|Pivots Around the World
In the 1950s, it took years to build the market for center pivot irrigation systems. This was new, unproven technology and the systems were relatively expensive. But the labor savings were tremendous, and as more and more farmers installed the early systems, their neighbors could see the advantages.
In 1972, researchers at the University of Nebraska used satellite photos to count the telltale crop circles that pivots produce. They came up with a total of 2,725 pivot systems in operation in the U.S.
By 2002, there were an estimated 170,000 center pivot or "lateral move" systems (center pivots adapted to move in a line through a field) in operation in the U.S. Those irrigation systems were watering about 21 million acres of land.
Some estimates add another 88,000 center pivot or lateral move systems operating in a dozen foreign countries. Saudi Arabia has 21,000 systems, South Africa has 15,000, Spain has 10,000 and Brazil has 8,500.
Valmont's founder Robert Daugherty remembers that their first foreign sales just happened. "We sold systems in Russia. We sold systems in Australia. We sold some in Mexico. We sold some in Canada. We sold some in Europe." Daugherty says that the news of center pivots traveled through word-of-mouth channels. "We didn't have to advertise in the beginning. It happened!"