Keeping it in Kansas
Sometimes big things come in small packages. For more than 80 years, Shield Ag Equipment, which began as Welders Supply Company, has welded and manufactured tools in Reno County.
Although the company manufactures both large and small machines, ShieldAg also excels at designing and producing smaller agricultural application tools, including disc blades, subsoilers, heavy-duty chisel spikes and fertilizer knives. ShieldAg holds or shares seven patents and two registered trademarks. In addition, the company developed 20 products.
“We have adapted our product line to the changing farming environment,” said Mike Bergmeier, owner and president of ShieldAg. “Farmers are doing less tillage and trying to be more sustainable.”
With more than 2,000 distributors, 14 of which are international, ShieldAg is always looking to expand and manufacture what the farmer wants. Their products can be used on most crops, including cotton. ShieldAg is also developing machines that can increase harvest efficiency in hemp crops.
“We get input from farmers,” Bergmeier said. “We learn from our dealers and distributors and farmers what tools they need to sustain sustainable agriculture.”
Working with other Kansans
In 1998, the company bought Acra-Plant out of Garden City. This partnership allowed the company to expand their no-till, min-till business. One decade later, ShieldAg purchased the rights to ABM Milo Guards. This helped the manufacturing operation expand into sorghum harvesting aids for combines.
In addition, ShieldAg formed a marketing partnership with Arro, in Cimarron. Arro manufactures conversion kits for corn heads to efficiently harvest sorghum, millet or sunflowers for less money than an after-market row crop header.
A fourth-generation farmer, Kyle Kopper, along with custom harvester Randy Burns and agri-businessman Alan VanNahmen, invented this piece of machinery in 2015. The conversion piece is manufactured in western Kansas. Kopper said he appreciates ShieldAg’s help with distribution.
“It’s been important to have someone that’s tied into the milo belt,” Kopper said. “He has a network of dealers that we sell through.”
Having ShieldAg’s help has freed the trio to invent other products.
“We’ve been working on some modifications on some other types of headers,” Kopper said. “I feel like we have something that people might need.”
Both Kopper and Bergmeier believe keeping businesses in Kansas is important.
Bergmeier, who holds both a degree in mechanical engineering and a Master of Business Administration, purchased ShieldAg in 2002. All of ShieldAg’s machines and tools are sold to dealers and distributors, not to individuals. Not only are ShieldAg products made in the U.S., they are made in Kansas.
One of the company’s top sellers is its corn-colored conveyor. This machine is up to 95 feet long with a 46-foot discharge height and is touted to expand grain piling potential while saving farmers money and time. There is also a mini field loader that works with corn, sorghum and soybeans, as well as fertilizer, sand, salt and feed ingredients.
Relying on a base of more than 30 employees, this locally owned company continues to invent new products and invest in agricultural ideas.
“We use farmer-driven design. That’s typically where the innovation comes from,” Bergmeier said. “We have to listen to what the users want.”