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  • Rob

Evolvit: A Journey Through Agriculture, Innovation, and Resilience

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Agriculture is more than a profession; it's in my blood. I grew up hearing tales of my father's family farm, stories of hard work, determination, and the rewards of nurturing the land. From a young age, I knew I was destined to build and create – not just any machines, but robots that could revolutionize the world of farming.

Even as a child, I yearned to be part of the action. I watched my older brothers head out to work on various farms, earning their keep and saving up for school clothes. I begged to join them, to be part of that world, but they insisted I was too young. That is, until one farmer made me a promise: when I turned eight, he'd give me a job. I couldn't contain my excitement on my eighth birthday. I jumped into the truck with my brothers, eager to begin my journey into the working world. This was the start of my lifelong connection to agriculture.

1976 marked my first day of a "real" paying job. I walked behind the seasoned farmworkers, responsible for picking up the leaves missed or dropped while they tied tobacco leaves to sticks for drying. It was grueling, under the scorching sun, and my arms bore the marks of hard labor. That night, I got sick and threw up several times, but the next morning, I was right back at that truck, ready for another day. I learned quickly, stepping up to different positions, all the while observing the farming process with keen interest.

My story with automation began here. Year after year, I witnessed the marvels of progress and automation in farming. From that point, every crop I worked on was a canvas for me to explore automation possibilities.

High school opened new doors. I joined the FFA, took mechanic classes, and immersed myself in Land Lab and Horticulture classes. These experiences, taught on actual farms, laid the foundation for my future endeavors.

My thirst for knowledge and adventure led me to the armed services, where I gained insights into electronics and communication. Once out of the service, I ventured into mechanics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and automation, further deepening my understanding of machinery. My natural inclination to seek improvements kicked in as I took on an engineering role in a manufacturing company.

Heading up production lines across five locations presented me with the formidable challenge of improving existing setups. I initiated preventative maintenance strategies and identified opportunities for enhancements, resulting in increased production at all five sites. I designed special equipment to tackle specific challenges, scoured the market for more efficient tools and machinery, and occasionally had to coax manufacturers into customizing equipment to align with our needs.

Even during weekends, I continued my side work with fruit and vegetable growers, troubleshooting equipment, and proposing improvements. Eventually, I joined a company specializing in industrial and produce equipment. Word of mouth about my problem-solving skills reached their ears, and I was offered a position that held the promise of a partnership.

Harvest of onions

My time with this company broadened my horizons. I soaked in knowledge and eventually felt the urge to launch my enterprise. At 25, I started my first business, focusing on supplying turnkey solutions from seed to table, with a partner who shared my vision. Within two years, we had to part ways; my heart leaned toward fresh fruit and vegetables, while my partner was drawn to canning.

In an inspired move, I founded a new company at the tender age of 27, this time with my now ex-wife as my partner. We began operating the business out of our home, we embraced a seasonal business model centered around local crops. During the off-season, I channeled my energies into diverse roles, working on nuclear plants, doing carpentry, millwright, and welding work.

Our reputation for finding innovative solutions began to flourish. Customers who initially sought our services began to ask for parts, upgrades, and assistance in enhancing their facilities. We started manufacturing equipment, constantly exploring potential manufacturing partners willing to customize designs to better suit our purposes.

Over the course of 25 years, we collaborated with over 14 manufacturers, reengineering and adapting their equipment to the unique needs of our customer base. We toiled in fields and orchards, reimagining and reconstructing machinery to reduce damage, enhance quality, improve efficiency, and cut labor costs. It wasn't just about improving existing equipment; it was about making it right the first time.

We addressed bottlenecks and worked tirelessly to ensure our solutions enhanced productivity without creating new problems. We made every effort to align our goals with those of our customers and manufacturers, ultimately creating a thriving ecosystem.

Despite the success, we faced challenges. Our manufacturers, once loyal allies, succumbed to the temptation of greed and sought to seize our hard-earned knowledge. They attempted to profit at our expense, threatening our years of dedication and hard-won reputation

But we held our ground. As they strayed from the path of collaboration, focusing solely on financial gain, we reminded them of their commitment to our shared mission. When several customers encountered the same issues, we stood up, demanding that the manufacturers rectify their practices.

We would no longer support those who prioritized profits over the principles we held dear. In response, these manufacturers sought to cut ties and deal directly with our customers. We refused to back down and shifted our focus to manufacturers who shared our values and our dedication to customer satisfaction.

This journey of continuous evolution taught us invaluable lessons about staying true to the customer's needs, achieving progress without creating further complications, and focusing on the end goal. Our enduring commitment to providing effective solutions remained unshaken.

But challenges persisted. In the midst of a successful venture, COVID-19 arrived, and our business faced the ultimate test. Unfortunately, we didn't survive the onslaught. The same manufacturers we had dedicated ourselves to over the years failed to offer support when we needed it most, opting instead to seize the opportunity to establish their own foothold in the market.

Yet, our story is one of resilience and adaptation. We emerged from the turmoil, driven by lessons learned and experiences accumulated over three decades. Now, with Evolvit, we embark on a new journey, armed with our knowledge and an unwavering commitment to transforming challenges into opportunities.

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