Thursday, May 21, 2015

Remembering Andy Smith

The Valley® family and people all across the irrigation industry are mourning the recent death of Andy Smith. Andy was taken from us far too early by an aggressive cancer that struck quickly. He passed on Thursday, May 14, in Ann Arbor, Mich. 

Andy joined Valley Irrigation in July 2013, but those of us who worked with him felt we had known him much longer. Andy had a way of touching people, turning colleagues into instant friends. His bright smile, infectious laugh and extreme intelligence made every encounter memorable.

Andy had great passion for agriculture, irrigation and any project he became involved in. He worked as our director of technology adoption and was instrumental in the launch of Valley Irrigation Exchange™, the first product connecting precision irrigation data to the other farm management software systems. He worked tirelessly with potential OEM partners to build relationships and create software integration. He developed keen insight on data sharing and data security, and their impact on growers.

Prior to joining Valley, Andy had more than 28 years of experience in the irrigation industry. A gifted orator, he made hundreds of public appearances across the country promoting the merits of mechanized irrigation. He owned a small irrigation business before becoming a lobbyist for the Irrigation Association and also worked for Reinke Irrigation. He was involved with the American Society of Irrigation Consultants, the American Farm Bureau, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and many other organizations. 


The Valley family didn't have much time to get to know Andy - just a couple of years - yet his impact was profound:

I will miss Andy’s friendship and counsel. His fun attitude and laser beam focus on the goals we set were what endeared him to me. I’ll miss the late night text messages with a funny picture or joke. Andy’s love of irrigation was only outmatched by his profound love of his wife, Kim, and his daughter, Madison. I will miss my friend. - Matt Ondrejko, Vice President of Global Marketing

It seemed like Andy knew everyone in the irrigation industry or was at least connected to them in some way. All the people I ever met that knew him seemed to consider him a close friend and not just a business acquaintance. 
- Andy Carritt, ‎Director of Information Technology

In the very short time that I had the honor of working with Andy he became that rare combination of trusted ally, fount of knowledge and close, dear friend.
 - John Campbell, Advanced Technology Product Manager

Andy was an amazing man. I worked closely with Andy and I admired his ability to make friends with everyone he met. Andy brightened a room when he entered and people opened up to him almost instantly. He will be greatly missed by many, and I will definitely miss him. I will remember him always, as will everyone who was lucky enough to meet him. - Brett Sears, Project Manager

I had the privilege of meeting Andy eight years ago. We were working together on a California project. He was a competitor and yet I found him to be warm and open and full of ideas. He was one of those people that never had a bad day, never complained or ran down the other guy. He was a team player every time we met. His great smile, good words and pleasant way will be missed by many. 
- Ray Batten, Large Grower Relations

What I will always remember about Andy was his astounding intellect and passion for the agriculture industry. He was such a joy to work with, always willing to go the extra mile with a smile on his face. Andy was a great man. I was lucky to know him and I will never forget him. 
- Jill Zwiener, Brand Manager

Andy was a guy that was not just friend or coworker, but an incredible asset to the irrigation industry on a national level. Not only was he awesome at that, he was also a father. I recall one time we were on conference call together and his daughter, Maddie, was on the call with us as well. He texted me during the call and said that he worked a lot, but being a father came first. I admired him for that. He will be greatly missed in the irrigation industry and greatly missed as a friend. 
- Tyler Fields, Project Sales Manager, Valley Water ManagementAndy was a person who enriched the lives of those around him. I felt as though I had known him for years. Being around him was comfortable and fun. I will miss his wisdom, his compassion and his presence- Shannon Peterson, Marketing Content Editor

The online tributes to Andy during his brief illness are testaments to his character and life:

- Andy was such a dynamic, amazing, hilarious and passionate guy...it's really tough to accept that he is gone. A bright light, turned off.

- He was a great guy and a pillar of the irrigation industry … He will be missed. 

- Andy and I only worked a few years together in different associations but I always relied on him for information and thoughtful advice. He always put in 110 percent in everything he did and stuck to his convictions. I enjoyed his humor and stories. I know the industry will miss him as a professional and a person.

