VOLUME 10 ISSUE 3
Mobile Drip Irrigation
An Interview With Dragon-Line Founder Monty Teeter
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CONTENTS MARCH 2019 Volume 10 Issue 3
Irrigation Leader is published 10 times a year with combined issues for July/August and November/December by
STAFF: Kris Polly, Editor-in-Chief Joshua Dill, Managing Editor Tyler Young, Writer Nicole E. Venable, Graphic Designer Shelby LaVigna, Web/Graphic Designer SUBMISSIONS: Irrigation Leader welcomes manuscript, photography, and art submissions. However, the right to edit or deny publishing submissions is reserved. Submissions are returned only upon request. For more information, please contact our office at (202) 698-0690 or Irrigation.Leader@waterstrategies.com.
Mobile Drip Irrigation: An Interview with Monty Teeter
5 Advances in Center-Pivot Technology By Kris Polly
24 How Reinke Adds Value to Irrigation Operations
THE INNOVATORS 6 Mobile Drip Irrigation: 30 Besler Industries’ Pivot An Interview With Monty Teeter Track Closer 12 Bringing Sub-Inch Precision to the Irrigation Field: T-L Irrigation 18 Increasing Yield With Valley’s X-Tec Drive System
34 The Dynamic Dyna Flo Pump 38 Classifieds BUSINESS LEADER DISTRICT PROFILE ASSOCIATION PROFILEE
ADVERTISING: Irrigation Leader accepts one-quarter, half-page, and full-page ads. For more information on rates and placement, please contact Kris Polly at (703) 517-3962 or Irrigation.Leader@waterstrategies.com. CIRCULATION: Irrigation Leader is distributed to irrigation district managers and boards of directors in the 17 western states, Bureau of Reclamation officials, members of Congress and committee staff, and advertising sponsors. For address corrections or additions, please contact our managing editor, Joshua Dill, at email@example.com. Copyright © 2018 Water Strategies LLC. Irrigation Leader relies on the excellent contributions of a variety of natural resources professionals who provide content for the magazine. However, the views and opinions expressed by these contributors are solely those of the original contributor and do not necessarily represent or reflect the policies or positions of Irrigation Leader magazine, its editors, or Water Strategies LLC. The acceptance and use of advertisements in Irrigation Leader do not constitute a representation or warranty by Water Strategies LLC or Irrigation Leader magazine regarding the products, services, claims, or companies advertised.
Coming soon in Irrigation Leader: April: Irrigation Leader tours Chile May: Public Outreach Do you have a story idea for an upcoming issue? Contact our editor-in-chief, Kris Polly, at Kris.Polly@waterstrategies.com.
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COVER PHOTO: Monty Teeter (left) and Charles Medawar, Dragon-Line's marketing distributor for Saudi Arabia (right), standing in front of a Dragon-Line system. Photo courtesy of Dragon-Line.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DRAGON-LINE.
Advances in Center-Pivot Technology
hen I told a friend that the newest issue of Irrigation Leader was about new advances in center-pivot technology, he said with a smile, “Are there any of those?” To answer in a word: Yes! From the development of new monitoring and management software to improvements in the strength and effectiveness of the physical structure of mobile irrigation systems, center pivots are getting better, faster, more sophisticated, and more reliable. Our cover story this month highlights Monty Teeter’s Dragon-Line, an ingenious system that converts a center pivot into something new: a mobile drip irrigation system. In one sense, mobile drip is a simple concept. We all know about drip irrigation and center pivots. But combining the two required the development of specialized technology like pressure-compensating emitters. By controlling the exact placement of irrigated water, Dragon-Line achieves high levels of efficiency and precision. Mobile drip irrigation is likely to be more and more widespread in coming years. In this issue, we also check in with some of the biggest mechanized irrigation companies in the country. Neal Schlautman of T-L Irrigation tells us about his company’s PPT graphic display panels and its shared real-time kinematic GPS base stations, which help irrigation systems achieve sub-inch accuracy of movement.
By Kris Polly
Chris Righter of Valley tells us about the X-Tec drive system, a robust constant-move drive with a switched-reluctance DC motor. Cody Bailey of Reinke tells us about how his company is applying advances in material science as well as both in-field and cloud-based computing. We also look at good old-fashioned feats of engineering accomplished by two family-owned businesses. Herb Besler of Besler Industries introduces his company’s new tractordrawn pivot track closer. And Dana Rosendahl of General Irrigation and Dewatering tells us about the genesis of his company’s powerful Dyna Flo pump. The novel application of well-known technologies; the invention of brand-new computer systems; and the development of new, more reliable machines are all changing irrigated agriculture for the better. Advances in center-pivot technology are all around us. We hope that this issue of Irrigation Leader introduces you to a couple of them. IL Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@waterstrategies.com.
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Mobile Drip Irrigation: An Interview With Monty Teeter
Dragon-Line in use in South Africa.
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Kris Polly about his company’s history and its current offerings, and about developing and pioneering new technologies in a competitive market. Kris Polly: Please tell us about your company, Dragon-Line, and how long Dragon-Line has been on the market. Monty Teeter: Mobile drip irrigation is not a new idea, but I believe that we have perfected and patented the process. I have been involved in the pivot-irrigation business since 1972 and have been a drip-irrigation dealer for more than 25 years. Most people in the drip business don’t work with pivots, and pivot-irrigation people don’t work with drip. Being involved in both industries, I was always intrigued by how much more efficient drip irrigation was than the sprinkler application traditionally used in pivot irrigation.
About 10 years ago, I became aware of pressure-compensating (PC) emitters for drip irrigation. These emitters are pressure regulated and self flushing, so that each one emits an exact, predetermined amount of water once a minimum pressure is established—regardless of the elevations or topography of a field, and regardless of whether the emitter is at the pivot point or at the end of the overhang. Technology had finally caught up to the idea of mobile drip irrigation, enabling it to be effective and efficient. I used that technology to create Dragon-Line. Dragon-Line is a complete system, including drip tubing, hoses, cabling, and manifolds, that is used to convert a center-pivot irrigation system into a mobile drip irrigation system. We have partnered with the WISH Group, our U.S. distributor and a software company, to generate
PHOTO COURTESY OF TEETER IRRIGATION.
