Archive for Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Family farm business grows internationally

David Lee, right, of Bonner Springs, and Kyle Sodoma assemble a precision vacuum planter at Monosem Inc., in Edwardsville. Monosem was founded by Tony Bakker in 1980 and now sells its farm equipment worldwide to North and Central America, Mexico, Canada, Australia and China.

David Lee, right, of Bonner Springs, and Kyle Sodoma assemble a precision vacuum planter at Monosem Inc., in Edwardsville. Monosem was founded by Tony Bakker in 1980 and now sells its farm equipment worldwide to North and Central America, Mexico, Canada, Australia and China.

November 25, 2009

While their equipment may not be used in Kansas, Monosem Inc. is making quite the name for itself worldwide from its Edwardsville location.

Monosem, located at 1001 Blake, manufactures and assembles precision vacuum planters.

Monosem’s machines, which were the first of their kind to be sold in the United States, use a special technology that allows farmers to plant their seeds in a more precise way, ensuring a better crop.

Tony Bakker, who is originally form Holland, started the company in 1980. With his past based in Europe, Bakker first became an importer of French machinery and began changing the equipment for use in the U.S. market.

The business eventually transitioned into engineering and manufacturing its own equipment.

The current group of 33 employees moved from Lenexa to Edwardsville a little more than a year ago in October 2008. The family-run business includes Tony and his wife Sandy, as well as three daughters.

Most of the work done at the Edwardsville location involves assembly, with parts being outsourced. Sandy said 50 percent of the company’s parts still come from France, which is where the company got its namesake.

“Mono,” which means single, and “semoir,” which means “to plant” in French, was combined to create Monosem, with a literal translation of “single planter.”

This name fits with the way the Monosem equipment operates in that a single seed is vacuumed up a tube and suctioned to a steel plate, where it is then planted in the ground in a precise location.

Unlike big-name farm equipment providers such as John Deere, Sandy said, the Monosem equipment was mainly used for specialty crops, such as tomatoes, peanuts and sweet corn.

Precision is required in these fields, she said, because the seed is much more expensive and farmers cannot afford to waste any with traditional gravity driven planters that just drop the seed in various groups and locations.

Although Kansas isn’t known for growing these specialty crops, Monosem sells equipment all across North and Central America, Mexico, Canada, Australia and China. In fact, Tony says one-third of the company’s equipment is sold abroad.

The company’s roots in the specialty market have helped it become a big name in farm equipment and have also helped the company sustain business in tough economic times, Sandy said.

“We’ve seen a slow down but not nearly what other businesses are seeing,” she said. “We’re back to where we were two years ago after growing so much.”

Each machine ordered by a farmer is made to that farmer’s needs and specifications.

In addition, Sandy said the business has continued to invent new equipment with its Twin-Row, Sync-Row and Monoshox systems holding several patents.

“We’re always coming up with new ideas,” Sandy said. “We have to.”

For more information about Monosem Inc., go online to monosem-inc.com.

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