- The measure of a man is his impact on so many people and the love of his family, friends and fellow man. Great is his influence on so many. No one can doubt his commitment, sacrifice and passion for his God, wife and daughter, friends, and the industry of irrigation. His strength, tenacity and superior intellect have inspired so many and frustrated the foolish. His wit and humor mixed with optimism persisted, whether it was storming or a moment of paradise. Never afraid, always loyal, stubborn for justices, always available, never meeting a stranger and always remembered the names of the people that crossed his path in life. 

- He was a great man and will be missed greatly by everyone who was fortunate enough to know him. I'll always remember him for his huge heart and a smile to match.

- Andy's passion for his beliefs have been a model for many. 

- Andy, you have always been one of my favorite people in my life. Your smile and sense of humor is infectious. Your easy-going, aw-shucks attitude is very Midwestern. Your tenacity on irrigation issues have changed, for the better, a lot of minds. Your influence will always be felt and your legacy will never be forgotten. 

- Andy you are a wonderful person, inside and out. I've know you for several years and the first time we came face to face, I got the biggest bear hug in my life.

- Andy has always been a bright light that everyone gravitated toward. Although I haven't seen him in many years, I've interacted with him on Facebook, and it is so very refreshing to see that he kept that same lighthearted personality even as an adult. He is truly one of the good guys.

- I've known Andy for over 30 years. We we're co-workers and friends. He was always a person that would stand up for what is right and help the other guy before himself. During a tough day he could always find some humor in it, getting a laugh out of everyone. 

Rest in peace, Andy. You will be missed by all who crossed your path.



In lieu of flowers and memorial donations, a college fund has been established for Andy's daughter, Madison, at Fifth Third Bank, 102 S. Lake Street, Boyne City, Michigan 49712. Account number 7975077475.

To read Andy’s obituary and see more photos, visit http://www.stonefuneralhomeinc.com/notices/Andrew-Smith.



Monday, May 18, 2015

LDN Bubblers Maximize Irrigation Efficiency on the High Plains | by Senninger Irrigation



Here at Senninger® Irrigation, we know growers in the High Plains region are concerned about water availability.

Persistent drought conditions in the area are forcing many growers to pump more water from the Ogallala Aquifer, with some depending almost solely on the aquifer to maintain soil-moisture levels. Growers in this windy and semi-arid region also face a greater likelihood of water loss due to evaporation and wind-drift. Our Senninger team knows these conditions make it even more difficult to meet high yield demands and maintain crop quality.


That is why many growers across the region are replacing their sprinklers with our Low Drift Nozzle (LDN) Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA) Bubblers.

Growers already know that not all of the water they pump reaches crop roots. Water is prone to evaporating before it reaches the soil. It can even evaporate directly from the soil surface. Soil is also likely to overheat, crack and lose its ability to effectively channel water down to the crop’s root zone.

LEPA Bubblers help growers get around these issues by applying water around 8 to 18 inches above the soil surface and directly into crop furrows. Keeping water so close to the ground helps avoid wetting crop leaves and reduces the amount of water lost to wind-drift and evaporation. That means nearly all the water pumped is absorbed by the soil.

Research by Leon New and Guy Fipps of Texas A&M shows that spray heads can experience a 17 percent water loss at wind speeds of 15 mph. With LEPA sprinklers, at least 20 percent more water will reach the soil surface compared to conventional spray nozzles. Conventional sprinklers are very susceptible to high wind speed, low relative humidity, temperature and evaporation losses.1

Growers are also discovering that installing LEPA Bubblers on fields where they use strip-till or no-till increases soil moisture and reduces runoff and soil sealing. Crop residue protects the water from evaporation while simultaneously protecting the soil from drying out and overheating.

Others are taking LEPA irrigation a step further and doubling their drops from traditional 60-inch increments to tighter 30-inch spacing between heads to more uniformly soak the soil. The benefits of this closer spacing include less water usage, more uniform root zone coverage during pre-watering, reduced dry spots and high yields despite restricted water supplies.

“Using 30-inch spacing with Bubblers gets the job done with less energy, and nearly all of the water pumped is absorbed by the soil,” says Edwin Smith, High Plains regional sales manager for Senninger Irrigation. “There are certain aspects growers need to be aware of before making a switch to this method, but with the right conditions growers could potentially increase their yields and reduce their costs.”

These ideal conditions include relatively flat land, circle planting and crop residue. The maximum recommended slope for growers considering LEPA or close spacing installations is 1 percent. Planting in circle rows is necessary to increase uniform water disbursement and reduce runoff, while crop residue is needed to increase surface storage capacity and prevent soil redistribution. While just about any type of soil will benefit from close spacing, it is important to consider each soil’s water-holding capacity when setting up close spaced Bubblers. Some soils, like porous sandy soils, can handle much higher application rates than others.