eeter Irrigation, Inc., was founded by Monty Teeter in 1977 in his garage and has since grown to eight locations across western Kansas and eastern Colorado. Mr. Teeter’s most groundbreaking invention is Dragon-Line, a system that uses drip tubing to convert a center-pivot irrigation system into a mobile drip irrigation system. In addition to saving water, Dragon-Line applies that water precisely and directly into the soil, rather than spraying it in the air where it can blow away, evaporate, or cause leaf burn. Dragon-Line, LLC, was established as an independent company in 2014, and the technology won the Irrigation Association’s best new agricultural irrigation product award at its 2016 Irrigation Show. In this interview, Monty Teeter, the founder and chief executive officer of Teeter Irrigation and the founder and president of Dragon-Line, speaks with Irrigation Leader Editor-in-Chief
a sprinkler chart that replaces sprinkler nozzles with a specific length of water-emitting tubing. Today, DragonLine is manufactured with 2 gallon-per-hour (GPH) PC emitters welded to the inside of tubing at increments of 6, 12, or 18 inches. The tubing ranges in length from 1 to 100 feet long, depending on GPH requirements and soil type. Five different styles of Dragon-Line have been developed and engineered to adapt to the profile of any brand of center pivot or linear system, whether high or low cropping. Dragon-Line manifolds are made to fit any row spacing, from 20 to 80 inches. We have developed a new winch system that changes the position of the tubing, dragging it on the soil to water for germination and then moving it out of the way as the crop grows. Dragon-Line is entering its third year of marketing commercially after 4 years of development. It holds the only patent that supports the precise attachment of the manifolds and cabling, the flexible leader hose for nonkinking reversing, the use of PC drip-tube emitters, the new winch system, and the orange color of the tubing. Kris Polly: What are the results that farmers can achieve by using Dragon-Line? Monty Teeter: I believe more than 15 universities and research centers are testing our product. A new research paper from Utah State University states that by using a mobile drip irrigation technology like Dragon-Line, a farmer can maintain crop yields while saving up to 40 percent of the water he or she would normally use. Over the last 3 years, we have gone from trying to market commercially to developing distribution centers and export marketing. My days are filled with preparing quotes and bids for international and domestic sales. Kris Polly: After those 3 years of marketing, where is your product being used? Monty Teeter: We are in 17 states, as well as Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and South Africa, and we will soon have product in New Zealand and Australia, both of which are suffering from a 104-year drought. We are also working with a Chinese firm, that is really interested in selling our technology with their pivot exports worldwide. We are planning to attend a trade show in Mexico in April and will possibly be at trade shows in Brazil and South Africa in late April and May and in New Zealand and Canada in June. We have a significant presence in South Africa. We have a new distributor there named Jacques Willemse. His company is called Dragon-Line Southern Africa. Mr. Willemse contacted me about a year and a half ago seeking new technologies to help fight a drought crisis his region was facing. He came to the United States last May to look at the product, and in October 2018 I went
over to South Africa for his company’s launch. It is based in a remote area, about 8 miles south of the Zimbabwe border, so I did not think there would be anyone at all in attendance. In fact, 230 people came. Some drove 10 hours to see what Dragon-Line was about. Since then, Mr. Willemse has ordered around $400,000 worth of product, and he thinks he will continue to buy containers regularly now. People there are not evaluating how long their water will last—they simply do not have water. They need to make every drop count. That is what Dragon-Line is all about. The South African farmers are adapting their farming very quickly to Dragon-Line. Kris Polly: Tell us about the benefits of Dragon-Line. Monty Teeter: Dragon-Line brings precise irrigation to precision farming. People spend a lot of money for precision on planters, tractors, and tilling and fertilizer equipment, but then don’t do anything different with their water application. They throw it on the ground and do not manage it properly. Until you manage how you apply the water, you cannot measure it. Everybody is coming out with moisture probes, but if the wind is blowing one day when the pivot goes by, the spot where a probe is may only get 50 percent of the intended water. Then the farmer’s decisions are based on a faulty measurement. That is why precision irrigation is necessary. We believe Dragon-Line can save 20–50 percent of the water that would be used with conventional water application methods. Mobile drip irrigation significantly reduces evaporation, water runoff, and wind-drift loss. Because Dragon-Line does not hit a plant with cold water, it also eliminates leaf burn from sudden plant shock caused by temperature changes. Dragon-Line also reduces the potential for plant disease by keeping the foliage dry. We apply fertilizer directly to the soil, not to the foliage. It does not compact the soil by continuing to spray and melting the soil particles together, creating hardpan and sealing off the surface. By applying water in a slowdripping and methodically linear process over a much larger area, we move water into the soil with capillary action and allow it to air out, improving soil texture and the infiltration rate. Dragon-Line waters more accurately than conventional nozzles. There is a limit to how small nozzle manufacturers can make their nozzles, because after a certain point they get plugged too easily. That means that center pivots with nozzles tend to overwater, especially in the first two spans. Dragon-Line can apply a smaller amount of water than most nozzles by using lengths of tubing down to 1 foot. By eliminating overwatering in the first two spans, we can save up to 10 percent of the water and redistribute it at the end of the system. A lot of new technology has come out that enables pivots to move continuously and complete their rotation IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
Orange drip lines are highly visible.
in less than 2 hours. But that technology has no value if the wheel tracks are wet. We are the solution for dry wheel tracks. We bring value to continuous-move pivots, especially by applying chemicals or fertilizers directly to the soil, not wasting them in the air. Dragon-Line does more than just save water. Kris Polly: Is your system something that farmers can retrofit on their existing center pivots? Monty Teeter: Yes. We convert a typical center pivot to a drip system with a conversion package. We have five different styles of conversion, which we select from depending on the type of crop and the topography of the field in question. Kris Polly: Can technologies like variable rate irrigation (VRI) still be used with your system?
Kris Polly: How have you been finding most of your new customers?
8 | IRRIGATION LEADER
Kris Polly: Would you tell us about how you see your technology developing, and your vision for the future? Monty Teeter: We have learned a lot from the past, and new ways of using Dragon-Line are still being discovered. For example, I did not think that Dragon-Line could be effectively used to water tomato plants, but users in South Africa modified their system in order to do so. We have the basic principles down, and our users are able to modify them to adapt to their needs. With the tomatoes, they lay them on a big bed. With traditional sprinkler heads, after one or two passes, the soil gets sealed off and the water runs off the bed, with the result that the tomato plants
PHOTOS COURTESY OF TEETER IRRIGATION.
Monty Teeter: Yes. At this point, we have not done many VRI systems because we are usually dealing with people who have a deficit in water anyway, but our system has the potential to make VRI even more efficient. Normally, when a center pivot is using VRI, with nozzles turning on and off out there in the field, it overwaters a lot of the areas where the farmer is trying to control his or her water because of the spread of the nozzles. With Dragon-Line, on the other hand, you can control exactly where the water goes. There is no chance of it spreading into the next zone.
Monty Teeter: Customers usually find us via our website or by word of mouth. Others read the results that research centers have been putting out. Most people find us after searching on the Internet for solutions to problems they have been having. New generations look on the Internet to find out solutions rather than going to farm shows or going to dealers. Once they have found the best solution, they go directly to the source. A lot of dealers are already so busy that they do not have the time to try new things or develop new markets, even through growers abroad are crying out for solutions. As a matter of fact, we had a guy here from Chihuahua City, Mexico. Farmers there are having issues with their pivots getting stuck and water running off. They are short of water, and energy is expensive. He read about mobile drip irrigation on the Internet and drove for 14 hours to get here and buy part of a system to take home.
Mobile drip irrigation ensures that wheel tracks are kept dry.
are not effectively watered. What they have done with Dragon-Line is actually to tie two drip lines together so that they are only 8 inches apart on each bed, and they water on each side of the tomato plant, saturating the top of the bed and getting the plant growing fast. We have also developed and patented a new winch system to be used with the Dragon-Line system. There is a winch assembly mounted on each end of the span. If a farmer is watering cotton on sandy soil and does not want to spray water on the whole surface area and melt the clods, he or she can water right where he or she is going to plant. As the plant emerges, the farmer could loosen one side of the span and tighten the other side up, winching the whole manifold assembly over 4â€“5 inches and providing water next to that young plant. As the plant grows, the farmer can winch the manifold out of the way on a weekly basis. He or she is not watering the entire surface and germinating weeds or wetting the surface for evaporation and sealing, but watering only the plants. Fertilizer can be directly applied to the soil next to the plant as well, not on the foliage itself, so that it is not at risk of being lost to the wind. We have developed a similar system for hemp growers. By winching the system out of the way as that big plant grows, the grower can avoid getting water on the foliage. Dragon-Line is also useful when growing mint and peppermint. The grower can avoid washing the oils off or wiping the seed out.
