Thursday, January 29, 2015

Waging War on Waste to Serve our Customers Better | by Adrian Cliffe

Valmont® Middle East has been celebrating recently and with good reason. The VME manufacturing plant was awarded the Silver Level of Operational Lean Excellence.

Lean is a method of minimizing waste in manufacturing, while maximizing value for customers. Operational excellence is a philosophy of problem-solving, teamwork and leadership that results in the ongoing improvement of an organization. The continuous dedication to improvement that is at the foundation of Operational Lean Excellence is a core value here at Valley® Irrigation.

The silver award in lean recognizes achievement in many areas, including leadership, empowerment, vision, innovation, customer service, best practices and commitment to quality.

The Valmont lean leadership team presented VME with the award and these words, “The work that each of you and your teams have put into learning about lean and implementing best practice achievements to improve your business and eliminate waste is truly exemplary across the entire Valmont family. You should all feel extremely proud and rewarded for this dedication!

“Don’t be surprised to find others from around the company showing up at your door to take it all in. There is much to see and share! Congratulations and keep up the fantastic work.”

We are proud of this achievement – as it stands we are the only Valmont manufacturing plant to earn this recognition. And, after celebrating, we look forward to building on our success and working toward the next level.

Adrian Cliffe
Territory Sales Manager for Egypt, Turkey, Oman, and UAE

Adrian has been working for Valmont
® Irrigation for more than 3 years. He is an agricultural engineer and has worked for the largest suppliers of machinery in Ireland. He enjoys designing and manufacturing farm machinery. Adrian was a member of the Middle East hurling team that won the international championship last year. He also plays soccer and likes going to the movies and relaxing at the pool. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Visiting the Home Base of AgSense | by Rob Smith

Recently, I made a trip to the home base of AgSense® in Huron, S.D. I have to admit that in early January there are a lot of places I’d rather visit than South Dakota. That being said, I was greeted by a warm welcome from the friendly folks at AgSense. 

A lot of innovative ideas and products come from small towns. Valley® Irrigation and AgSense both have this in common. When you come from this type of environment, everyone in the company has to wear multiple hats. 

It’s great to see a company working as a team. Everyone at AgSense is cross trained and can do anything from answering the phone to helping on the assembly line. Don’t be surprised when Terry (the president of AgSense) answers the phone and helps a farmer with a technical question.

This type of hands-on approach allows AgSense to provide immediate, focused customer service. Not only does this benefit the customer, but the feedback from the customer can be applied to product improvement, fostering innovation and development. I’ve heard from many farmers how friendly and helpful the people at AgSense are when responding to phone calls and questions. 

It may sound cliché, but there really is a family atmosphere at AgSense. You can tell its people care about each other and the business on a very personal level. We, here at Valley, are very glad to have them on our team.

(Note: Valmont® Industries, the parent company of Valley Irrigation, recently acquired a majority interest in South Dakota-based AgSense. Read more here.)

Rob Smith
Product Application Manager

Rob Smith works with remote control and monitoring technology products including AgSense®, TrackerSP and BaseStation3™.  Rob lives in Fremont, Neb., where he and his wife do their best to keep up with their two boys’ sports activities, mainly hockey. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

'Rally Valley' Explores Rural Brazil | by Shannon Peterson

Valley® Irrigation Brazil embarked on a 9,000-kilometer journey last year celebrating the 60 years Valley has been the global leader in mechanized irrigation.

"Rally Valley" was a bold, innovative and adventurous project that set out to discover passion for the Valley brand among farmers, their families and communities.

It was a expedition that blazed the back roads of Brazil, recording the beauty that lives there. 

It was a journey visiting rural farmers who use Valley irrigation equipment, encouraging them to share their stories, roots, experiences, local crops and harvests.

The project created five videos that combine rich imagery and remarkable testimonials from farmers about how using mechanized irrigation changed the face of their production operation.

The video chapters were broadcast on television, the Internet and social media, and shared at events, trade shows and others places. 

Yes, the videos are in Portuguese, but they offer an intriguing glimpse of agriculture in another country and the role irrigation plays worldwide. Plus, the imagery is stunning. Kudos to the team in Brazil for trying something different!

Check out one of the episodes below or all the episodes on the Valley Brazil YouTube page. Then tell me you don’t want to head to Brazil for your next vacation or your next career.