1 LEPA Conversion and Management by Dr. Guy Fipps and Leon New


Reprinted from Valley PivotPoint magazine, Spring 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Valley Gearbox. Built Strong. Built to Last. | by John Kastl

I’m sometimes asked why Valley® builds its own gearbox. Often the question is “wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to buy a gearbox from China like others do?” Well, yes, it would be easier and cheaper to buy a Chinese-built gearbox, but it wouldn’t provide the quality and durability growers need and expect from Valley.

That’s why, since 1974, Valley has manufactured its own gearbox at our facility here in Valley. More recently, we’ve increased our commitment to ensuring a reliable supply of Valley gearboxes with our new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Waverly, Neb.

So, why does Valley go through the effort and expense to manufacture a gearbox itself?



Because building our own gearbox allows us to customize the design to meet the unique needs of an irrigation machine. For example, unlike other manufacturer’s steel worm gearboxes, Valley uses a ductile iron worm gear. Ductile iron has significantly higher wear capabilities because the surface of the gear has micro-pores that can hold lubricating oil. Also, the imbedded graphite in the gear itself provides some lubrication under extreme loads. That’s why the American Gear Manufacturer’s Association (AGMA) design standards allow 60 percent higher loads to be carried with ductile iron worms as compared to steel worms. 

Valley also uses a 25 degree tooth angle in our gearbox. According to the AGMA, a 25 degree tooth angle provides 40 percent more strength at the root than the 14.5 degree pressure angle used by others. While a 14.5 degree tooth angle is wider at the top, don’t be fooled. A 25 degree tooth angle is wider at the root, where the strength is needed. Tooling for a 25 degree tooth angle is more costly because it’s not standard, but it’s worth it because it helps the Valley gearbox last longer.

The Valley gearbox also has a 52:1 gear ratio. This means the gearbox uses 4 percent less energy to move the machine through the field, but, more importantly, the design has a fully recessed tooth action. With a fully recessed design, the gears keep lubrication oil between the gears longer, reducing friction for increased load capacity and longer life.

Valley also uses U.S.-made, case-hardened bearings made from ultra-pure steel instead of through-hardened Chinese bearings used by others. Case-hardening provides superior wear characteristics while maintaining the inner toughness of the core material. As a result, Valley bearings have a 40 percent greater load rating.



But, even the best gear design and materials won’t help if the gearbox isn’t sealed from the elements. That’s why Valley uses a patented six-barrier input and nine-barrier output seal to keep oil in and problems out. Valley also uses a 2 inch longer output shaft to ensure mud and crop residue don’t damage the seal as the machine moves through the field. To compensate for this longer shaft, special wheels are used that actually move the center of the tire closer to the gearbox output bearing than the industry standard, reducing the load on the gearbox.

Finally, we also control the quality of each component and each step in the manufacturing process. A dedicated team of buyers, engineers, quality inspectors and machine operators works day and night to ensure each component meets the stringent Valley quality requirements. Because our suppliers are located in the United States, we can easily perform random inspections of their facilities to ensure they are meeting our quality standards. All major components are also machined by Valley, providing a second level of quality control. A final inspection is performed by testing each gearbox before it is shipped. And, to further ensure Valley quality, randomly selected gearboxes are life-tested in our gearbox testing laboratory.

All this adds up to a gearbox that is 24 percent stronger and lasts two-and-a-half times longer, ensuring you can apply the correct amount of water when and where you need it.

Our philosophy at Valley always has been to provide the most durable gearbox in the irrigation industry – even if it costs more. And this still holds true today. In fact, many folks around Valley consider the Valley Gearbox the “heart and soul” of the Valley machine.






John Kastl
Product Manager - Equipment

John joined the Valley Irrigation Engineering Department in 2000 after having spent 11 years at General Electric Aircraft Engines. Today, he manages the equipment products for Valley (center pivots, corners, and gearboxes, to name a few), helping to develop the next generation of Valley Irrigation machines. John enjoys photography, home renovation and travel. On his third birthday, John watched the first moon landing!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why Work for Valley? | by Lisa Dvorak

I started my career after college in the Valmont® Structures division marketing department, knowing this was just a “starter job” at a manufacturing plant in the middle of nowhere. I just needed to get a few years under my belt to unlock more opportunities elsewhere and move up the ladder. Besides, how much fun could it be to do marketing for lighting and traffic poles? Well, as it turned out, a lot of fun. 