Kris Polly: What is your message to our readers? Monty Teeter: People have been working on mobile drip irrigation for years, and we have persevered to prove that it works and can operate effectively. We do more than save our precious resources and manage our water: We increase yields, save expensive energy, keep foliage dry, reduce and eliminate wheel tracks, reduce wear and tear on gearboxes and motors, reduce the compaction and surface sealing of soil, reduce runoff, and deliver nutrients directly to the soil, nearly eliminating wind drift and evaporation. Dragon-Line brings precise irrigation to precision farming. Our mission is to make every drop of water count, and that is what we will continue to work on and improve. We believe that we will change the culture of center-pivot irrigation. IL
Monty Teeter, pictured with wife Jean Teeter, is the founder and owner of Dragon-Line, LLC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (620) 353-9507. Further product and contact information is available at www.dragonline.net. IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
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Bringing Sub-Inch Precision to the Irrigation Field: T-L Irrigation A GPS-guided T-L linear system.
12 | IRRIGATION LEADER
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position. Neal Schlautman: I grew up on a diversified farm in northeastern Nebraska. I was always interested in doing things with my hands, including mechanical and electrical work. I spent a lot of time out in the shop. I went to the University of Nebraska and dual majored in mechanized agriculture, which was a program in the agricultural engineering department, and agricultural education. At the time I graduated, the agricultural economy was not very strong, and agricultural machinery companies were laying off instead of hiring, so I taught high school agriculture for 5 years. Then my wife and I had an opportunity to go to Iowa State University and work
on advanced degrees. While working on my PhD, I taught classes in the Ag Systems Technology Program in the Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering Department. As part of my PhD, I instituted and developed an agricultural electronics course. In 1993, I applied for a position in T-L Irrigation’s engineering department, and I have been here ever since. I took over the role of engineering manager in 2012, when the previous person in the position retired. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about T-L Irrigation. Neal Schlautman: The T in T-L stands for Leroy Thom, who graduated from the University of Nebraska’s agricultural engineering department in 1949 and founded the T-L Irrigation Company in
PHOTOS COURTESY OF T-L IRRIGATION.
-L Irrigation Company has been providing irrigation solutions since 1955. The family-owned company, based in Hastings, Nebraska, introduced its line of mechanized irrigation systems in the late 1960s. Since then, it has continued to innovate to make its products more reliable and easier to use. These days, that means enabling customers to irrigate their fields with extreme precision— moving their systems in straight lines with sub-inch accuracy using GPS or choosing which portions of a field to irrigate using a touchscreen display. In this interview, Neal Schlautman, the engineering manager at T-L Irrigation, speaks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about his company’s history, its current offerings, and the challenges of developing and pioneering new technologies in a competitive market.
1955, selling a range of irrigation and agricultural equipment. When he founded his company, Mr. Thom needed some financial backing, which he got from a gentleman named J. G. Love, who was a mortician in the town of Ravenna, Nebraska, near where Mr. Thom grew up. Mr. Love is the L in T-L. Mr. Thom repaid Mr. Love in 1961, but he kept both initials in the name, and we have been T-L ever since. In the late 1960s, Mr. Thom started working on mechanized irrigation equipment. He had looked at how other companies were building center pivots, using high-voltage electricity, which posed safety risks, and start/ stop motion, which caused water uniformity issues. He decided to try to do it with hydraulics because farmers were used to hydraulic systems on their tractors and combines. He developed a simple hydrostatic system using hydraulic oil that enabled continuous tower movement, which T-L has used ever since. Leroy Thom was involved in the company up until last year, when he passed away at 93. Two of his sons, Dave Thom and James Thom, still own and run the company. T-L has roughly 150 employees out in the factory and roughly 40 in the office. Our Hastings, Nebraska, site is the only manufacturing station we have in the world; from this facility, we distribute our products domestically and to 77 countries around the world. Joshua Dill: What are your main product lines? Neal Schlautman: In terms of mechanized irrigation, we manufacture center pivots and corner systems. We also produce lateral-move systems, which are linear irrigation systems that travel in a straight line through the field. Because they are not staked down with a pivot point, those structures need their own guidance systems.
Joshua Dill: Would you tell us about how pivot technology has changed over the period that you have been at T-L Irrigation? Neal Schlautman: The biggest change through the years has been the incorporation of highertechnology-embedded electronic control systems. We have always offered our basic control. As far as I know, we are the only company in the world that offers a basic control option T-L's PPT Panel. that allows you to change the direction and application rate of your pivot without any span Joshua Dill: How has the market cable control-wire system. On any changed over time? center-pivot system, you set the end tower, or boss tower, moving at a Neal Schlautman: In the United certain speed in a certain direction in States, farm size has continually order to achieve a desired application increased, and with it, requests rate. Our competitors do that by for new technology. The younger mounting a control panel at the generation wants products that pivot point and running three-phase, allow for the remote monitoring 480-span cable to each tower, out and control of numerous irrigation to the end tower. However, with our systems so they can be more efficient hydraulic drive system, we can mount with their time. Growers are also a directional control valve out at the using weather stations, soil moisture end, with a handle on it for forward sensors, and other techniques to and reverse motion and a flow-control help them be better stewards of the valve that can be rotated from 0 to resources they use. 90 degrees to adjust the speed of Internationally, Australia and the system. This is done without New Zealand have always been solid any copper wire, which is especially markets for us. As in the United important if it is installed in a country States, customers in these countries that has problems with copper theft. also demand the latest in technology This is the technology that got T-L and precision farming, especially started in the late 1960s, and it is still related to water application efficiency. half of what we sell today because it is so simple and reliable. Joshua Dill: Speaking of monitoring If a farmer wants to have telemetry and control systems, would you please control or control over variable rate tell us about the Precision Point irrigation, we can mount a control Touch (PPT) panel that you have panel on the pivot point or mount it developed? remotely at a field edge. We then use control cable to connect it to the end Neal Schlautman: Over the years tower to give us our electrohydraulic we have offered a variety of control control, and then we control it with panels to be mounted at the pivot a smartphone or any other webpoint. The most common one we had connected device. was an LCD character control panel IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
with six keys that allowed a user to set their pivot’s speed, application rate, and direction control. The user could also add a GPS system to control the angle of the pivot and set end guns. As we packed more features into one device, it got more and more complex to do that with just six keys. To solve this issue, we created the PPT panel. It offers a full-color touchscreen display that shows you graphically exactly what you are programming so that you do not have to visualize it in your head. For example, the PPT panel can provide a visual representation of the areas that will be watered if you turn on an end gun. If you set different application rates in different areas, the panel will graphically display your selections. If you wanted to quickly set a stop, for example because you have a part-circle system, the panel will show you the exact line where your pivot will stop. All this makes it very easy to make modifications. Our display is also color-coded for easier use. For instance, if the system is stopped or idle, the pivot circle on the display will be gray, and if it is running, it will be green, and the end gun areas will show up along with the arcs. If there are stop or safety conditions, the circle will turn red and a message will pop up. It is very easy to navigate. Joshua Dill: Would you also tell us about the shared realtime kinematic (RTK) GPS base station?
