"It took longer than it should have to make a reliable product. We worked on the original idea for – I'm going to say six, eight years before we really got it so that it would make a circle on a reliable basis. And I remember one of our early systems, we said, 'Well, it would sure be nice if we could get that thing to go around and complete a circle, and not stop more than four times.' Well, today it's very unusual if a system stops. But back then, it was the norm for it to stop…
     "If the system got out of line as an example would be one reason why it would stop. It had a system of electric controls that went back to the pivot, and if something was wrong it would shut the system down. The farmer would have to come out and find out what the problem was, fix it, then start the system up again…
     "The first system had steel wheels. And steel wheels were okay as long as the soil conditions were right. If it were a sandy soil, then steel wheels would work fine. If it were heavy loam the steel wheels tended to sink and then the system would not function properly."
     Question: "Not a good thing."
     "No. And so over time the steel wheels got changed to rubber tires and then to higher floatation rubber tires. And that, of course, meant the we could not really easily drive a system with the water means that we were using. So we were then forced, in a way, to go to an electric drive and put gear boxes on each wheel. And so that's why it went that way…
     "In Zybach's system it was a water drive and what that meant was that we took a little bit of the water from main pipe and ran it through a hydraulic cylinder that went up and down. And this hydraulic cylinder was then connected to trojan bars that engaged the wheels and drove the system forward. And that was a very simple functional system. But it wasn't as reliable as we really needed from the standpoint that a farmer didn't want to have to get up in the middle of the night and go out and fix the system that had shut down for not a very important reason usually. And so that gradually lead us into driving into a more reliable system which turned out to be an electric drive and that's what most of the systems in the world are today…
     "We had towers with cables that supported the pipe. Back in the beginning in the original system. It later ended up that we did not use towers; we used a steel truss to support the pipe and eliminated the towers and the cables. And that turned out to be a more reliable means of supporting the pipe. Plus the fact that it got to the place that we could increase the distance between drive units by that means. And that made the system cheaper, less expensive to build…
     "A lot of people would lov to have, in those days, would love to have an irrigation system. But what we had was a system that did not have reliability. And a farmer when they bought one of these bought a headache. And some didn't want the headache. But after we got it so it was a reliable functioning system, why then the sales part of it became infinitely easier."

Robert Daugherty – Reliable Pivots


Other Excerpts from Robert Daugherty’s Interview:

Omaha Stockyards
The Impact of Pivots
Early Days of Valmont
Pivots Go Worldwide
Installing First Systems
Pivots Cover Squares
Valmont's Patent Expires