2013 - Volume #37, Issue #3, Page #07[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
19-Year-Old Inventor Finds Success With Greens Harvester
“They introduced it in their catalog in November, and we have been back ordered ever since,” says Dysinger. “We are now making them faster than orders are coming in, but we started out behind.”
Dysinger is eager to share his experiences with other FARM SHOW readers. He emphasizes the importance of having people willing to help you succeed.
One of those people is Eliot Coleman, noted author and market gardener. A few years earlier, Dysinger and his dad visited Coleman’s farm in Maine. Coleman has developed multiple tools and introduced others that are now marketed nationally by Johnny’s Seeds.
“We talked about the need for tools and he pointed to a bed of salad greens,” recalled Dysinger. “I knew what was needed for a machine to harvest greens, and with his encouragement, I started making prototypes.”
The first attempt used an old electric hedge trimmer that Dysinger took apart and rebuilt for more aggressive cutting. It was the first of several prototypes with reciprocating blades and single blades. None were simple and effective.
A bigger problem was moving greens into a catch basket. Over the next few years, prototypes used feather dusters on a belt and brushes of various kinds. He finally designed a 14-in. dia. brush from knotted rope with tassel-like tips that push the greens across the cutting edge and into the basket.
“With the brush working, I didn’t need as aggressive a blade and went back to twin blades with one reciprocating and the other stationary,” says Dysinger. “I designed it to be powered by a specific battery-powered drill, but realized people would want to use their own. I redesigned it with a universal mounting system to go with the customer’s drill.”
Throughout the effort, he credits the help of a retired engineer, a friend of the family, with getting the prototype finished. By March 2012, Dysinger had a working prototype. He shared it with Coleman and the product manager for Johnny’s Seeds. When Johnny’s offered to market the harvester, Dysinger needed money to set up shop.
“Finding funding was a challenge,” says Dysinger. “I whittled down the amount of tools and equipment as much as I could, but people were leery of funding it, even with a contract in hand.”
Some offered to provide money, but wanted 20 percent of the business. Dysinger wanted to retain independence. A farm customer helped out. He had started a Nashville, Tenn., chapter of Slow Money, a group devoted to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“He found people passionate about small farms that had money to lend,” says Dysinger. “They were excited about what I was doing and were willing to lend me the money.”
By the time Dysinger had the money, it was the first of October. Johnny’s was going to list the harvester in their November catalog. He ordered equipment and began making parts, getting 20 ready to send in November. Thanks to start-up kinks and a steep learning curve, it was February before the next 50 went out, but now production is working smoothly.
Johnny’s has priced the harvester at $495. It allows one person to harvest more than 175 lbs. of greens an hour. The 15-in. cutting head leaves a smooth cut while the brush pulls leaves back into the rear of the basket. Vertically adjustable skids ensure consistent cutting height.
Dysinger admits learning a lot about developing a product and bringing it to market in a few short years. It’s a hard-won education that he plans to continue putting into practice.
“I have more products in development,” he says. “I’m working on a micro-greens attachment and different ways to use the Quick Cut for different crops. I have a list of tool ideas for farms like ours and no end of ideas. My goal is to set up a shop where I can make just about anything.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Farmer’s Friend, LLC, 762 Dry Prong Rd.,
Williamsport, Tenn. 38487 (ph 931 626-4911; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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