The 2012 World Ag Expo held Feb. 14-16 in Tulare County, Calif., proved to be a crucial global hot spot to buy and sell the latest agricultural inventions from around the world; all designed to increase farmers’ profitability.

The benefits of the Expo experience actually continue throughout the year as farmers implement the knowledge gained during the world’s largest farm exposition.

On the third and final day of the 45th annual Expo, Craig Reade, a California and Arizona vegetable grower, had plenty of giddy-up in his walking stride. He maneuvered the green paint course at the John Deere exhibit asking a laundry list of questions to sales representatives.

Reade has traversed the Expo grounds for the last 30 years.

“We come to World Ag Expo to keep up on the latest technology,” said Reade, managing partner of Betteravia Farms based in Santa Maria, Calif.

“There are so many advancements in GPS guidance systems and farm equipment. It’s a good way to come for a day to bring yourself up to speed on what’s going on in agriculture. You can see it all.”

Reade grows 15,000 acres of veggies; the primary crops include cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, and celery. In addition to the Santa Maria operation, he works a short spring and fall growing window in Huron, Calif., plus grows winter vegetables in Yuma County, Ariz.

“On this Expo trip we’re looking for wide-bed tillage equipment,” Reade said. “We are converting our operation from narrow 38-inch beds to wider 76-inch beds.”

On Reade’s heels was his son Anthony, a Cal Poly student, plus friend Michael Benson.

“We’re just looking today,” the Reade patriarch said. “We’ll take the information back to the other partners and discuss the information thoroughly.”

Brothers Freddy and Alex Gonzalez, both 15 years young, grinned from ear to ear while seated inside a Kubota M135GX tractor. The Gonzalez family operates Gonzalez Farms in Terra Bella and custom harvest pistachios.

The boys have a strong desire to follow in their father’s and grandfather’s steps to become third-generation farmers. The teenagers are sponges and spent the day soaking up knowledge about agriculture.

“Going into agriculture would be fun,” Alex said. “I like being outdoors.”

“Farming teaches you about growing,” Freddy said. “When you’re outdoors you learn about growing cherries, corn, pistachios, and alfalfa. When you get older, you won’t have to ask your parents how to farm — you can do it on your own.”   

The high school juniors talked about what impresses them about agriculture.

“It’s all the work you have to do,” Freddy laughed. “I thought trees were easy to grow — you just planted the seed and watered it daily. My Dad taught me it takes spray to keep trees alive and healthy. We like farming and want to learn more about it.”

During Media Day held the day before the exposition opened to the public, 1992 World Ag Expo Chairman Mark Watte said the Expo’s goal is to bring agricultural buyers and sellers together from around the world. The crowd is a mix of those browsing the grounds and decision makers.

“People fly in on private jets. These are the owners, not the tire kickers,” Watte said.

The 1,471 Expo exhibit spaces sold out before Christmas. Typically the final exhibit space sells out a few weeks before the show opens.

Income generator

The Expo is a major income generator for California. Watte said a 2002 Fresno State University Expo impact study pegged the value of the Expo to California at $4 billion. Last year, Expo generated about $1.3 billion in income in Tulare County alone.

Exhibitor Jim Warkentin, owner, Produce Sorters International, Visalia, Calif., was far from a lonely Maytag repairman at his busy booth inside Pavilion C. Warkentin promoted the company’s versatile conveyor belts which can sort about 20 crops including cucumbers, onions, oranges, avocados, and melons.

The exhibit showcased a Warkentin-invented-two-lane conveyor capable of sorting about 20 tons of product per hour.

“This year I have the biggest product order that I’ve ever had from a World Ag Expo,” said Warkentin who has 12 years of Expo exhibit experience.

Each year, 10 new innovations are selected as the Farm Show’s Top 10 New Products. The designation drew about 60 people per hour to the Staheli West, Inc. indoor and outdoor exhibits to ask questions about the company’s innovative DewPoint 6110 Steam Distributor.

“This is a new revolution in baling. This will change the industry,” said Dave Staheli, president and founder of the Cedar City, Utah-based company.

“Make dew make hay,” Staheli stated. “Our machine is a steam plant on wheels. It changes your life and your lifestyle. You cut, rake, bale, and haul … Our target is 200 acres in a 6-to-7-hour window.”

The $162,000 fuel “steam plant on wheels” picks up windrowed alfalfa and adds steam to the hay. The diesel fuel-powered machine produces low pressure steam injected from four manifolds as the hay is lifted from the windrow and moved to the packer area of a large square baler. The steam is immediately absorbed into the crop tissue.

“A major benefit of the DewPoint system is superior leaf retention,” Staheli said.  “It Increases feed value by improving leaf retention and palatability. Leaf retention from the top to the bottom of the bale profile is good.”

The DewPoint system eliminates the necessity for natural dew and limited baling ability in the early morning hours. The machine allows hay baling 12-to-24-hours per a day by creating simulated dew-baling conditions.

Actual steam generated is based on real-time moisture conditions. The machine holds 1,000 gallons of water. Five to 7 gallons of water can be required to create steam for one acre of hay.

“One tractor, one steam dew simulator, and one baler can literally do the same amount of work of four conventional tractors, four bailers, and four operators,” Staheli said. “There’s a lot of savings with this system.”

Staheli recommends pulling the DewPoint machine with a 180-plus horsepower tractor across mostly flat ground. He recommends the machine for a minimum of 1,000-acres of hay.

cblake@farmpress.com