"Our company started in 1946 on a farm near Valley and that's where the headquarters were for a number of years… In 1952 about, the farm economy went down and we were faced with a real problem…
     "An employee of ours said to me one day that I ought to get to know Frank Zybach. And he knew him and he said he had a little shop out in Columbus, Nebraska. He explained to me that he had developed an irrigation system that was quite unusual and that I should take a look at it. So, I followed that and went out to Columbus and introduced myself to Frank Zybach. And after two or three days of conversation, I ended up buying his little company. And so we had with that the right to manufacture his product. He had it patented, and we agreed to pay him a royalty, which we did. And so that was what got us involved in center pivot."
     Question: "What did you know about irrigation before you talked to Frank?"
     "None. Zero. I was a city boy. I grew up in South Omaha."
     "Well, I went out and listened to him and I looked at the crop that was growing and talked to the farmer that was using the system and decided that, 'You know, this might be something that had a future.' And so that's really why we got into it. Plus the fact, keep in mind that I told you that the products that we were making were adversely affected in the farm economy that was down. And so that was another incentive for us to have an interest in something else…
     "It took us a number of years to perfect what he had because the original center pivot was a concept. It wasn't fully developed from a reliability standpoint, and it took us a long time – longer than it should have – but it took us a long time to really get it so it would work properly. But we continued to persevere and we got it so that it would work."
     Question: "What was Zybach like to work with?"
     "Well, he was a very interesting guy. We got along with Frank very well. He worked for us on a full time basis some of the time. Other times, why he came in and left and came in and left. He was a consultant. And he didn't really agree with a number of the things that were done. As an example, he didn't think it was appropriate to build an electric system. Well he was in love with the water drive and that's what he'd developed and he thinks that's supposed to be the way to go. And fundamentally it was the way to go in the beginning. But, it was obvious that electric drive was by far a more reliable means of driving a center pivot system without interruption than was the water drive…
     Question: "In 1954 you had only seven systems built. And by 1960 were doing like 50 systems."
     "That sounds about right."
     Question: "How did you survive?"
     "Well, we were making other things in our company besides irrigation. Let's not forget that. That [the center pivot] did not support the company back in those early years of center pivot. We were making farm machinery items that we were selling and that supported the company. It wasn't the irrigation system. It took us too long from the time that we had the idea from Frank until we developed a really reliable system that we could sell in quantity. It took us much too long. But that's what happened…
     "So many pivots are installed today you couldn't grow any adequate crops without center pivots. And so, we manage to feed millions of people as a result of center pivot that would not be properly fed today if it had not been for center pivot."
     Question: "You're proud of that fact."
     "Of course! Anybody would be. Yeah, of course. That's one of the great things the achievement produced was a wonderful feeling of having done something important for humankind. Along with it, why we've enjoyed a good, profitable business."

Robert Daugherty – Early Days of Valmont


Other Excerpts from Robert Daugherty’s Interview:

Omaha Stockyards
The Impact of Pivots
Pivots Go Worldwide
Installing First Systems
Making Pivot Systems Work
Pivots Cover Squares
Valmont's Patent Expires