14 | IRRIGATION LEADER
Joshua Dill: Does T-L have a team of engineers that works on these innovations full time? Neal Schlautman: Yes. I am the engineering manager in the engineering department. We have a team of engineers and draftsmen and support staff. We have several patents on the GPS navigation systems. Joshua Dill: Would you tell us about the problem of intellectual property theft in the irrigation field? Neal Schlautman: There is a definite issue with copycat systems developed in other countries. There are companies abroad whose products are clear, obvious copies of the products of one of the four major irrigation manufacturers. They can offer those systems without any research and development costs. Manufacturing abroad, they also have lower labor costs and deal with fewer regulations. We typically do not run into those products in the United States, but they are more and more prevalent in other countries. However, we are now seeing some infiltration in the domestic market as well. They can cost 30 percent less to the end user than what we can sell for. Joshua Dill: What is your vision for T-L Irrigation? Neal Schlautman: The amount of technology in irrigation systems is continuing to increase. Much of that consists of decision-support systems that help farmers decide when and how much to irrigate by integrating weather and crop data from the field. We are going to have to stay on top of that. Individual nozzle control variable rate irrigation, which allows a farmer to control the water in specific locations in the field, is being offered, but there are challenges with its reliability and its cost. That is something we need to be cognizant of and work on. Now and in the future, figuring out the best use of water for a given crop will continue to be a challenge. T-L Irrigation is a family-owned business that has been in business for over 64 years. Our goal is not to be the highestquantity manufacturer, but we strive to be the highestquality manufacturer. We put a lot of pride into our engineering team and try to help the end user be the best at what they do. IL Neal Schlautman is the engineering manager at T-L Irrigation. For more information about T-L Irrigation, visit its website at tlirr.com or contact T-L at email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF T-L IRRIGATION.
Neal Schlautman: Systems that require some sort of navigation or guidance system—for instance, our linear or corner systems—need to have some form of straight-line reference. For GPS navigation, you need a path, which means you have latitude/longitude waypoints that you are going from and to. With a linear system, you’ll typically just have two points, since it moves in a straight line. With a corner system, you will have multiple waypoints around the field. A GPS antenna mounted on the linear or corner system is used to tell you if your system is diverging from that path. To do that with sub-inch accuracy, you need an RTK base station. Typically for linear systems, the base station will be mounted in a stationary location within a mile or two of the field. A data radio will send correction information from the base to the rover that is attached to and is moving along with the linear or corner system. That is what the GPS antenna on the system connects into. With RTK corrections, you can get to sub-inch accuracy, meaning your path and your wheel tracks are perfectly straight, pass after pass. The advantage of our technology is that we can share one base station with multiple linear and corner systems, as long as it is within 2–3 miles of the systems and has a clear line of sight to each of them. Our base stations cost $5,900 and can work with several systems at once. Usually with corner systems, that base station needs to be mounted at the pivot point, but we have developed a method that allows it to be remotely mounted, communicating with multiple corner and
linear systems by radio. This technology allows farmers to reduce the overall fixed cost of these irrigation systems while preserving all the benefits of an RTK GPS system.
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Valley's X-Tec drive system.
Increasing Yield with Valleyâ€™s X-Tec Drive System
alley Irrigation is a global leader in centerpivot and linear irrigation equipment, with its equipment irrigating approximately 25 million acres worldwide. In addition to advancing software and control technology, Valley is also committed to improving irrigation hardware: the structure and drivetrain. In 2017, Valley launched the X-Tec drive system, which can go twice as fast as a conventional center-pivot drive system while maintaining torque and control. In this interview, Chris Righter, the product manager for structure and drive systems at Valley, speaks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about the technology that makes the X-Tec possible and how the drive system can benefit farmers nationwide. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position.
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Chris Righter: I have a background in industrial engineering and more than 25 years of experience in various areas of manufacturing, ranging from the food industry to microchip manufacturing. I started with Valley almost 3 years ago as a product manager. Before that, I had roles ranging from production supervisor and industrial engineer to business manager and project manager at several Fortune 500 companies. At Valley, I am responsible for the mechanical side of the business, covering the entire product line. Joshua Dill: Would you tell us about X-Tec? Chris Righter: X-Tec is a new drive system for center pivots. Its key feature is its ability to go twice as fast as regular center-pivot drive systems. Our users kept asking for the ability to go faster, which would allow
them to put down smaller amounts of water at a time. Over a development period lasting several years, we developed X-Tec, which is different from other electrical center-pivot drive systems on the market. It uses a DC-type motor instead of an AC-type motor. More specifically, it is a switched-reluctance (SR) DC motor. An SR motor has an inert rotor and a stator. The stator has a series of poles around it, equidistant from each other, and each one of those poles has a switch at its end. Those switches are turned off and on. When they are on, power passes through the pole, which creates a magnetic field pulling the rotor toward it. By altering the speed at which you switch those poles on and off, you control speed. One of the biggest advantages of the SR motor is that because the poles are equidistant from each other at all times, the torque between each one remains constant regardless of the speed. This is different from what happens with a variable-frequency drive (VFD). A VFD loses a lot of torque at the top and bottom ends of its range of speed. The torque of an SR DC motor, by contrast, stays consistent from the very bottom to the top of its range of speeds. Systems that are operating in fields with challenging terrain, like potato fields, benefit from more torque. X-Tec is also a constant-move system, unlike more broadly used AC center-pivot drives that have start-stop move operations. Joshua Dill: Does that increase its speed as well? Chris Righter: It does not increase its speed, but it does increase the precision of water application and reduces wear on the equipment. The more a machine starts and stops, the more wear it suffers. A constant-move system suffers less wear. Also, it is good to note that the SR motor is mechanically simpler than an AC-type motor. It doesnâ€™t have a squirrel cage. There are fewer moving parts within the motor, which means that it is more robust. It also allows us to incorporate soft starts and braking into the machine.
