Pictured Above: Fast Ag Solutions produces its well-known sprayers and liquid fertilizer applicators in this state-of-the art manufacturing facility in Windom, Minn. The factory includes a host of digitally-controlled manufacturing equipment, an automated powder-coat system and more than 35,000 square feet of assembly area.
What began with Verlyn Fast’s idea for a 60-foot flat-fold farm sprayer in 1990 spawned a manufacturing company that has matured into a major player in the North American ag sprayer and liquid fertilizer applicator market. The company even has a strong presence in Ukraine where it has maintained a Ukrainian sales representative over the past 3 years.
“For more than 30 years Fast Ag Solutions has built a reputation for dependable and rugged designs developed and built by farmers,” says company president Cody Fast, Verlyn’s son. “Farmers don’t want down time and my father’s designs followed through on that. My younger brother Brandon is full time on the farm working with my dad and I, and we use the products in our own corn and soybean operation.
“When my father built the first 60-foot folding sprayer he and my grandfather immediately put it to work,” Fast explains. “The neighbors saw it and liked it, so he built several more the following year and sold them locally. The business grew from there under the name of Fast Distributing with direct sales and through contacts we made displaying our products at farm shows.”
Gradually, the company developed a dealer network across the Corn Belt that included mainline equipment dealers as well as a number of shortline dealers and farmers who sold sprayers and applicators.
Territory Sales Contacts
Northern MN, ND, SD, MT Territory:
IA, NE, KS, MO Territory:
Southern MN Territory:
IN, MI, OH Territory:
“Our dealers represent a wide variety of enterprises,” Fast says.
The company’s reputation continued to grow into the ’90s, as did sales of its rugged, easy-to-maneuver, short-coupled, wheel-boom and eventually suspended-boom trailer designs.
“In 1996, we opened a retail store in Gilman, Ill., which established a physical presence that allowed us to expand into the eastern Corn Belt. The growth of our suspended boom sprayers was driven as producers nationwide were rapidly adopting Roundup-Ready crops and we developed a significant following with our stable boom ride provided by our center pivot center section design,” Fast explains.
Concurrently, the Fasts added liquid fertilizer applicators to their product line to provide tools for more efficient split nutrient applications.
“Growers saw the economic advantages of boosting nitrogen efficiency and limiting their risks by splitting their fertilizer applications,” Fast recalls. “Our business really grew through the 2000s on this wave of split nitrogen application.
“The sprayers continued to grow with engineering innovations in wider booms and bigger tanks,” he says. “We concentrated on our short-coupled trailer design because the closer the sprayer follows the tractor the less crop damage it causes, and the easier it is to navigate in the field. Having our own tank mold helped us to maintain our shorter-trailer designs with custom designed tanks.”
Fast Ag entered the liquid fertilizer applicator market with 30-40 foot working widths and ultimately worked up to 60 feet. In 2011 the company introduced its Model 8200, a side-folding side-dress applicator that wasn’t as tall as competing models and provided safer transport down the road, Fast explains.
As productivity demands have driven boom length on sprayers, FAS has been a leader in strong-but-flexible truss booms of up to 132-feet. Coupled with boom height control and Auto-Yaw dampening in the hitch, the company’s sprayers offer industry-leading stability in boom ride.
“It was designed with increased toolbar flex and strength for the additional stresses the wider toolbar would experience, and in 2012 we also introduced our Model 8400 with a 90-foot toolbar and a 2,400-gallon tank.”
Responding to a specific customer request from Ukraine, Fast built a 120-foot boom liquid fertilizer applicator for a grower who was standardizing his planter, sprayer and applicator on a 120-foot tram line system. “We introduced a design to extend our 90-foot unit to a 120-foot tool bar,” Fast explains. “It’s still running there today as the largest side-dress applicator in the world.”
He says the unique project was an initial start to develop his company’s 5-year presence in Ukraine.
“As Ukrainian growers began adopting more efficient fertilizer management and conservation tillage, our products gained popularity,” he says. “We started working with a sales representative there 3 years ago and he sells a strong number of 40- and 60-foot applicators in the country each year.”
