Jimmy Perry never imagined his career would evolve the way it did when he started working in sales  for Fresno Equipment 18 years ago.

His outlook changed when general manager Joseph Ayerza and ownership added the top brands of shortline almond equipment (Orchard Rite, Thomas) to complement the brands (Exact and Weiss McNair) they were already carrying. Sales have nearly tripled for the 2-store John Deere dealer over the last 2 decades and Perry is all in for the long haul. 

The central California native was recently promoted to store and sales manager for Fresno Equipment’s Fresno location. They also have a store in Five Points, Calif. 

Fresno Equipment’s staff has grown considerably since Perry joined the team. It includes 8 people in the sales department, 30 service (field and shop) technicians and 2 precision (Integrated Solutions Department) specialists. Perry attributes the growth to strong leadership and a culture built on trust between ownership and employees.  

Their customer base includes growers who farm on average between 300-400 acres, producing almonds, pistachios,  walnuts, wine grapes, table grapes, raisin grapes, citrus, hay, corn and/or wheat. They also serve some corporate farms as big as 40,000 acres.

Selling Autonomy

One of the first things that catches your eye at the Fresno location is the Blue White Robotics autonomous tractor on display right outside the entrance.

“We’ve been talking with Blue White for the last 10 months,” Perry says. “We already have a customer using it and have 10-12 other leads.”

Fresno Equipment recently became a licensed dealer for BlueWhite autonomous tractor kits. The system is available in most orchard and vineyard models to perform tasks such as mowing, discing, spraying and more, aimed at getting the job done with greater precision and productivity while seeing significant savings in operational costs. 

The autonomous tractor kit is available through an annual service model with virtually unlimited support from BlueWhite, who has an office in Fresno. Regular software and hardware updates will be available as the system improves, according to the dealership. 

“Oh, I think it (increased adoption of autonomous equipment) is coming,” Perry says. “That’s why we’re trying to stay ahead of the game. With all the regulations, labor laws and shortages here in California, this kind of technology is going to be a gamechanger.

“To help familiarize customers with it, we’re doing a lot of demos. We take the equipment to their fields and help them get adapted to it.”

Breaking Down Barriers 

Just because they’re selling autonomy doesn’t necessarily mean all customers are ready to invest. From a dealer’s perspective, Perry sees infrastructure as the biggest barrier for entry. 

“As we trend from autonomous diesel tractors to autonomous electric tractors we need to have enough electric charging stations to make sure farmers can charge equipment quickly,” he says. “Right now, it’s not a problem for little tractors, but time will tell with big tractors. If you’re using something 8-10 hours autonomously then you’ll need to replenish the energy fast. It’s going to take a few years for us to get all the infrastructure in place to do that.”

“With all the regulations here in California ... this kind of technology is going to be a gamechanger…” – Jimmy Perry, Fresno Equipment

Staying up to speed, Fresno Equipment employees attended the FIRA ag robotics and technology forum, which took place just a few miles down the road at the Fresno Convention Center in October 2022. The topic of barriers was widely discussed during the 3-day event. A panel of industry leaders shared their thoughts on how to increase the adoption rate of autonomous technology. 

“The first thing I’d tell manufacturers is don’t overcomplicate things,” says Chuck Baresich, Haggerty AgRobotics founder and president. “When you bring your machine out, be careful of what you’re promising. Make sure your robot can drive straight, start with that. We’ve tried a lot of robots that can’t drive straight. Can they actually complete their task? Then start worrying about all the cool stuff you’re promising.”

Almond Alliance CEO Aubrey Bettencourt points out the need for basic infrastructure upgrades that would allow farmers to adopt and implement precision tools. 

“We’re out in the middle of nowhere in a lot of these places,” Bettencourt says. “If we don’t have rural access to underlying infrastructures (satellites, internet, cellular access), then we can’t use the products you’re bringing us.”

“Growers need to be open minded,” adds Alain Pincot, Betteravia Farms/Bonipak managing partner. “Frustration can build up quickly if you are not ready to understand some level of adaption is necessary for your operation to successfully adopt technology. Be prepared to ask the right questions.” 

More Up Time, No Down Time

Perry is confident his staff can help answer those questions and troubleshoot any issues customers might encounter with new technology like Blue White. Fresno Equipment has 2 full time employees working in the precision-focused Integrated Solutions Department and 14 service trucks available for backup when needed. 

The staff interacts with customers on social media, using Facebook and other platforms to make announcements and gauge interest in new products. 

“We’re very active on social media to keep customers updated on what we’re doing,” Perry says. “If something new comes out, like Blue White, we send an e-mail blast to our key  customers and talk with them one-on-one about it.”

Perry believes Fresno Equipment is in a league of its own when it comes to customer service, separating itself from the competition by doing whatever it takes to provide solutions. 

“We have CSRs (parts and service outside salespeople) out running parts all the time,” he says. “Our goal is more up time, no down time. For example, during harvest we know how critical it is to make sure everybody is up and running. We get you going first and then worry about the paperwork later. 

“We’re focused on more than just selling equipment. We want to be involved in our customers’ operations and be their go-to place for parts and service as well.” 

Perry works constantly with his general manager and ownership to make sure their inventory is well stocked. Early ordering is key to meeting customer needs and overcoming supply chain issues, he says. 

“We are always trying to stay ahead of the curve in everything we do,” Perry says. “Thankfully, our ownership trusts us to order what we need to keep the supply chain coming. With their blessing we’ve been able to keep the pipeline full and avoid any issues.” 

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Fresno Equipment Prepares for the Future with Entry into Autonomy Arena

Manufacturers of Autonomous Farm Machinery