PHOTO COURTESY OF VALLEY IRRIGATION.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your solid-state alignment technology. Chris Righter: The solid-state alignment technology is a change from our current alignment, and it differentiates our products from our competitorsâ€™. Current alignment systems rely on microswitches. If the grower wants to move his pivot and put out a certain amount of water, the last span moves, and the other spans each have a microswitch on them that tells them whether to move or not, depending on their alignment with the last span. We eliminated that by using a proximity switch. Because the system is in constant movement, the spans
do not need a start/stop signal. However, there is a chance that things could get out of alignment based on terrain, soil type, or other variables. The proximity switch has a mechanical linkage to the span. The proximity switch constantly reads the distance between the target and emitter and speeds up or slows down to keep that distance constant. Joshua Dill: How can this system help increase yield for farmers? Chris Righter: There are a couple of different ways, depending on the crop. All crops will be exposed to stress as growing seasons get later and temperatures get higher. In some parts of North America, the temperature gets quite warm. Even if a farmer is maintaining good ground moisture, the leaves of his or her plants may suffer heat stress. By making a fast pass around the field and putting down a tiny bit of water, a farmer can reduce the temperature of his or her crops and reduce that stress. That would be useful for corn, beans, and other specialty crops. Other specialty crops, like onions, are vulnerable to a yield reduction in two ways. Their seeds are tiny, and under certain conditions, some of them can be blown away during planting. If you can make a fast pass behind the planter, you can water them in and hold them in place. A little later in the season, as the seeds start to germinate and tender shoots start to come up, they are susceptible to damage. Farmers can reduce damage by wetting the soil so it will not blow around and damage the stems. Joshua Dill: How does X-Tec technology help with chemigation? Chris Righter: Chemigation is not as effective if the chemicals are overly diluted. Because it goes faster and puts down significantly smaller amounts of water, our system can chemigate more effectively. The chemicals are less diluted, and they stay where you put them. If farmers are contracting out aerial spray or chemrigs, they can start using this technology and reduce the costs associated with applying the desired chemical. Joshua Dill: Does your system use more electricity than a standard center pivot? Chris Righter: In most cases, there is not a big difference. In general, the electrical costs of operating a pivot are not the top factors that growers are considering. That being said, the X-Tec system uses a 2-horsepower motor, so it could draw more electricity. A lot depends on the conditions under which it is operating. There could be instances in which a traditional pivot would get stuck and ours would not, which would mean that our system would perform more work and use more energy as a result. A IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
The X-Tec center drive with an SR motor visible behind the standard Valley gearbox.
farmer might also use the X-Tec more frequently, which would also use more energy. Joshua Dill: Can the X-Tec drive system be retrofitted onto existing systems? Chris Righter: Yes. Joshua Dill: Who are your potential customers, and how are you reaching them?
Joshua Dill: Are you incorporating user feedback into your design? Chris Righter: We are. The first version of our system is in the field, and we are starting to get feedback from our dealers and our growers. We have plans in place to incorporate some of the feedback.
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Chris Righter: It starts by listening to our growers. In this case, we heard a lot about the need to go faster. We have a strong engineering team at Valley, but it cannot be aware of every advancement in technology. Once we hear about a need, we start to document the problem so that we can implement a solution for our users. Joshua Dill: Why should farmers consider using your product? Chris Righter: Farmers are seeing yield improvements from cooling, chemigation, and protecting their crops. Our technology can be used for several of those applications. The cumulative benefit could be significant. IL
Chris Righter is the product manager for structure and drive systems at Valley Irrigation. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
PHOTO COURTESY OF VALLEY IRRIGATION.
Chris Righter: Currently, the greatest interest is coming from the growers of specialty crops like potatoes, carrots, and onions, especially from potato growers in the Northwest. We have attracted the interest of some corn growers who are using X-Tec for cooling passes. The results they are seeing are hard to quantify. Generally, we reach them through our dealer network. By educating our dealers, we can help them present the innovative ways farmers can use our technology. In a lot of cases, we help our dealers identify the growers and technology adopters that they can reach out to in their region. Other farmers will begin to see how it is working for their peers and, hopefully, adopt it based on that.
Joshua Dill: How does Valley get its ideas for structural innovations of this kind? Do you draw from innovations in other fields of industry?
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How Reinke Adds Value to Irrigation Operations A welder attaches a wheel gear assembly to a tower base at Reinke's Manufacturing Facility in Deshler, Nebraska.
einke Manufacturing and Irrigation began on a family farm in rural Nebraska during the 1950s. Still nestled in America’s heartland, today it is an international enterprise that provides quality irrigation equipment to growers everywhere. Richard Reinke, the company’s founder, introduced many concepts and innovations that are still found on modern center-pivot systems today. This innovation continues with GPS and remote-control guidance systems that are paving the way for better efficiency in the fields. Advanced computerassisted irrigation is another entry in Reinke’s long column of innovations. In this interview, Cody Bailey, the director of engineering at Reinke Manufacturing, speaks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about the company’s history, its current offerings, and the challenges of developing and pioneering new technologies in a competitive market. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your background and how you ended up in your current position. Cody Bailey: I have been at Reinke Manufacturing for 8 years now. Before that, I was a Reinke dealer in eastern Idaho. I started as a store clerk and learned a lot about irrigation components, farming practices, and how to do business from the back of a pickup truck. That led to technical sales, irrigation design, and detailing, which I also took part in. I wanted to be in the Midwest, which
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brought me to Reinke, where I started in sales and marketing and worked assisting dealers. Having just been a dealer, I understood their challenges and needs. I also assisted the marketing department in tasks ranging from product management to marketing campaigns and technical support. That helped me gain technical expertise and a greater appreciation for other practices and disciplines, which has now led me to become the director of engineering for Reinke. My background is in business management, but I have always had a passion for technology. I have been in the industry for around 12 years now, and so far it has been wonderful. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about the history of Reinke Manufacturing. Cody Bailey: Reinke Manufacturing was founded by Richard Reinke in 1954 on a family farm. It focused on the construction and manufacture of structural components and specialized in chicken houses, laminated rafters, and custom buildings. From there, the company grew into an enterprise that brought fresh ideas to age-old technologies. Mr. Reinke was the inventor of the first fully reversible and electrically driven mechanized irrigation system, or center pivot. He inspired a lot in that industry during that decade and had several of the earliest patents on electrically driven machines.
Today, we are a global, familyrun company, intent on providing value-added solutions to agriculture, specifically mechanized irrigation. We are replicating our success here in the United States and all across the globe, with factories and warehouses in many locations. We have hundreds of employees worldwide in fields from production and engineering to sales, marketing, field service, and management.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF REINKE MANUFACTURING AND IRRIGATION.
Joshua Dill: What are your top issues as a company today? Cody Bailey: We are researching the problems of tomorrow and figuring out where the opportunities are for our growers to continue their successes in farming. I will give you an example dealing with the past and present of center-pivot manufacturing. Originally, center pivots had 12–13 towers supporting the pipeline that distributes water to the sprinklers. The problem was that with so many towers, a grower likely had over 55,000 feet of wheel tracks in the field to manage and maintain. As time progressed, we were able to span longer distances and reduce the number of towers. We went from a 13-tower machine down to a 12-, a 10-, and an 8-tower machine. Now, 7-tower systems are popular. With those, a farmer has only 30,000 linear feet of tracks. But now another problem has arisen: Because there are fewer towers, the weight per square inch on the ground has risen. That can cause additional stress and strain on the structure. If nothing is done, it could cause big issues like deeper tracks, slipping, erratic movement, alignment issues, or getting stuck. To address this, we apply advances in material science to our irrigation systems. Using higher-strength materials, we remove excess weight while maintaining adequate loadbearing characteristics. We see ourselves as the Formula One racecar of the pivot industry. Where other irrigation companies might use mild steel, we have chosen to use higher-
strength steel, which is lighter in addition to being stronger. On a 7-tower system, each of those mild steel spans weighs close to 7,000 pounds. Our higher-strength spans, which are of a similar length, weigh less than 6,000 pounds. That is quite a bit less. Aluminum is an even lighter option. We have an aluminum system called the Alumigator, which is exclusive to Reinke Manufacturing and weighs less than 4,000 pounds. Material science is crucial. The careful selection of materials and properly engineered design can minimize downtime and maximize a machine’s reliability and running time. Especially in parts of the world where the irrigation season is short, it is critical that the machines stay running continuously and reliably.
