In 1981, Hawkins Manufacturing moved operations from Colorado to the fertile farm grounds of Phelps County to manufacture its popular row-crop ditcher.
Now, more than 35 years later, Hawkins still produces that tool in addition to other machines and tools to help farmers produce abundant crops. This year, Hawkins is positioning itself as a leader in farm technology by expanding its products to include a drone made specifically for agricultural uses.
“We are adding drones mostly to give ourselves a shove into the technological advancements that agriculture is making,” Hawkins General Manager Karen Aldama said. “We have goals to start producing and offering more precision agricultural equipment. And the drones and their capability for reporting are going to fit right into that.”
Hawkins is partnering with Agribotix, a technology company based in Boulder, Colorado, to sell Agrion drones and its FarmLens data solutions to help farmers increase agricultural yields and profits.
Aldama said the drones are easy to fly, and the data they capture can save farmers time and money and help them produce better crops.
It’s as easy as Facebook
“The technology is there,” Aldama said. “The biggest challenge right now is trying to instill confidence in our farmers that they can do this and to change their habits and behavior to begin to utilize all this data that is available. If they can do Facebook, they can do this.”
Although there are lots of drone models available, the Agrion drone is designed with agriculture in mind.
“It’s smaller, lighter weight, and easy to use,” she said. “You could pull it out of the box and be flying it in an hour.”
Aldama said it gives farmers all the information they have been collecting by hand for years but more efficiently and effectively. Plus, it gives them a birds-eye view of fields so that problems can be detected sooner. The drones may show planter skips or dry areas where an irrigation nozzle is plugged. When caught early, some of these problems may be corrected, helping farmers to increase yields.
Drones may also detect areas of a field that need more or less fertilizer. The Agrion drone creates digital images of fields showing farmers how much fertilizer should be applied to each section of a field. That information can be synced with sprayers so that varying rates of fertilizer can be applied to different parts of the field based on actual data.
Precision saves money and helps environment
Using this precision agriculture technology saves farmers money and is good for the environment because only the exact amount of fertilizer that is needed is applied.
The Agrion drone can survey up to 80 acres on one battery and costs $2,960 for the Agrion Starter drone or $4,680 for the Agrion Plus, which includes an iPad and more batteries.
“We realized that the technological capacities of the drones and the data that they provide is going to fit really good and is a great segue into where Hawkins is hoping to go with more technologically empowered fertilizer applications,” Aldama said.
The drones will be sold to farmers through Hawkins’ 500 plus dealerships throughout the United States and Canada. These dealerships include tractor implement stores, such as Landmark and Titan Machinery.
Aldama said that almost everything Hawkins has produced and sold up until now is steel. The drones won’t be produced at the Holdrege plant but will boost Hawkins’ ability to stay up to date with technology.
“This is our first foray into the world of technology and keeping up with the way farming is going,” Aldama said. “We can use these tools that are available as companion products to the hard steel. It’s making our products more valuable. It’s also a great transition to where we want to be going by providing technologically enabled implements.”
New designs are in the works
Hawkins, which is located at 2120 Fourth Avenue in Holdrege, manufactures and distributes the original row-crop ditcher that has been updated over the years, the down corn reel, several types of fertilizer applicators, the crust breaker, the sub-soiler, a stabilizer and tool bars. A new design is in the works for a liquid fertilizer application.
Aldama said a competitive advantage that Hawkins has over other small agricultural manufacturers is that it is farmer owned. The business began when Harlan Hock purchased it in 1981 and is still owned by the Hock family, a family of farmers.
“All of our best designs have always come from farmers,” she said. “By keeping our finger close to farmers and keeping that contact, hopefully someone will bring us an idea that will fill a void in the market and create value for more people out there.”
Aldama said Hawkins also prides itself on its service and long-time commitment to quality.
“We produce premium quality products,” Aldama said. “We put the kind of quality and workmanship into them that makes them last for years.”
Hawkins employs 14 people at its Holdrege location, and Aldama said her hope is that employment and production will grow as the company stays ahead of the curve with agricultural technology.