Global ag technology: Founder of equipment company talks about future of agriculture

SPIRITWOOD LAKE, N.D. -- Michael Horsch founded and leads a global farm equipment manufacturing company but still tries to spend as much time as possible in farm fields around the world.

Michael Horsch, founder of a global farm equipment manufacturing company, talks Tuesday to a group of producers and salesmen near Courtenay about his innovative farm equipment that is based in Germany and manufactured in North Dakota. John M. Steiner / The Sun

SPIRITWOOD LAKE, N.D. - Michael Horsch founded and leads a global farm equipment manufacturing company but still tries to spend as much time as possible in farm fields around the world.

"I try to spend more time with the farmers," he said before a program in northern Stutsman County July 18 to introduce new features on his company's Panther 460 air seeder line. "Last year it was eight weeks in the field. This year about five weeks."

Horsch also operates farms by himself in Europe. His company is headquartered in Schwandorf, Germany.

"When the (Berlin) Wall came down it gave us a chance to expand our business," he said. "We grew the business into the United States."

Part of the expansion resulted in a plant at Mapleton, N.D., where the company manufactures air seeding equipment. On display at the Cysewski Farm near Spiritwood Lake Tuesday were the Panther 460 air seeder and commodity cart. The combination of equipment plants a 60-foot-wide segment of the field drawing seed and fertilizer from a 600-bushel capacity cart.


"We as a company are the creator of a monster," Horsch said, referring to the air seeder.

He said the 60-foot width of the machine may be the practical limit for the size of seeding equipment.

New this year in the Panther air seeders is the ability to shut down segments of the seeder to prevent overseeding when working around obstacles or wetlands.

Horsch said his company's philosophy is to lead the industry with technology and innovation rather than attempting to duplicate the products of others. Because of global equipment manufacturers like Horsch, the farm technology is becoming more consistent around the globe.

"We're a worldwide company and get to see all sides of agriculture," he said. "The differences between technologies in different countries is becoming less."

That positions his company to attempt to meet farmers' needs in a changing world, he said.

"The challenges and opportunities are greater than ever before," Horsch said.

One of those challenges comes from the billions of food consumers connected by the internet. Changes in food preferences can now spread around the world quickly. Horsch said farmers need to be prepared to meet those changing demands.


"We need to listen to the consumer," he said. "The consumer is more aware (of his or her diet) today."

Horsch also cautioned farmers against relying too much on a single crop.

"Mother Nature wants diversity," he said, citing herbicide-resistant weeds as one problem of relying heavily on a single crop or weed-control system. "Mother Nature will get you."

Horsch also asked farmers present at the product meeting Tuesday if they were making any more money through precision farming practices.

"Probably not," he said, answering his own question. "You need the pieces (of precision farming), but each farmer needs different pieces. ... Be realistic, only use the pieces that make sense to you."

Horsch said changes in farm technology will make people more important than ever.

"Experienced farmers will be needed more in the future than they are today," he said.


A group of producers and sales staff learns Tuesday about the Horsch Maestro 24.30" SW air seeder during a demonstration near Courtenay. John M. Steiner / The Sun

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