Lemken may not yet be a household name in Western Canada, but management at the German company’s head office is working hard on changing that. Since opening its Canadian subsidiary in 2005, Canada has grown to become the company’s fourth largest export market, with sales hitting 15.4 million Euros (more than CDN$22.9 million).
“We started in Canada in 2005,” says Christian Jungmann, Lemken’s export sales manager. “Canada, from a history point of view (for us), is quite a young market.
The company initially targeted Eastern Canada, where many Quebec farms have a lot in common with farms in Europe. But a little to its own surprise, the brand has found strong demand for its one-pass tillage tools across the Prairies.
“That’s a step we had not planned in the beginning to be honest about that,” explains Jungmann. “We thought ‘we’ll go into the East.’ After two or three years there was an explosion of sales (across the Prairies). And it’s still going on. We now have 17 dealers (with multiple locations) taking care of our products in that part of Canada.”
In early May, Lemken held it’s bi-annual International Press Day in Germany, inviting members of the farm media to gather in a field and see what the new machines it debuted at the Agritechnica machinery show last November can really do.
Although many of its implements are designed with features directly aimed at farming needs in the company’s home market in Germany, the brand’s managers have spent time in Canada evaluating the needs and practices of farmers all across this country. That, they say, has allowed them fine tune — or in some cases significantly change — the engineering on implements destined for the Prairie, which allows them to exactly meet the needs of producers here.
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“The good thing was before we went to North America, we were successful in Eastern Europe where there are also big farms,” explains Jungmann. “Russian people are very tough (on equipment). They just put it behind the tractor and go. So we had experience with designing heavy machines for high horsepower tractors. From a quality point of view, we were well prepared for the North American market, and we also have bigger machines available.”
For the Canadian Prairie market, the brand expects three implements will form the core of its sales. The Rubin 12 compact disc, the Karat 9 tine cultivator and the Compact Solitair seed drill. The two tillage tools are one-pass systems designed to turn standing stubble into a firm, even seedbed with just one pass, which is ideal for dealing with fields that have been rutted up during wet harvests or have high residues from crops such as corn. In fact, one-pass systems have become the brand’s hallmark.
And while both tillage implements are designed to work at high speeds, the Rubin 12, with what Lemken claims are the largest diameter discs in the industry, can work as deep as eight inches.
The Karat 9 tine cultivator, which can work as deep as 12 inches, also includes an electronic sensing system that maintains a precise working depth over uneven terrain and transfers weight to the tractor drawbar to help minimize wheel slip during hard pulling.
The Compact Solitair seed drill, Lemken’s newest machine to be offered in Canada, has yet to prove it has appeal to Prairie farmers. Canadian sales manager, Laurent Letzter, says he intends to introduce it to Prairie growers this season. It may actually find a strong niche in the West with its ability to accurate place small-seeded crops into fields left in poor condition from the previous season. It combines the brand’s one-pass tillage philosophy with one-pass seeding, using a design that is intended specifically for crops like canola that need precise seed placement.
“It’s a unique system that allows you to do tillage with fertilizer placement and it doesn’t create compaction because the weight is distributed across the entire width of the machine,” says Letzter. “Then we have (soil) re-consolidation and seed placement.”
“With the reconsolidation before seed placement, we create capillary zones, which means we can seed very shallow and get very quick emergence. That emergence will be very even, providing a full stand and even maturity. With seedbed preparation at the time of seeding you get the benefit of all the available moisture.”
All Lemken implements bound for Canada are built at the company’s factory in the village of Alpen, Germany, which allows the brand to point to the same “made in Germany” label that has helped create a reputation for quality in other products like Mercedes and BMW. “We look at our factory as a marketing tool,” says Jungmann. “Once people see how we build machines, people will see the quality.”
The company has recently completed construction of new facilities at the plant to accommodate group visits, and it’s now arranging tours for Canadians every March.
But Jungmann acknowledges that same built-in-Germany label also creates a concern about parts availability in the minds of some prairie farmers.
“That’s one of the major concerns of farmers in Canada when you sell an implement coming from Europe,” he explains. “What about parts? It was one of the first questions I got from the farmers when I went to the country. We have basically two strategies. On one side we overfill the parts locations as much as possible. In addition to that we always put one or two machines in the corner. They have all the options on them and are not for sale. If a part is not available, we take if off the machine.”
“That’s really helped a lot,” adds Letzter. “Sometimes it’s a tire and you don’t have all the sizes. Sometimes it’s a frame piece because someone hit a hydro pole. There are so many things that you cannot plan for.”
Lemken now has three Canadian parts distribution facilities. One in B.C. that serves that province and Alberta and another near Winnipeg to handle Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The remaining facility serves the East.
The brand will also have a strong presence at Canadian farms shows going forward, showing equipment at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina this month and at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, Ontario, in September.
“The personal contact that goes on at a farm show is irreplaceable,” says Letzter. “That’s why we try to go to all of them and do demonstrations at the shows when we can.”
For a video look at the Lemken press day event, check out the new E-Quip TV episode by clicking on the videos link at www.grainews.ca.