“With our pull-type track sprayers, however, we found from our own experience that we can be in the field up to 3 days earlier than operators using self-propelled sprayers…”
The 60-foot applicator line helped the company gain U.S. market share over the period, and in 2017 the machine was redesigned for narrower transport width — from 20 feet to 12 feet — and featured the company’s own coulter design on the row units, called the Fast Cast AP Coulter. The ground-engaging innovation provides stable fertilizer placement with cast row unit and a 20-inch ripple coulter blade making way for a straight stream of nitrogen, or a 3/8-inch fertilizer knife, behind the blade. Tanks up to 2,600 gallons feed the improved design.
The company is currently featuring its new A Series applicator which boasts a transport width of under 12 feet with 4 different toolbar flex points off the main wings and flip wings, which when deployed provides substantial tool bar flex and strength in the field.
“Our unique tank design on the A Series features a low profile to maintain a low center of gravity and better operator visibility,” Fast explains.
“We’ve concentrated heavily on durable boom structures over the years as we developed our sprayers,” Fast explains. “Since the early 2000s we’ve worked to maximize our stable boom ride and offer unmatched durability, and in 2011 — as growers began moving to 120-132-foot booms — we redesigned to truss-style booms to reduce weight and increase strength.”
The same push for productivity that makes 120/132-foot booms popular also demands larger tanks to reduce downtime for refills.
The new Series A liquid fertilizer applicator line from FAS features four different tool bar flex points off the main wings and flip wings and boasts a newly-designed low-profile tank for a lower center of gravity and better operator visibility. The machine can fold to under 12 feet for transport.
“We see the trend of farmers going from 1,350-gallon tanks to 1,800, and from 1,800- to 2,400-gallon capacities because of requirements for more gallons per acre of water for post-emergence spraying on soybeans and higher gallons per acre for pre-plant nitrogen applications,” Fast explains.
Bigger equipment means more wheel weight and compaction — problems Fast countered with track sprayers which offer increased flotation and wider application windows.
“We’ve used track sprayers on our farm for the past 6 years,” he says. “Some years we’ll get very heavy rains in June, which make field operations all but impossible. With our pull-type track sprayers, however, we found from our own experience that we can be in the field up to 3 days earlier than operators using self-propelled sprayers.
“In one instance, when our neighbors finally got their self-propelled sprayers to the field, they were still getting stuck, and it started raining again. They completely missed their application window.”
Fast says the tracks — on tractors and sprayers — help with compaction by spreading equipment weight over larger areas.
“Comparing our loaded 2,400-gallon, 120-foot track sprayer with a 120-foot, 1,200-gallon self-propelled sprayer with 380/105R50 tires showed ground pressure for our sprayer at roughly 14 psi compared with the self-propelled sprayer’s ground pressure of about 38 psi. That’s double the capacity and 2.7 times better flotation,” he explains.
As boom width grew, along with the adoption of auto-steer and the use of track tractors, “boom whip” became a concern.
“We worked closely with Raven Industries to develop our Hydraulic AutoYaw Boom Cushioning System which uses sensors to detect forward or backward movement in the boom and applies hydraulic pressure to bring the boom to a cushioned stop, then returns the boom to its home position,” he explains. “This reduces stress for improved boom life and provides more stable boom ride. Farmers tell us they can spray 2-3 mph faster with the AutoYaw control.”
The AutoYaw system has been standard on Fast 120 and 132-foot sprayers since 2015.
Fast says the company also was an early-adopter of boom-height control and the use of the Raven Hawkeye pulse-width nozzle control system, along with electronic sight gauges to monitor tank levels, and an ISOBUS platform for steerable hitches to compensate for tractor turns on headlands and hillsides.
Tracks for stability and flotation and up to 2,400 gallons of capacity are hallmarks of FAS’s new 9500 Series sprayer which company officials say will be a bedrock for its sprayer innovation in the future.
Currently, Fast says the company is excited about farm productivity gains from its new 9500T (tracked) sprayer which offers up to 2,400-gallons of capacity along with soil-protecting flotation. “Our commitment to innovation and adaptation of new technology is quite evident in the 9500T,” he says. “We expect to see further developments based on our experience with it.”