Cody Bailey: There have been a lot of exciting developments on the electronic side of the technology. GPS has been a highly effective enabling technology across the world. Reinke was the pioneer in adapting GPS technologies to irrigation systems, and we have the longest track record of success in the industry. GPS allows us, with repeatable accuracy, to provide growers with control in
Joshua Dill: Do your designers draw from innovations in other fields? How do they get their ideas? Cody Bailey: We get the benefit of seeing leading-edge research in material science, like the research into generation 3 steels. Some of that is driven by the automotive industry. Because of the press for fuel efficiency, auto manufacturers have had to find materials that are lightweight, yet still as durable and rugged as possible. We watch and see what develops. The automotive industry manufactures and sells far more units than we do, so we can see what they discover and try out, and learn from that. When it comes to conventional steel, as in the examples I shared earlier, mild steel is not always the solution. Thicker is not always better. That is what we have seen in our precision technology offerings. We need to optimize and make sure we are providing a superior product without causing additional problems and headaches for our growers. Joshua Dill: Would you tell us about Reinke’s work with GPS technology and other guidance systems?
Reinke’s RPM panel.
automation. If they want water to be applied to a particular part of the field, GPS-enabled devices can do that successfully time and time again. Geospatial data is also crucial for variable rate irrigation. Without GPS, it would be difficult to accurately and precisely provide thousands of management zones under these irrigation systems. The majority of machines that we sell today have GPS technology on board. Taking that a step further, we’re now asking how we can leverage other available technologies, like smartphones, distributed computing systems, and cloud computing, to provide growers with additional controls and features. That has helped us develop more smart applications, touch controls, and more-intuitive programs and applications. We like to think that we are growers at heart ourselves. Many of us who work for Reinke Manufacturing IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
have farms. We use the equipment that we are building. That motivates us to bring a level of simplicity to the products we build, even if they involve advanced technology. We want to add value for the grower, not produce “me too” products or say, “It’s leading edge, so let’s just do it.”
Joshua Dill: Based on your experience as a product support staff member and your work in your current position, how would you say that farmers are faring with the rapid turnover of technologies? Cody Bailey: I think they are doing an outstanding job. It is the companies that perhaps do the growers a disservice by trying to sell them on technology instead of selling them on value. For example, if a grower has a farm in a remote area and needs
26 | IRRIGATION LEADER
Cody Bailey is the director of engineering at Reinke Manufacturing and Irrigation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Reinke, visit www.reinke.com.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF REINKE MANUFACTURING AND IRRIGATION.
to optimize his operation using remote control and monitoring, he needs to get data in and out of the field, but he doesn’t necessarily care about whether that is accomplished with satellites or with cellular data. What matters is that we provide a solution. As an industry, we sometimes lean Joshua Dill: When farmers are using too much on buzzwords about cell an irrigation system that incorporates communication systems, meshing GPS or variable rate irrigation, is networks, or Internet of things A sprinkler assembly worker attaching regulators to there computer hardware built into solutions. Often these buzzwords 3030 Series Nelson Sprinkler bodies. the center pivot itself? complicate things. I think the growers have done a remarkable job seeing through that and Cody Bailey: Reinke has a precision management platform knowing how each individual technology adds value and affects called Reinke Precision Management (RPM). RPM panels them and their operations. provide the computing platform for all the machines we sell Many growers use equipment from different manufacturers today. When it comes to variable rate technologies, what want depending on what they’re doing, and they end up with a to be able to provide growers with remote-control capabilities, mixed fleet. When it comes to remote controls and monitoring but we also know that from time to time, technology may on irrigation systems, we want to be able to provide them with not function as desired because of problems with cellular a single solution that they can use across different brands or service or other issues. With that in mind, the RPM Preferred models. We have a product called the RPM Annex, which Touch Screen panel is an in-field computing system. It allows users to upgrade their existing systems to the RPM takes information from cloud-based systems or prescription computing technologies I mentioned earlier, regardless of the generators from partners that do optimized irrigation system or brand. scheduling and similar services, and it brings that information into the field and stores it locally. There are redundancies built Joshua Dill: What is your vision for Reinke? in so that if a grower loses connectivity, everything would keep running. That is a crucial backup. We all love cloud computing, Cody Bailey: We have a very bright future. By applying the but you never know when something might go down. optimized materials that have become available through leading-edge research and technological development, we can Joshua Dill: What would you say the biggest remaining continue to bring value-added solutions to growers. I have a challenges are when it comes to computer-assisted irrigation? large family, and I come from a large family, and we continue to need food and nourishment, so farming is here to stay. As Cody Bailey: Perhaps the biggest challenge is simplicity. We long as we can continue to add value instead of adding noise can take in data from all sorts of locations, sensors, and devices or developing “me too” products, I think we are going to have and aggregate it in one location. We now need to operate that a good future. A lot of the advancements we see today report machine in the optimum way to maximize the return for the improvements in efficiency that are sometimes in the double grower. Nailing that is our challenge today. There is a lot of digits, but more often in the single digits. It is a matter of research, at Reinke and elsewhere, about how to do this. There increasing yield or reducing input costs by a marginal amount is academic research on models and algorithms that could or saving a certain number of gallons of water. We have to be change the future of irrigation and water use efficiency. That is even more careful and precise in adding value and educating the challenge for tomorrow, which makes for an exciting future growers about where the value is in the products that we are for us. delivering. IL
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Besler Industries’ Pivot Track Closer A Model 1180 Pivot Track Closer, 11 feet 8 inches wide at its least aggressive pitch.
esler Industries is a family-owned company based in Cambridge, Nebraska, that for more than 45 years has been manufacturing agricultural equipment and machinery. Its machines are designed in-house and are highly customizable. One of Besler Industries’ newest items is a pivot track closer, a device used to fill in the ruts caused by the wheels of center pivots. In this interview, Herb Besler, the owner and one of the cofounders of Besler Industries, speaks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about his company’s history and how the new pivot track closer was designed. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your background and how you started your company, Besler Industries.
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Joshua Dill: How big is your company today? Herb Besler: Right now we have about 25 people, and we expect to grow because of the popularity of our utility bed. That product is not just farm related—we sell it to plumbers, electricians, and utility companies. I think that is going to end up being our number-one item, volumewise. Joshua Dill: Where are your customers located? Herb Besler: We have around 300 dealers, not all of whom are active at any given moment. They are located in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, as well as in Canada. Georgia is a big market for our cotton puller, which is similar to our root slicer but with a bigger disc. Joshua Dill: What problem was the pivot track closer introduced to address? Herb Besler: When you are going over the same pivot tracks year after year, the wheels on your pivot end up leaving a pretty deep rut. That rut needs to be filled in with new dirt, and that is what our pivot track closer does. Joshua Dill: What kinds of problems do those ruts cause farmers?
PHOTOS COURTESY OF BESLER INDUSTRIES.
