When farmer Joe Anderson designed a modified tub grinder to meet his own agricultural needs, he set in motion the birth and robust growth of DuraTech Industries. From that one innovation, the North Dakota-based company developed a full line of agricultural products and even pioneered tub grinders for industrial applications. Dan Harvey reports how DuraTech has advanced in 41 years.
The story of DuraTech Industries International Inc. is a classic example of how a “do-it-yourself” solution can blossom into a full-blown business. Innovative and resourceful company founder Joe Anderson, a rancher and farmer residing in North Dakota, planted the seed.
Essentially, Anderson needed a mechanically appropriate means to grind hay for his livestock. However, then-current grinders were large and expensive pieces of equipment. The average farmer couldn’t afford one, let alone operate it on his own. Prodded by necessity, he developed a practical invention: a tub grinder better suited to agricultural applications, one that a farmer would find feasible.
That was back in 1966. The invention led to a small company, and that small, sustainable company led to a large, enduring corporation. “Last year, we celebrated 40 years in business,” proudly states Bob Strahm, vice president of sales for the Jamestown, N.D.-based DuraTech Industries. “Starting from Joe Anderson’s idea, we grew from a small welding shop into a large company with two manufacturing facilities that turn out two major product lines.”
Agricultural and Industrial Products
The two product lines are Haybuster Agricultural Products and DuraTech Industrial products and, today, DuraTech Industries is a widely recognized and highly respected agricultural and industrial equipment manufacturer that boasts a global reach, as far as sales. Hallmarks of its machinery are their durability, versatility and cost effectiveness.
“Our primary products on the agricultural side are tub grinders and bale processors,” reports Strahm. “Primary industrial products are wood grinders, which are used for grinding all kinds of wood wastes.”
The main Haybuster agricultural products ease the work of farmers and ranchers. They can be powered by a farm tractor and were designed to grind hay for livestock, and they’ve even achieved something akin to legendary status. “We’re the leader when it comes to tub grinders and bale processors,” says Strahm, commenting upon the company’s market positions in that sector.
Other agricultural equipment that the company produces includes seven models of tub grinders, four models of Balebusters, two no-till drills, two models of vertical mixers/feeders and a rock picker.
DuraTech also pioneered the tub-grinding technology for industrial applications. Its industrial grinders are designed to recycle and convert wood waste, tree clippings, pallets, paper and other waste into reclaimable material such as compost and mulch. Construction contractors and municipalities find the highly durable tub grinders well suited to their clearing and recycling needs.
Though DuraTech hasn’t yet conquered the industrial market, it is slowly rising to the top with the steady ascent of a hot-air
balloon, thanks to its newer horizontal grinder models. “On the industrial side, we’ve seen an increasing demand for the horizontal grinders,” says Strahm. “Each kind of grinder that exists has its own purpose, but the horizontal grinder seems to be winning more of the battle these days, because it can be used in tight quarters and around homes and lots, as its less likely to throw material. This makes for a safer environment around the grinder.”
Two Lines – Two Factories
DuraTech Industries makes all of its products – in both the agricultural and industrial lines – in its two manufacturing facilities in Jamestown. “We have two factories located side by side,” reports Strahm. “One is set up for just the Haybuster product line. The other, our main plant, is set up for both Haybuster and DuraTech Industrial products.”
The plants are situated on DuraTech’s 46-acre property and total 206,500 square feet of manufacturing floor space. That’s a far cry from the modest welding shop that Anderson set up in Minot, N.D., 41 years ago. At the time, the company was known as J&J Manufacturing (later Haybuster Manufacturing Company).
Growth came quick. In 1968, two years after its founding, the company moved to its current location in Jamestown, where it began expanding its product line, in particular developing hay processing and handling equipment.
The company changed its name to DuraTech Industries in the 1980s, when it began developing its industrial line of products, a new direction intended to address growing needs associated with recycling and composting, activities that increased the demand for extremely rugged, industrial-grade tub grinders. The transition was fairly easily accomplished, as DuraTech transferred its 20 years of experience producing agricultural tub grinders into the industrial sector.
Revamped Models: Building on Succes
Today, DuraTech Industries sells more than 20 products through its 600-dealer North American and international network that includes industrial distributors and agricultural implement/equipment sellers. It has been enjoying robust growth, which Strahm indicates comes through revamping its existing products rather than developing new product.
In recent years, DuraTech has introduced several next generation industrial wood grinder models, such as the 3010 Track Tub Grinder, which is designed for users, particularly land-clearing contractors, who need to take the equipment into rough terrain to perform the toughest grinding jobs. The 3010 grinder features 25 inches of under-frame clearance combined with a 20-inch by 15-foot track system. Remote control provides operators command of the CAT diesel engine, CAT tracks, tub direction and stacking conveyor. The model’s variation, the 3010 Tub Grinder with Grapple Loader, also handles the most rigorous industrial grinding needs. With a design based on customer input, the model features a 7000 series loader with continuous rotating grapple, a self-cleaning radiator screen, a CAT 525 horsepower tier-two diesel engine coupled with a HPTO fluid clutch to the heavy-duty hammer mill and an oscillating stacking conveyor.
The company also introduced the 9564 Horizontal Grinder. The model’s CAT 950 horsepower engine meets all the tier-two emission standards. Its HPTO wet clutch transfers power to a 12,000-pound, 51-inch hammermill. The large hammermill is fed by a self-governing floor apron and feed roller through the large 60-inch feed opening. Further, the high-capacity 315-cubic foot hopper handles the largest stumps and trees.
On the agricultural side, one notable new introduction is the 2564 Balebuster, a versatile piece of equipment designed for dairy farmers, ranchers and erosion control, enabling them to place the output wherever they need. It features a curved spout that can be used for bunk and range feeding, bedding and erosion control applications. Its fan-spout rotation by hydraulic motor allows 360-degree rotation of discharge. It also features an optional straw cannon that can shoot mulch up to 100 feet, providing complete spreading coverage especially suited for erosion control. In addition, it processes hay, straw and silage bales with a heavy-duty rotor equipped with 40 flails.
DuraTech Industries’ innovative upgrades have enabled the company to enjoy recent annual sales growth in the 35-percent range. “But we not only build quality product; we’ll go out and actually demonstrate our equipment capabilities to potential customers. We have demo crews out on the road on a regular basis. That’s another thing that gets us our sales. A lot of companies won’t do that, so that’s another way we differentiate ourselves from the competition,” says Strahm.
Moreover, that’s another way that the management and employees demonstrate their commitment to their company: By addressing new challenges faced by the industry and its customers, and developing effective solutions to those challenges, they embrace the vision and spirit of Joe Anderson, the man who started it all back on his farm in North Dakota.