Surprise reprise: Amity air drills, carts, go back to Concord brand that helped change the face, pace of planting

WAHPETON, N.D. -- The Amity brand of seeding tools is reintroducing the Concord brand, a storied name associated with the original development of air seeding technology. With this change, effective for model year 2020, all air drills and air cart...


WAHPETON, N.D. - The Amity brand of seeding tools is reintroducing the Concord brand, a storied name associated with the original development of air seeding technology.

With this change, effective for model year 2020, all air drills and air carts that are built in Wahpeton, N.D., by the AGCO-Amity JV LLC will carry the Concord name. The drills that previously would have been branded as Amity, will now be given the Concord name. Ben Sander, marketing manager for Concord, said the company is inspired by "unique, innovative concepts of the original Concord," which was a legend in seeding.

Famous name

The Concord drill was born of the need for farmers to cut costs in the farm credit crisis in the late 1970s and 1980s.


Concord Inc. was founded in 1977 by Howard and Brian Dahl. Their father, Eugene Dahl, the former chairman of the board of Steiger Tractor Co., of Fargo. Their grandfather, E.G. Melroe, had founded Melroe, the Gwinner, N.D.-based company that developed the Bobcat skid-steer loader.

Howard and Brian worked to advance technology that would replace traditional box drills and would help farmers seed and fertilize small grains and oilseed crops on increasingly large acreage. Concord also made soil sampling equipment.

The first air seeders were probably developed in Germany in the late 1960s, and then in Australia, Howard says, carrying a large amount of seed and fertilizer in a hopper and feeding it through a series of hoses.

In 1980, the Dahls met Daryl Justesen, the U.S. head of sales for the Prasco air seeder, developed in Manitoba.

Justesen started farming and teaching near Litchville, N.D., after graduating from Mayville State College in 1969. In 1976, Justesen started learning about no-till drilling to save soil and moisture. In 1978, Justesen headed up U.S. sales for Prasco, but the Canadian machine lacked good depth control or a good packing system.

The Dahls quickly hired Justesen as vice president of marketing. Together, they promoted the row-by-row packing and precision depth control.

Jake Gust, a farmer and engineer, held a patent on a system that used automobile radial tires to create constant weight on each packer.

The Dahls were the first to put down fertilizer below the seed at the same time as planting and the first to build a machine that could change seeding and fertilizing rates "on-the-go."


1981 to today

The first "green Concord" went into the field in 1981 and the company sold 10 of them in 1982. The machines were popular for direct-seeding into wheat stubble and standing sunflower stalks. Concord hosted hundreds of farmer meetings, including the famed Concord Connections meetings at the Fargo Radisson Hotel and Civic Center.

"When interest rates are 18 percent and you're struggling to make a profit farming, they were looking for answers," Justesen recalls. Farmers were making four to six passes for tillage and planting per year. With the Concord, they could cut that to one- to two-pass farming and save moisture.

Justesen, retired from management but on Amity's board of directors, remembers that a 40-foot drill with 150-bushel tank was $1,000 a foot, or about $40,000. Today, a new drill would be $5 or $6 per foot, he says. In 1984, Justesen was instrumental in developing a floating hitch.

Still going strong

Willard Hill, 83, of Veblen, S.D., is now retired on a farm run by his son, Jay, 59. Willard bought one of the first Concord drills off the manufacturing line, he says. He's still using it today - 38 years later - seeding almost all of his soybeans with it.

Jay gives credit to his father for taking a risk on the drill, and moving the farm to new technology when he was still in college. On June 6, the Hills were using it to seed soybeans in wet, heavy soil, with no fertilizer. "It's too wet to be working but it's too late not to," he says.

Early on, Justesen helped the Hills modify their machine to get through corn stalks better. They do some fall chisel plowing today. They seed more than 1,200 to 1,500 acres of beans with it every year and have used it with liquid and dry fertilizer.


It's relatively simple to fix, Willard says, adding, "You can go in almost any type of field conditions and get the seed in the ground. Where we're going today, nothing else would work. A disc opener would just open up the ground, the seed would lay there and wouldn't get covered."

Similarly, Allen Anderson, of Cavalier, N.D., grew up at the homestead his family has maintained at Hensel, N.D., since 1881. "We've always been at the 'bleeding edge' of technology," he half-jokes, saying he wanted to eliminate tillage. He liked the individual seed packing and the wider packing wheel.

Anderson bought a Concord seeder in 1996, the year the Concord switched to red paint and Case-IH dealers were available for parts. Since then, the Andersons bought two double-disc drills, and in 2012 bought a 60-foot single-disc drill to replace the final Concord, and now are considering buying a new one again.

Stress, success

Back in the 80s, farmers suffered from large amounts of farm debt and double-digit loan interest rates. Sales of U.S. farm equipment declined by 30 percent per year, starting at $11 billion in 1981 to $3.7 billion at the low point in 1987.

On Nov. 20, 1987, Howard recalls "the low point" when the company's bank called its line of credit. Things looked hopeless, but they kept meeting payroll.

Justesen had to ask farmers for half-down payment so the company could buy materials to build the increasingly popular drill. Howard took the equipment to the former Soviet Union, selling more than 600 there and about 5,000 in North America.

Things improved as farmers entered the 1990s. The company grew at 50% to 70% per year. In 1993, they added variable rate placing of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer on-the-go.


In 1996, the Dahls sold Concord to Case-IH Case Corp. In 1997, New Holland, owned by Fiat, bought Flexi-coil - Concord's No. 1 competitor. In 2000, CNH moved Concord's manufacturing to Saskatoon and discontinued the machine 2002, favoring Flexi-coil.

On to Amity

The Dahls had agreed to a 10-year "no-compete clause" on air seeders but stayed with their ag heritage and established Amity Technology. They made and marketed WIC Sugar Beet Equipment, Wil-Rich tillage equipment, and Wishek double-disc harrows.

In 2007, Amity Technology acquired Fargo Products, an air seeder and cart manufacturer. In 2011, the company entered into a joint venture with AGCO. Meanwhile, Amity expanded its product offering to include single- and double-disc drills, air till drills, precision shank drills, and a line of air carts with up to three tank compartments and capacities up to 525 bushels. The single-disc drill allows people to seed at 8 mph, 9 mph - sometimes 12 mph.

The air seeder business has become more crowded, with many good companies competing, Howard says.

CNH didn't use the Concord name but kept registering it, until they let it expire in 2017. Amity got it back and started making plans to revive it.

Howard says it reminds him of the lessons of the 1980s, which include a need for "continuous improvement - both in quality and economic return."

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