The open house of Total Ag Industries'new building in Hillsboro on August 8 marked a giant step forward for a company that started in the winter of 1997 putting farm machinery together for Wil-Rich and local implement dealerships in their farm shop.
"We had run out of things to do on the farm that winter and we asked Oppegard's, the local John Deere dealership, if they had some equipment they would like for us to set up," said Pat Muller, president of Total Ag Industries. "They said they had two or three chisel plows coming in, some planters and disks so they brought the equipment out to the farm for us to set up in the farm shop. We didn't have a forklift so we used Oppegard's and we made several trips driving the forklift out to the farm in 20-degree below weather with no cab on the forklift and that was basically how we got started in the business."
Later in the year Wil-Rich asked Muller to assemble row crop cultivators for their market in the northern Red River Valley and the business was on the way. Since then the business has operated out of a farm shop and Quonset on the family farm. But increasing equipment size and the increasing demand from dealers for equipment assembly services made moving to a new facility the logical move.
"Today's dealers would rather keep their technicians on things like engine overhauls, working on combines and tractors and things like that," Muller said. "Why pay for the technicians to be sent to school and then have them put machinery together? Having someone like us do the assembly is a better use of resources for the dealers."
Currently they are regularly contracted by 12 dealerships across a wide region to assemble the equipment farmers have ordered, and Muller makes sure painstaking effort is taken in that process.
"We are careful not to scratch the paint on the frames while assembling the implement. Who wants to pay $70,000 for a piece of new equipment and have scratches all over it?" he asked. "In addition we take extra effort to bring all of the hydraulic hoses together and bind them in a neat package, rather than having the hoses flop all over the place."
With this attention to detail the company has grown and the number of workers it employs has ballooned as well.
"When I started working here four years ago we had three full time employees," said Justin Risovi, the company's business manager. "Now we have 30 people working here and once NDSU classes start up again we will have 8 to 10 students working here part time in addition to the regular staff."
But the business has grown beyond selling seed and assembling farm equipment. They have branched into custom building liquid fertilizer systems, which now has become the biggest entity of the business, according to Muller.
"Those systems will go on air-seeders, and we are starting to put a lot of the systems on vertical tillage implements, strip till and side dressing equipment," he said. Introduced in 2009, the Total Ag Industries' Variable Rate Hydraulic Drive Fertilizer Systems allows precise control and accurate application for higher yields and more profit, according to Muller. Each system is customized to the farmer's needs and requirements.
The new facility offers many amenities, ranging from a conference room, to two apartments, complete with laundry facilities for those company representatives who will be spending a few days in the Hillsboro area. The building also offers a separate room for research and development that plays a large role in making improvements to the fertilizer systems that are manufactured at the plant and a parts room equipped with repair parts for the fertilizer systems that they sell.
The main shop assembly area is 120 feet wide and 350 feet long, plus there is an area at the back of the shop that is currently used for cold storage that could eventually be converted to shop area as the business continues to expand. The new building approaches 60,000 square feet in coverage and Muller expects he will expanding into that extra space within a couple of years.
In the past, workers sometimes had to work outside when putting the larger implements together and they were often fighting the elements. Now, all of the assembly work can be done in climate controlled comfort, with both the heating and cooling needs taken care of by a geo-thermal system. There are 66 wells, each 250 feet in depth that are the heart of the system. Each of the wells are spaced about 10 feet apart.
And as nice as the new facility is, Total Ag Industries also has two completely equipped trailers that can go to a dealers lot or a farmers shop to either install a new fertilizer system, assemble an implement or do repair work on an existing machine.
The open house at Total Ag Industries made one thing clear, the company stands ready to serve the ever growing agricultural industry in the region in an innovative and efficient way.