Shannon Peterson
Marketing Content Editor

Shannon joined Valley Irrigation in 2013. She writes and edits materials about irrigation equipment. Shannon enjoys traveling with her family, particularly to national parks, and she occasionally writes about her travels for tourism magazines. She also likes trying new restaurants, seeing movies, and watching Husker football and Creighton basketball. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Growers Power Up Energy and Savings

If you’re a trend watcher, then you know that trends tend to travel from east to west. With variable frequency drives, it’s the other way around. And what an energy-conserving, money-saving trend it is!

As the name indicates, a variable frequency drive (VFD) allows the motor speed to change as water pressure needs vary. According to Tyler Fields, Valley
® Water Management product sales manager, VFDs have been used pretty heavily in the hills of the West and Northwest United States for quite some time.

“That’s where growers really needed consistent water pressure, and they quickly saw the benefits of power savings, too,” he says. “Now, we’re offering an additional money-saver, Drive Connect™. It communicates from the end of the pivot to the pump, so the VFD can maintain pressure at the end of the pivot.”

Ryan Christensen can attest to that. Though he’s been using variable frequency drives for just a couple of years in Washington, where he grows alfalfa, timothy, hay, wheat, corn, beans, and cherries, he already has six VFDs. Four of those have Drive Connect.

“The first one I bought sold me on the value of VFDs,” says Christensen. “I have a pivot that’s on a very steep elevation – the end of the pivot goes from way uphill to way downhill, so knowing what the pressure is at the end of that pivot makes a real difference.

“I switched from a 100 horsepower pump that ran all the time to a 50 horsepower that runs at half speed about half the time. So not only are my crops getting watered evenly now, but my power savings should be phenomenal on that one pump alone.”

Power conservation is a big factor when it comes to VFDs, according to Lad Irrigation Sales Manager Doug Muscott.

“Power providers in Washington are very interested in variable frequency drives,” Muscott says. “They help offset the capital cost for the irrigator, while conserving power. Basically, from the power company’s point of view, using a VFD allows more people to have more power available to them. It’s great green technology.”

Christensen says power incentives really help offset the cost of installing VFDs too.

In Alabama, Lee Sublett is pretty new to VFDs. He has two separate pump stations with VFDs. One is on a creek and fills his reservoir. The other floats in a reservoir and supplies six pivots.

Sublett, a customer with New Market Agricultural Equipment in New Market, Ala., says it takes $2,500 worth of electricity to fill the reservoir, which holds 200 acre-feet. That’s enough water capacity to supply 6 inches of water per acre on 400 irrigated acres.

“I can honestly say that this particular situation would not work with anything other than an electric VFD,” says Sublett. “When the reservoir is full, the pump floats on about 25 feet of water, about 65 feet out.

“It works perfectly. Powering it on and off is as easy as using a light switch. The motor builds up slowly to a preset pressure and then shuts down slowly, too. Also, I can shut down one or two – maybe even more – of my irrigation machines on the pump, and the VFD will adjust and slow itself down to adjust the pressure to those preset settings. The options are practically endless.”

“I really prefer the electric motor, and I love my VFD,” adds Sublett. “My next project will definitely include both.”

Reprinted from Valley PivotPoint magazine, Winter 2014

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why the ‘Three Legged Stool’ of Precision Ag Irrigation Matters | by AgSense

Having Precision Ag hardware or software isn't enough. Maybe this sounds weird coming from a company [AgSense] that sells hardware and software but trust us, you're going to want to read this.

Ever since Precision Ag was introduced into the irrigation segment of crop production, the advent of variable rate irrigation prescriptions, remote sensor monitoring and remote control of the irrigation equipment has led to an arms race among growers and companies to produce and implement the highest end programs to impact yield efficiency.

But none of it matters if there isn't a clear system to leverage the data you're collecting to make an impact on yield efficiency.

Think of Precision Irrigation as a 'three legged stool'

Precision Ag happens when hardware, software and agronomy work together. Done correctly, this should seamlessly provide the highest payback and trouble-free experience for the grower customer.

To achieve this harmony, there should be at least three people or groups of people involved in the Precision Irrigation process.

1. Growers
2. Agronomists
3. Hardware Supplier (example: local AgSense [or Valley] dealer)

If any single one of these groups are not collaborating properly, the whole program could fall apart.

Often times there are individuals that locally supply and support one "leg" of the stool but not the others. For growers, the challenge is knowing "who do I call about what?"

Each leg of the stool should understand the role the other two play

There needs to be strong personal relationships and lines of communication between each leg. For example, the agronomist maybe isn’t an expert on telemetry but understands what the equipment does, how it should work and who to call if it's not working.