I had a great boss and mentor who helped guide my career into what I wanted it to be, and I gained experience, knowledge and friends.

After six years of marketing, my job changed to include more sales activities. As I learned how the sales process worked in Structures, I was able to bridge the gap between sales and marketing and improve our marketing efforts. After a few years, I knew I was ready for more, although I wasn’t sure what “more” was. 


I knew the Valley® marketing team from company-wide projects and bouncing ideas back and forth. It was a team I wanted to be a part of, so when the opportunity came up to join the group, I leaped at the chance. A chance to get back to doing what I loved – marketing communications.

I’ve been at Valmont long enough to know that Valley makes the highest quality pivots. I’m also a city girl who married a country boy. My country boy worked for the local Valley dealer our first eight years of marriage, so my loyalty to Valley comes not only through my job at Valmont, but because it’s the only way to be. Blue is best. I learned a great deal from my husband about pivots and the ag world, which really helped me when I started this job.

There are so many great aspects of this new job: working with our dealers on their efforts to grow their business, the uncomplicated sales structure allowing me to have some contact with growers, and especially being a part of the passion that the Valley team has for the products we produce.

Yes, I’m drinking the blue Kool-Aid®, but only because it’s the best there is.




Lisa Dvorak
Marketing Project Manager

Lisa joined the Valley Irrigation team at the start of 2015. She was previously in the Valmont Structures division for 10 years. She enjoys Husker football, reading and traveling, but her biggest passion is camping (camper, not tent!) with her family and making memories that will last a lifetime. . 


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Precision Agriculture Is the Future of Farming | by John Campbell

I recently read an article on Forbes.com that proclaimed “The Future of Agriculture? Smart Farming.” That statement seemed obvious and the article cited some well-known facts; the world’s population is growing, those people are going to eat more and there’s a finite amount of land and water to produce that food.

The article suggested that one way to meet the world’s food needs is through “precision agriculture.” Precision is defined as the degree of refinement with which an operation is performed. Precision is what Valley® Irrigation was founded on. Valley started an entire industry based on giving farmers the equipment they need to be paradoxically more efficient and more productive. 

Precision irrigation tools can benefit an operation in many ways. For example, center pivots irrigate in circles, but, unfortunately, many fields aren’t round. Adding corner arms to pivots can extend irrigation into the corners of the field, substantially expanding irrigated acres. More acres mean more crops.

Corner machines operate with great precision, relying on GPS Guidance for track-on-track accuracy. Did you know that Valley offers two excellent corner machines to extend your acres? The VFlex™ Corner is designed for growers who want options – with more customizable features than any other corner on the market today. Meanwhile, the Precision Corner® offers the most sophisticated, high-tech options.

Today’s computerized control panels give growers unprecedented control over their irrigation machines. With advanced control panels, such as the Pro2 and Select2, growers can determine how their pivot irrigates, when it irrigates, how often it irrigates and even where it irrigates.

The latest advances in precision agriculture are coming in the form of remote monitoring and control. The ability to control pivots from a smartphone, table or computer can virtually eliminate trips to the field. This technology not only saves time, fuel and water, it is a game changer in quality of life, allowing growers to spend time with family rather than driving to fields to check on pivots. Valley BaseStation3™ is the most innovative irrigation management solution available. Did you know that you can take the BaseStation3 native iOS (iPhone, iPad) or Android apps for a test drive with the new “Demo” mode? Just download the free BaseStation3 app and click on the Demo button.


Perhaps the ultimate in precision irrigation comes in the form of Variable Rate Irrigation. This technology lets farmers control water application rates in field sectors, or even zones (more than 5,000 zones with Valley VRI Zone Control). VRI provides the ability to apply just the right amount of water exactly where it’s needed.

There’s no question that these kinds of advances are the future of agriculture. Tech-savvy growers are adopting these practices at accelerating rates and see the benefits in their yields and bottom line.

Valley Irrigation is proud to have started the industry and to continue leading the way today. We are The Leader in Precision Irrigation®. Period. 