Herb Besler: Back in 1973, I was a mechanic for International Garage in Cambridge, Nebraska, and a guy who started an irrigation company down there wanted me to go in as a partner with him. I quit my job and went to be a partner, but the company only lasted 30 days, so I started a company with two other partners. A year and a half later, I bought them out and have been on my own since then. I started out making portable corral panels, then portable hayfeeders, and then stover wagons that could be pulled behind a combine. The stover wagon was used to collect stover from the corn, and furfuryl alcohol was made from it. We sold 100 of them to the Quaker Oats Company in Farmer City, Illinois. We delivered 40 or 60 of them there, and then some of them went to Grand Island. Quaker Oats opened a place in Grand Island that only lasted a year before it closed. After that, we started making bale loaders that go in the back of a pickup truck, which can pick up two bales, as well as rolling stock choppers and rippers. We went from there to a three-point model of the bale loader,
and in 1992 we started making a flatbed model, which we still make now. In 1990, we bought the patent rights for root slicers and have been building them ever since. Our latest products are pivot track closers and utility beds for pickup trucks.
THE INNOVATORS Herb Besler: Well, those ruts get deeper and deeper every year. If farmers do not close them up somehow, they will become trenches. The tracks are pretty wide—some of those tires are, I imagine, around 15 inches wide. Joshua Dill: How does the pivot track closer work? Herb Besler: The pivot track closer is pulled behind a tractor. It has two discs in the front to break down the side walls of the track and pull that dirt in from a wider area and put some new dirt on top of it. You have to cave the sides of the track in. Otherwise, it remains trough shaped, and as soon as it gets wet again, you get mud in there and it all squishes out and you gain nothing. The device has a basket behind, which levels the surface and packs it in a little bit. The wings of our pivot track closer are hydraulically angled so the driver can change the pitch of the angle from the seat of the tractor. If you have a really deep ditch, you can run it at an aggressive angle and move a lot of dirt. Where it is not so deep, you can level it off and move less dirt. The majority of pivot track closers on the market today are about 6 feet wide. We came up with four models ranging from 8 feet 11 inches to 15 feet 2 inches. That brings in a lot of new dirt to fill that pivot track. Joshua Dill: So your product is an improvement on an already existing idea? Herb Besler: Yes. Joshua Dill: Is your model patented? Herb Besler: No. Joshua Dill: Does your company have a team of engineers who design these new products? Herb Besler: I do most of the engineering and then work with a draftsman to draw it up. I am not an engineer—I have an eighth-grade education—but I do all of the design work here. Joshua Dill: How long have you been working on your new pivot track closer? Herb Besler: We have been working on it for probably 3 years now. It took a lot of demonstrations and changes to the original machine to come up with our final product. We put out a few of them in 2018. At this point, we are happy with it; it is doing a good job. Our customers tell us that it is the best machine out there. We are ready to go into production on it. Joshua Dill: So it will go into production this year? Herb Besler: We have a few out now, and we are getting ready to build 20 more.
Joshua Dill: How are you marketing your pivot track closer? Herb Besler: It all goes through an implement dealer. John Deere and International are our main two. Of course, our pivot track closers only sell in areas where there are pivots—mainly Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas. Joshua Dill: How have technological advances changed the way you design and build your products? Herb Besler: With the laser, everything is simpler to build. We can tab and slot the parts of our machines together now instead of having to build a fixture for every piece. Everything goes together like a puzzle. The same is true of our fixtures. We used to have to measure everything and tack weld it. We nearly had to build it on the floor. Now, we design everything on the computer. Once the machine is designed, we build the fixture for it based on that. It is all tabbed together. You don’t even need a tape measure to put it together. Everything goes together like a puzzle—you just tack it together, and you’re done. Joshua Dill: Would you tell us about the main challenges your company faces? Herb Besler: Farming as a business goes up and down. Farmers do well one year and lose the money the next year. We started producing the utility bed because it is bought by a broad spectrum of customers, meaning that demand is more stable. The market for farm equipment has changed. I can remember a time when I had 53 eight-row stock choppers ready to go out in the spring. Now we don’t build one until a farmer puts in an order, because we don’t know exactly what they will want. They can order a variety of different equipment: a rolling basket, a harrow, or whatever they want. It is almost a built-toorder system. We use a laser that allows us to cut the parts out pretty quickly. However, it is harder to make money building to order. It is more cost effective to build a large quantity at a time. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your goals and ambitions for your company. Herb Besler: I am of retirement age, but I have a couple kids involved. My oldest son is running the manufacturing part of the business while I do the design work, and my son-in-law is doing well in sales. I am hoping that the kids take over. I am hoping that sales of our new utility bed will grow. IL
Herb Besler is the owner of Besler Industries. He can be reached by calling Besler Industries, Inc, at (308) 697-4698. IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
REINVENTING THE WHEEL Irrigators around the United States of America spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours every year dealing with tire problems with the tires on their pivot systems. Traditional tire systems are prone to flats, create large ruts in the ground, and can be incredibly costly to maintain.
Irrigation Revolution has created an effective solution to traditional tire system problems with our Xtra-X track system. First displayed at Husker Harvest Days 2017, the Xtra-X system is designed to reduce the ground pressure of a pivot to significantly reduce the size of ruts created.
Contact CEO John Cates at (308) 390-7438 - email@example.com
Results show that the Xtra-X system reduces rut size by 80%. We want to help farmers all around the United States increase the efficiency of their pivot systems and reduce operational costs.
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The Dyna Flo pump.
The Dynamic Dyna Flo Pump
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position. Dana Rosendahl: I grew up on a dairy farm about 20 miles south of here in a town called Hecla, South Dakota. On
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the farm, I learned to weld and repair. While I was still in high school, they started a vocational school program up here in Oakes, and I attended a welding class for 2 years, from 1976 to 1977. After I graduated, I was employed at manufacturing shops, welding shops, and so on. I was always curious about the process of working with steel, brakes, and presses; welding and assembly; and how to make those things more efficient. My wife and I moved to California for about a year, where I worked at a concrete construction company, but we came back to Oakes because this is where we wanted to be long term. For a while, I worked for a farmer south of town, but eventually, in 1981, I started working for General Irrigation. I was hired to do welding on pipes during the winter in preparation for the upcoming season, to build fittings, and so on. After a short time, I was promoted to foreman, and later on moved into sales and
management. In 1988, I bought into half of the company, and in 1998, I purchased the other half. Shortly after that, we developed the Dyna Flo pump, established Dyna Flo, Inc., and began a whole new chapter. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about the history of General Irrigation and Dewatering. Dana Rosendahl: General Irrigation was started in 1967 near Brainerd, Minnesota, by my former partner. He moved over here in 1974, during the irrigation boom in the Oakes area, and the company has been here ever since. It is over 50 years old now. When the irrigation boom started, there were a lot of different types of irrigation, not just center pivots. There was also hand–moved irrigation, wheel lines, traveling guns, and flood irrigation. Over the years, we have been exposed to all of those different
PHOTO COURTESY OF GENERAL IRRIGATION AND DEWATERING.
eneral Irrigation and Dewatering of Oakes, North Dakota, has been designing and installing deep-well and submersible pumps for over 50 years. One of its most versatile offerings is the Dyna Flo pump—a powerful, affordable, and easily towed pump that can pump 3,000–4,000 gallons of water a minute. It works well for draining flooded fields, flood irrigating, or just moving large quantities of water. In this interview, Dana Rosendahl, the president and owner of General Irrigation and Dewatering, talks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about his company’s history and how it developed the Dyna Flo pump.