Growers see the highest impact when they're committed to maintaining the process of keeping all relevant parties in communication with one another at the appropriate times.

Growers aren't alone in having to maintain this process, here are also some things that AgSense is doing to help solidify this ‘three legged stool.'

1. Online Resources - We've invested in making support material available to growers, agronomists, dealers and suppliers. You'll find many of them in our support section.
2. Boots on the ground - We currently have four locations from which to serve our customer base at a local level.
3.  Joint grower meetings - We regularly attend and host joint grower meetings where each leg of the stool is available to present information and answer questions. Along with that, we also conduct local dealer and grower training sessions, often done jointly.
4. Trade Shows - We're attending national and local trade shows and events in order to give customers an opportunity to speak to our staff and each other directly.
5. We're a call away - Our support center is available to growers and industry partners. You always talk to a real person who lives and breathes precision agriculture. Our number is 605-352-8350. 

How to strengthen your Precision Ag Process if you're a grower

1. Put your agronomist and hardware dealer on speed dial.
2. Make sure your agronomist and hardware dealer have each other's contact information.
3. Inform your agronomist of your goals for precision agriculture irrigation. 

These three simple steps will help get the conversation started or make it more efficient.

Do a good job of tapping the knowledge of the parties involved in maintaining Precision Ag on your operation and you'll reap the benefits.  

Reprinted with permission from the AgSense website.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Google Maps Makes BaseStation3 Even More User Friendly

Irrigators who use Valley BaseStation3™ to remotely monitor and control their pivots are thrilled with how easy it is to use and the time it saves. However, Valley isn’t resting on its laurels. Instead, Valley is already making updates to further simplify life for growers by integrating Google Maps™ into BaseStation3. 

John Campbell, Valley advanced technology product manager, says BaseStation3 will now come equipped with the software for Google Maps. Existing BaseStation3 users only need a simple software update to take advantage of this new feature, available in December. 

Campbell says Google Maps is a natural fit for BaseStation3 and is very easy to use. Growers no longer have to draw their maps, which saves time during the initial setup. 

"All the grower has to do is enter the latitude and longitude of the machines, along with their lengths, and this software will place the machines on a map for easy viewing," Campbell explains. "This is especially helpful for growers who have larger operations that are spread out. They can see as much or as little as they want – the broader view or the details." 

Growers can view their machines on any Web browser and can zoom in and out of the high-resolution image, showing smaller areas or entire operations. As the image zooms out, machines are grouped into pins. Go out even farther, and colored circles show the number of machines in an area. 

"Google Maps is updated constantly, so growers are getting information that’s up-to-date," says Campbell. "And the grower can edit or tweak the location of the machines on the map, if they aren’t in exactly the correct spot."

Campbell says Valley developed this software update because customers asked for it. 

"We also think we’ll be able to integrate other features down the road, conceivably topographical information and weather," he says. "This integration gives us more options for the long-term."

Reprinted from Valley PivotPoint magazine, Winter2014

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Day in the Life | by Michelle Stolte

For those that don’t have much or any access to a farm, knowing what a farmer does on a daily basis can be a mystery. After thinking about this a bit, we at Valley® Irrigation decided that we wanted to shed a little light on what a farmer’s typical day is like by filming a grower over the course of one Monday in the middle of his growing season. I, fortunately, had the privilege of spending that day with our grower, Gary Hiam and the video production crew, Media Productions, just outside of Fargo, N.D.

We joined Gary at about 6:00 in the morning to start our filming and left him at 6:00 in the evening, even though his day wasn’t over yet. We filmed him meeting with his team (primarily his sons who help him farm and a long-time hired hand), we visited with his crop consultant, and we traveled to various fields to check and turn on his center pivots. 

We spent the day watching his normal process and then turned it into a quick, inspirational video.

I would like to thank Gary, his family and Media Productions for a great day and a great video. Gary runs a top-notch operation, and he and his family are amazingly hospitable – not that I expected anything less!

Please take a few minutes to view the Day in the Life of Gary Haim.

Michelle Stolte
Global Marketing Manager

Michelle has been at Valley Irrigation for more than 10 years and is finally no longer a newbie! She has spent her entire time at Valley in the Marketing Department (international and domestic) and loves every minute of it. Michelle enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband. She also likes reading, swing dancing (although she isn't really that good...), and warm weather.