Tractor is low-cost alternative to heavy farm equipment

Gloria Hafemeister
John Hendrickson tries out the  Oggún tractor at his farm in Reeseville on April 4. Hendrickson also works for the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies and hosted a farm meeting for young producers earlier in the day.

REESEVILLE – John Hendrickson, a Reeseville farmer who raises a few acres of vegetables and cover crops and who also works for the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies was amazed at the simplicity of the tractor that he test-drove on his farm in early April.

The Oggun tractor, developed for farmers  as a low-cost alternative to heavy farm equipment, stopped at Stone Circle Farm as part of a Midwest Tour to do field demos and introduce the machine to farmers.

While driving it, Hendrickson said it reminded him of the Allis Chalmers G, used by small farmers in the U.S. who moved from horses in the 1950’s to mechanization. Others visiting his farm that day were equally impressed with the tractor that was produced by the Alabama company intent on keeping the tractors simple and low-cost.

Mike Morrison who moved to Wisconsin from North Carolina to get into raising vegetables for local markets, says “I’m just two years into the ‘small farm’ concept and the challenge has been finding the capital to get going. A low over-head model like this is good.”

He and other small farmers were at Hendrickson’s Stone Circle Farm for a workshop in the morning and stayed to learn more about the tractor that company officials came to demonstrate. The tour also stopped at the University of Wisconsin-Madison West Madison Research Station.

Demonstrating the tractor was Horace Clemmons, “Working in other countries I saw people using tools from around the world. They had to figure out how to fix them and if parts weren’t available they were out of luck.”

With these farmers in mind he knew it was time to develop a simple tractor that used universal parts that are readily available everywhere. He knew it had to be a basic design that, with additional tooling, could be adapted for any use.

“You don’t see a logo or company name on this tractor,” he points out. “That’s because it’s your tractor. Everything on it can be fixed in a farm shop or locally.”

Oggún was developed using an Open System Model and ‘off-the-shelf’ parts. Oggún can be fixed in the field or a local shop with parts available from a farm supply store, auto parts store, Grainger or the internet.

He says, “You can configure Oggún with the implements or tools to meet the needs of your specific job. We don’t add extra cost for things you don’t want or need. It is designed to last and as technology or innovation evolves, it can be adapted.”

The Oggún tractor does not require a large and expensive dealer network, rather it is sold direct to consumers through the website or by phone. The company does not have an advertising department budget or an expensive manufacturing plant.

This is not Clemmon’s first time to be an industry disruptor. In 1983 he was a pioneer in establishing standards for the use of PC software and hardware in the retail business segment. Those standards were responsible for the changes that have occurred in the way business is done on a global basis in that segment.

“We have seen benefits because of Open System Software and Computing. Why not apply the same concept to farm equipment?”

He further notes, “We have created partnerships with our vendors who provide us the resources we need. Our plan internationally is to work with local business partners to produce the Oggún tractors with 100 percent local parts and manufacturing in every country where we sell them.”

He believes this will drive down the cost for the small farmers, while also helping to develop the local economy. Localizing our production will benefit many segments of the economy, not just agriculture.

Clemmons says the tractor is just the beginning of their vision. The company plans to publish its designs and components, allowing others to develop products using the same components, driving down the cost of those components and increasing their availability.

“It’s a way of thinking,” he says.

Locky Catron, who accompanied Clemmons on the Midwest tour, said the business model behind Oggún is based on the fact that 80 percent of the worlds’ farmers can’t afford a tractor. Open System Manufacturing (OSM) changes that by being a customer-based business model, not a stockholder based business model.

The company has been working with land grant universities who Clemmons believes have an obligation to look at this concept.

The tractor is made using common, off-the-shelf parts that can be used on multiple pieces of equipment. That will make the tractor more affordable and practical, especially for smaller farmers.