Agriculture is a tough business to be in, even with a booming economy the ag world is still taking its time to recover. One thing I have learned is that in order to get ahead in this business is to adapt to changing markets and if possible grow business by acquisition. John Deere, with 181 years in the business, knows what it takes to succeed. Speaking of years in the business — this year also marks the 100th anniversary of John Deere tractor innovation. To continue with that innovation, they are expanding into carbon fiber. With its high strength to low weight ratio it is a material that has several applications, especially in sprayer booms.
On March 2, John Deere entered an agreement to purchase the family-held company King Agro out of Valencia, Spain. King Agro has been manufacturing with carbon fiber for over 30 years and specializes in sprayer booms with lengths from 100 to 150 feet. With facilities in Spain and Campana, Argentina, the company has a global footprint and manufactures booms that work with AGCO, Bernardin, Case IH, Caiman, Golondrin, Jacto, John Deere, Metalfor, Montana, Ombu, Pla, and Praba sprayers (I promise these are all real sprayer manufacturers).
John Deere and King Agro signed an agreement back in 2015 to distribute carbon fiber booms for John Deere sprayers to increase their offerings in the South America and European market. In 2017, King Agro opened a new manufacturing facility in Picassent, Spain that will have an annual output of 1,800 spray booms, most of which are for the John Deere R4050i sprayer.
What goes into making 150-foot carbon fiber spray boom? The manufacturing process of the booms begins with precision molds, created using a five-axis computer-controlled CNC plotter. Carbon and Kevlar fabrics are cut to the exact size and shape using a CNC cutter before laminated in a dust-free environmental chamber. The next step is the curing of the carbon and Kevlar composites in a heated chamber pressurized to five atmospheres (you would feel the same pressure 170 feet under the sea). Final machining, painting, and then the final assembly of the finished booms are ready to be installed on the sprayer.
I contacted Deere Public Relations Manager Dan Bernick and asked him about what this means for his company and their customers.
“John Deere is committed to supporting farmers and growers by providing them with innovative, cost-effective solutions to improve their productivity,” he said. “The acquisition demonstrates John Deere’s firm commitment to the sprayer business, expanding availability and adoption of cutting-edge carbon fiber technology in farm application equipment.
“This is a natural fit with John Deere’s current operations as it adds additional manufacturing and design competencies to our agriculture equipment division. The combined business is expected to benefit from sharing best practices in product development, manufacturing, technology, and scale. Additionally, King Agro’s carbon fiber expertise has the potential for other applications across various production steps in agriculture, which could provide new opportunities for producers.”
As for where these spray booms will be distributed, Dan says, “John Deere will continue to offer the option of carbon fiber booms to customers in its existing markets and will continue to evaluate how to serve new markets in the future.”