THE INNOVATORS methods, as well as the irrigation, industrial water, municipal water, drainage, golf course, and dewatering businesses. That experience has proved valuable. Not many companies do all of the types of irrigation that we do. Today, there are 13–15 employees, depending on the time of year. When I purchased the business, it was only, a secretary, two other employees, and me. My goal was to grow the company and to create year-round work for as many people as practical. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about the Dyna Flo pump. Dana Rosendahl: General Irrigation rents a lot of traveling guns, pipes, engines, power takeoff (PTO) pumps, and other equipment. Every year, we would get requests for a big pump that could pump 3,000–4,000 gallons a minute. We did not have one, and the pumps that could perform like that were pretty expensive, so around the beginning of 2008 we decided to build one ourselves. The first time we rented out our new Dyna Flo pump, the renters called us back and offered to buy it. We sold it to them and built another one. The first person who rented that second pump bought it as well. We thought that we might be on to something. At that point, around 2009, we got the materials to build four pumps and, lo and behold, we had four sales. From that point forward, we started to build them 10 at a time. We were selling them before they were even built. To date, we have built 90 pumps and have 3 in stock right now. We are building even more this year. We have made some improvements, but not a lot. The first pump only had a discharge on one side, and when you are backing a pump into a water hole, there is often a tricky angle, so we decided to put a discharge on both sides of the pump. We have also developed a bottom feeder that bolts right on to the back side of the inlet and directs water into the pump from underneath,
which allows pumping in water as shallow as 6 inches. When other big flood pumps are backed into a hole, their inlets are 24–30 inches off the bottom, which can create a vortex. To prevent that, other pumps need to have at least 3 feet of water over the top of the inlet, which in turn can cause loss of prime and invites a lot of floating debris into the pump opening. Some pumps require a hole to be dug so that you can back the pump into the deeper water, which also requires you to worry about buried water lines, gas lines, high voltage lines, or fiber optic cables. With Dyna Flo, you just back it in and start pumping. Also, our pump’s power shaft runs down the middle of the pipe. The shaft is supported by pedestals with cutless water-lubricated bearings. Other than the PTO shaft, there are no external moving parts on the pumps themselves—nothing to grease below the water line. That makes the pump last longer. The only greaseable bearing on it is a thrust bearing right at the top of the pump at the front plate. When the pump starts to produce volume and back pressure, the shaft backloads on that top bearing. The two universal joints on the PTO shaft have to be greased as well, but overall, it is a very lowmaintenance piece of equipment. We have had three Dyna Flo pumps in our rental operation for a long time. A customer will come in here, hook one of them onto his pickup, throw the hose in the back, and take off down the road at 70 miles per hour. I have pulled Dyna Flo pumps as far as a couple hundred miles. When we were building the Dyna Flo, we made the conscious decision to put high-speed axles on them. We put bearing buddies on the wheels, like what you see on a boat trailer, which keeps the grease in the wheel bearings loaded so that there is always pressure in the wheel-bearing hub. When you back into the water, the water does not flow into the wheel-bearing area.
Joshua Dill: What are the main applications that people are using these pumps for? Dana Rosendahl: Mostly flood control. Others are being used for flood irrigation, dewatering, or dumping water up over a bank. There is one running in California on a rice field. We even have one pump running in Australia to water crops. Here in the Red River valley, 2–3 inches of rain is enough to flood a 40-acre corner on low ground. Those 40 acres will drain, but it will take 7–10 days. Farmers who have a field in that situation have been purchasing these pumps, which can pump that water out in about 12 hours, thus saving the crop. Joshua Dill: What changes have you made in your design, marketing, and sales during the 10 years that the pump has been on the market? Dana Rosendahl: We are finding new applications for the Dyna Flo pump. For example, our pump runs at 1,000 rotations per minute, but we have had farmers ask for a model that they can just put a 540 tractor on. The pump itself will pump 3,500 gallons a minute with 15 total dynamic head with less than 30 horsepower. We have developed a two-to-one drive for the guys who wanted a 540. Systems like that are currently being used in California, where some of the tractors are smaller, with a 540 PTO drive. We have also developed a version with an electric motor. In addition, we have developed sump pumps for field drainage. If the field requires a sump tank for all of the drainage to run into, farmers may need to pump the water up over a bank. We started offering 8-inch and 12-inch vertical pumps that sit on top of the tank, so that the electric motor is up above. The only part that hangs in the water is the impeller. Most other applications use submersible pumps. Submersible pumps have their use, but they draw more power and IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
A Dyna Flo floating pump.
cause more vibrations, and being submerged underwater usually takes its toll, causing them to fail more quickly. We have been building those for more than 4 years now. We have had a couple of applications where the customer needed to push the water 3,000 feet and lift it 25–30 feet. Most submersible pumps are not capable of doing that. They will pump 600 gallons a minute, but they will only lift the water 12–13 feet. The way we build our pumps allows us to install a motor of any size from 5 to 30 horsepower and match that with an impeller of the appropriate size. That gives it more lift and the ability to move more gallons. We are currently in the process of totally redesigning our current floating pumps to make them more user friendly. We are going to break the floating structure down into pieces so that it is easier to ship, easier to store, and cheaper to manufacture. These floating pumps’ pipes are close to 40 feet long, and when you add the pump and the floats on the end, they’re around 45 feet long. That’s a big piece of equipment, meaning there is a distinct advantage in being able to disassemble it. The idea came from my background in manufacturing.
Dana Rosendahl: Yes, we build a lot of special applications. We have built and mounted diesel engines with a pump and a diesel tank and put them on trailers to sell out in the oil fields. We’ve sold those during the oil boom in western North Dakota for delivering water to frack sites. Prior to that, we built diesel pumping units for agricultural customers. We built a trailer, mounted a diesel engine and a pump on it, and put a generator on the front of it so that a customer could drop a line into a creek or lake. That generator will produce enough electricity to operate a center-pivot system.
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Dana Rosendahl: Through the years, we used to make contact with anybody who had a water permit in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, or South Dakota. We built up a clientele consisting mostly of repeat customers. New ones have come along through word of mouth, magazine ads, and direct mail, which used to be really important. Currently, we are working on social media. Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your vision for General Irrigation. Dana Rosendahl: The company is over 50 years old, and we have made some pretty big improvements and investments over the last 5 years. We added 20,000 square feet to our facility here in 2011. We have recently added a salesman. My son manages and has taken over most of the sales in the irrigation and dewatering part of the company. When my wife and I made the investment into the building, we did it because we wanted it to be there for the future. We wanted it to be there for our kids. I have 13 grandchildren; there is no reason why some of them couldn’t end up working here for General Irrigation or Dyna Flo. There is no reason we can’t be here 50 years from now; we have been here for 50 already. IL
Dana Rosendahl is the president and owner of General Irrigation and Dewatering. For more information about the Dyna Flo pump, visit dynaflopump.com.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GENERAL IRRIGATION AND DEWATERING.
Joshua Dill: Can you produce custom-built versions for farmers who want to do something specific?
Joshua Dill: How do you find new customers?
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