Journalists from Europe fascinated with precision ag

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Farm Forum

A group of journalists from Germany, France, Denmark and Poland were in the area last week to learn about American agriculture in the heartland.

As the managing director of Horsch Maschinen GmbH in Germany, Michael Horsch brought the group to Aberdeen and Fargo last week to share a slice of Americana with the foreign news specialists and inform them about precision agriculture in the Dakotas.

The visit highlighted the collaboration of the company with Anderson Industries, which started in Andover and expanded to Aberdeen. Horsch Maschinen GmbH has partnered with Anderson Industries and Harper Industries in Wichita, Kan., to form Horsch, LLC, a North American entity. This week Horsch opened a state of the art 111,000 ft. manufacturing facility in Mapleton, N.D., on the outskirts of Fargo.

Precision Ag

The Aberdeen portion of the tour included a stop at the Wheat Growers headquarters and Bath fertilizer plant.

The size of the Bath fertilizer facility wowed the journalists. The reach of the services offered is something not experienced in Europe, according to Horsch. This cooperative provides precision services; the Bath location alone provides weed spraying services for 150,000 acres.

Viewing the huge tanks of Roundup, the group bombarded employees with questions on the use of the chemical and how it is applied. They were looking at more than 80,000 gallons of the product which is used only in limited quantities in Europe.

Fifty-pound seed bags has been replaced in the U.S. by mini-bulk containers, which can hold 2,500 pounds of soybean seed. Although European farmers use large planters, individual bags of seed are opened and are dumped into the planters, instead of using a seed tender to fill the planters as is done in the U.S., Horsch said.

“We have the same size of planters as these farmers, but we dance around with small bags,” Horsch said. “We end up with nothing but lots of garbage, a big lump of bags to run after. You get tired after dumping all of the bags in a 24-row planter.”

Phil Gilbert of Wheat Growers said that operational efficiency is critical to keeping farmers in the field. “If you have a 36-row planter, you can do 500 acres in a day, but you need big logistics in place.”

“What they saw at Wheat Growers provided a look at solutions,” said Kory Anderson, current president of Horsch. “It showed the journalists how U.S. farmers manage the data, depending on others to do a lot of the work behind the scenes work for the farmers.”

“In Europe it’s the other way around,” he said. “The farmers feel they have to buy all the software and buy all of the equipment to manage precision ag themselves. It’s very interesting for the journalists to see where we have been and where we’re going.”

The group stopped at the Anderson Industries location in Aberdeen where parts for one of the tillage tools called the Joker are cut, welded, fabricated and shipped to Mapleton where the precision equipment produced by the company is assembled, Anderson said. The Joker is a high-speed, versatile tillage tool designed for residue mixing, field conditioning, seedbed preparation and fertilizer incorporation.

Major publications

The journalists represent the major agricultural publications in Europe, according to Daniel Brandt with Horsch Maschinen GmbH.

In Germany, Brandt said, the large newspapers write only about catastrophes in agriculture such as fertilizer spills or problems with hogs. The specialized media, such as those representatives on the tour, provide the detailed information that farmers need and want.

Top Agrar is the biggest ag magazine in Germany with150,000 readers, and it is extremely well read, according to Brandt. He said another magazine deals only with machinery and has a readership of 100,000. The French publication, France Agricol, focuses on many topics from wheat farming to machinery, with a reach of 180,000.

Thomas Preusse of DLG Mitteilungen (www.dlg-mitteilungen.de/home) from Germany said he hopes to sort through all that he’s seen before writing. “When I’m in foreign counties, I try to find a focus. Here I thought I’d write about wheat, but we learned that there really isn’t that much in this area.”

French journalism Vincent Gobert of Agricole (www.lafranceagricole.fr) writes stories about machines for operations such as vineyards, production of carrots and bio energy. Right now the biggest emphasis of his stories is on biogas. According to Gobert, France makes some of the biggest investments in farming equipment while most of the machinery manufacturers are in Germany. The writer had visited the Horsch plant and has seen the machines in the field, so being able to see where everything started with the collaboration was extremely interesting, he said.

Also from France, Mathieu Bonaventure posts for the website Tracteurs Passion which focuses on big tractors for farmers and contractors. The new equipment as well as the old equipment he’s seen during his visit will appear on their website (www.grostracteurspassion.com).

“What we’ve seen is completely different from my country,” Karol Holownia of Poland said. The machines are much smaller in his country, and all farmers use plows. Less fertilizer is used, but there are more government restrictions, not only in his country but also across Europe, according to Holownia.

Play with the old

Traveling to Andover, the group stopped for a history lesson.

“We make the new but play with the old,” Kevin Anderson, Kory Anderson’s dad and founder of the Anderson company, told the group. Known as a steam engine enthusiast, he rolled out his all wood paneled Stanley steam engine vehicle for the enjoyment of the group. All of the journalists clamored for a ride on the kerosene-fueled vehicle, traversing the streets of Andover.

After the ride, the journalists were taken to the storage sheds on the east side of town for a walk through the history of agriculture.

Steam engines from the early 1900s were revealed behind the doors to the storage sheds where they are stored for the town’s annual threshing show.

“This tractor is over 100 years old,” Horsch said, “At that time, John Deere made the plows, Case made the tractors. These were the machines that plowed up the prairie. This tractor that’s 110 years old, was 110 horse power, and pulled a 12-bottom plow around 1900 in this part of the world.”

Kevin Anderson said that farm machinery in the early days was designed to be used at 2-½ mph, as that was the average walking speed of a horse. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the ground speed was brought up to 4 or 5 mph and that changed the way modern farm machinery was made.

Kory Anderson and his brother Scott, who now farms the Anderson land, were immersed in engines while growing up. The Andersons developed skills in engineering through restoring these icons from agriculture’s history. Kory Anderson said he rebuilt one of the steam tractors while going to college in Fargo. It took him 4 years to take things apart, rebuild gears, machine new parts and make new bunkers. He said the pieces were all worn out and there were no plans.

“I had to remember how things came apart and put it back together,” he said. That paved the way for expanding on those skills in Anderson Industries and now Horsch.

In the early 1980s, Kevin Anderson developed the Anderson Opener, which made the planting of wheat and other grains a one-pass process. The Anderson Opener was the first opener of its kind to place seed and fertilizer in a precise method to maximize crop yields and lower fertilizer and input costs. Utilizing twin row technology and the deep banding of fertilizer, the Anderson Opener revolutionized the planting of small grains.

Collaboration

The birth of Horsch Anderson was in 2000. A chance meeting brought Michael Horsch and Kevin Anderson together at a farm show in Germany and resulted in the Horsch Anderson Planting System in 2002.

In the late 2000s, the product line expanded to North America, with seeding and tillage machines. Three factories in the U.S. currently feature designs with the North American farmer in mind. The North American entity was renamed Horsch, LLC in the fall of 2013. Kevin has retired and Kory Anderson is the current president of Horsch, LLC.

The group visited the original shop on the farm south of Andover.

“Michael and my dad offered solutions to farmers in North America,” Kory Anderson said. “The company progressed from building one, then building two, and then a few more machines to where we are today.”