On the opposite end of large field-type sprayers, Fast Ag Solutions also builds the UT3P, a smaller folding 3-point sprayer for working field borders, pastures or CRP ground. Working widths include manual-fold booms of 25, 30 and 40-foot widths, or 40 and 45-foot hydraulic fold booms. A boomless model is also available. The UT3P is available in 250 or 300-gallon capacities.
In addition to pull-type and 3-point sprayers and liquid fertilizer applicators, Fast Ag Solutions also makes tractor-mounted tanks for the industry, including a 300-gallon front-mounted universal poly tank, and several space-saving, model-specific, stainless steel tanks for track tractors.
In 2004, Fast introduced its 100% stainless steel inboard-mounted 850-gallon tanks for Challenger tractors, and in 2005 the company added a 1,000-gallon track-tank for John Deere’s T Series tractors.
“These 100% 304 stainless steel tanks are powder-coated and mount inboard of the machine’s tracks so they don’t increase transport width” he explains. “They are a great fit for growers applying fertilizer at planting or combining with our 3-point mounted sprayers and side-dress toolbars.”
The tanks are adapted for all model changes through the years, and are compatible with John Deere’s new 8RT track tractors, he says.
In 2017 Fast introduced 1,000-gallon track tanks for the Case IH Steiger Rowtrac which fit atop the tractor’s front track assembly but do not increase transport width.
To round out the tank offerings, Fast Ag Solutions also offers liquid nurse trailers in 1,600, 1,300 and 1,000-gallon capacities.
The original flat-fold 60-foot sprayer was built in Verlyn Fast’s farm shop, but by 2014 the home-farm factory had grown with 15 separate building additions through the years, Fast explains.
“We began powder coating all of our components in 2000, but the process was all manual — from washing the parts with pressure washers, to applying the powder paint, to placing the parts in the oven,” he says. “We needed to automate to match the growth of our company and product line, and the new automated powder coat system would triple our capacity, but required a large footprint.
The new Fast Cast AP Coulter for liquid fertilizer application represents the business end of FAS’s latest applicator technology. The 20-inch ripple coulter opens the way for a straight stream of nitrogen, or a 3/8-inch fertilizer knife.
“We took that needed expansion as an opportunity to consolidate our production facility in a unified and much more efficient layout. We relocated in the summer of 2014 to a new 144,000-square-foot building in an industrial park near Windom, Minn.,” he explains.
The new factory became home to state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment including flat laser cutting tables, a tube laser, a robotic welding cell, 24+ manual welding cells, a pair of CNC turning centers and 35,000+ square feet of assembly area.
Meanwhile, the company had undergone a name change to Fast Manufacturing in 2013, and shortly after the move to Windom, Minn., the Fast family sold the production facility and the retail parts store in Gilman, Ill., to a 100% employee-owned company in Glenwood, Minn., formerly known as Wasp Inc. — a manufacturer of conveyor equipment for parcel companies and airlines.
“Fast Manufacturing became Fast Ag Solutions in 2016,” Fast explains. “In November, 2020 the family re-invested back into the business, along with Des Moines-based Midwest Growth Partners (MGP) and Summit Equity.
“We are excited to partner with MGP and Summit Equity because of their vast background in agriculture and the long-term prospects for innovation and growth in our product lines,” he says.
“As president of the new organization, I’m very pleased to work with Jim Prohaska, our vice president of engineering and new product design, as well as a great number of ag experienced employees in Windom, Mountain Lake and Gilman who are very dedicated to moving our company forward and manufacturing dependable, feature-rich products for many years to come.”
Currently Fast Ag Solutions has a staff of 64 employees, most of whom are located at the Windom facility. Fast and four others represent 5 sales territories, while a pair of employees each maintain the aftermarket parts retail sites at Gilman and Mountain Lake, along with the service department in Mountain Lake.
Fast Ag Solutions’ dealer network is available on the company website, www.fastagsolutions.com, and is searchable by zip code and product type. Dealership inquiries are handled by territorial sales managers who are listed on the site under “Contact.”