John Campbell
Advanced Technology Product Manager

John Campbell coordinates all of the Valley remote control and monitoring technology products, including BaseStation3. John lives in north Omaha, where he pursues his many hobbies, including classic cars and running.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Outback Crop Circles | by Alex Mills

On a stretch of highway between Port Hedland to Broome in northern Western Australia, three big green circles stand out against the plains of red dirt, the latest project of my 23-year-strong cattle breeding family company. 
Our first pivot crop.

When we acquired the Kimberly coast property in late 2013, it came with an artesian bore with enough water pressure to supply three 47-hectare (116-acre) pivots without additional pumping.

Being cattlemen and not farmers, we stepped lightly into the world of center pivots and after much research and many discussions with other pivot farmers and experts, decided on the Valley® brand. In early 2014, three pre-owned Valley pivots arrived at the property ready to be assembled under the supervision of new Pivot Manager Simon Scott. 

The goal of the project was to effectively drought proof the two properties, which hold 30,000 cattle collectively. Two pivots grow sorghum which is cut, baled and silage wrapped approximately every 30 days, while the third is reserved for 'stand and graze,’ where cattle are cell grazed to eat directly off the pivot before sale.

The pivot site is over 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the homestead, so it quickly became clear that we would need remote control and monitoring of the pivots. The age of the pivots meant that we were unable to use the new Valley BaseStation3™. After researching some possible alternatives, the task was handed to me. I quit my job at the end of 2014 to start working on AgConnect.

Head of the new controller.
The existing Valley control panel already contains 99 percent of the electronics required, so I selected a Siemens programmable logic controller, which, combined with a series of relays, enabled me to control the pivot over a Wi-Fi network. I learned to program the controller in two days and had the full pivot program ready by the end of the week. 

A new digital resolver installed in each pivot provides accurate position information to the controller. I installed a fully redundant server in the shed office that connects the three pivots, weather station and soil probes to the AgConnect web app.
AgConnect running on an iPhone.

I built the AgConnect app to constantly monitor the network, pivot state, weather station and soil probes, alerting the user with a notification if a system issue or alert occurs. The latest sensor readings are displayed visually for the user and sent periodically to our Agronomist for accurate fertilizer recipes. Data is sent to and from the pivot in real time so the user always knows exactly what is happening and can make machine changes right from the app.


For safety and security reasons, all 'safety-override' movements must be made on-site using the Valley control panel.

In the future, the user will be able to create schedules and sub-divide the pivots into sections for more detailed control over the irrigation. The next step is to connect the chemigation and solar power systems for complete control and monitoring over the entire site. 

This has been a considerable undertaking for Warrawagine Cattle Co., and I'm proud of what we have been able to achieve so far. It's exciting to be able to help shape the future of the growing pivot irrigation industry here in Australia.



Apple® and iPhone® are registered trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.



Alex Mills
Software Developer

Alex is a guest writer for the Growing the Conversation blog by Valley. He is a self-taught software developer and designer with a passion for electronics and solving technical challenges. Raised on an outback cattle ranch, Alex has always been fascinated by technology in the bush and its future applications in agriculture.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Behind the Scenes with Shirley Simons

Behind the Scenes at Valley® is a series showcasing the people behind the pivots. 

“I came to Valmont® through a friend who had an opening on the credit team, where I helped for six weeks,” says Shirley Simons, Valley Irrigation Purchasing Manager and Procedure Specialist. “After some organizational changes, I was recruited to purchasing. I was encouraged to get my degree and CPM certification (Certified Purchasing Manager), and I did it all in one year!” 

That was 30 years ago, and Shirley is still with Valley, although she has held multiple positions since then. 

In her current job, she manages eight buyers and ensures all the parts needed to make an irrigation machine are available. She negotiates pricing continually, builds contracts, deals with national accounts across the world and constantly manages inventory levels.

“I have a great team under me, but purchasing is challenging,” she says. “There is a lot to juggle and you have to have a tough skin and think of the customer first – both internal and external.”
 


Shirley is thankful for all that Valley has done for her – for all the training and opportunities the company has provided her through the years. 

“I’m proud to be part of Valley," she says. "I give 110 percent all the time. The support from upper management is essential to the purchasing department, and we employees and the vendors appreciate it.”

Outside work, Shirley spends time with her five grandchildren. She and her husband also “do antiques” – weathering, waxing, and selling them.