shipping. To its former president John MacMillan, Jr., however, the towboat-and-wooden-barge combination was slow, cumbersome and poorly designed to carry the maximum amount of grain.

MacMillan’s idea was to create a single, integrated vehicle, cast in steel, which was wider but still able to pass between locks. When no builder was interested, his company entered the shipbuilding business.

The new “Carneida” barge was a game changer for commodity shipping, able to more gracefully pilot waterways and efficiently move larger volumes of crops from inland farms to their global destinations.

Likewise, Cargill’s search for materials to “back haul” so barges would not be empty on return trips was key to starting what is today one of its businesses: salt and deicing.

In 1955, the firm filled up a barge with Louisiana rock salt, which Northern states used to deice roads. Today, Cargill produces, packages and ships salt for use in table salt, animal nutrition supplements, water softener, deicing road salt and other products.

Now: Today, while trucks and trains transport many of the company’s commodities, barge movements remain a cost-effective, safe and environmentally friendly way to get products such as fertilizer and scrap metals to market.

Learn More

For a look at other innovations over the last 150 years, see www.cargill.com/150/en.

On the Net:North American Precis Syndicate, Inc.(NAPSI)