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“We have a responsibility towards our environment and our people,” says Wynn Dedwith, founder and owner of Valtrac, the agricultural machinery manufacturer, which recently celebrated its 21st birthday in the company of its people and in the environment it is dedicated to.
Farmers, dealers, suppliers, personnel, the media and the extended Dedwith family gathered at the Afridome in Parys for a HUGE feast.
In an interview with ProAgri immediately before the festivities, Wynn embroidered on the founding, principles and the future of Valtrac on the South African agricultural scene.
“I was only a dairy farmer and I had problems obtaining dependable equipment and service; the aim never was to sell tractors and implements!” says Wynn. His search for a tractor for his farm led him to Volvo and from there to Valmet, the predecessor of the present Valtra tractors.
As a result of a series of events, such as the closing of the Valmet dealership at that time, a number of tractors that were to be sold arrived on the Dedwith farm.
Wynn says before the first demonstration he prayed that the tractors should not perform as he had promised so that he could escape from the whole escapade. However, similar to the Valtra tractors of today, the Valmets exceeded all expectations.
From that point onwards there was no way of going back to what was before!
An interesting fact in this history is that the Valtrac name came into being even before Valmat had changed to Valtra.
From Valmet to Valtrac to Valtra!
A business site was bought in Parys and a natural development took place – from tractors to those implements really needed by farmers. However, the first implement supply agreement had not been planned at all. Wynn was in Brazil to investigate the Valtra tractors then being manufactured there. When he saw a farmer – on the farm – changing discs but not bearings, he found it intriguing and started asking questions. The implement concerned was a product of Tatu Marchesan and the bearings, which ran in oil, a development by the company.
Wynn could not succeed in importing the bearings only, and then embarked on distributing Tatu equipment in South Africa.
“We are farmers ourselves and we cooperate with other farmers and agricultural bodies such as the Dry Bean Producers’ Organisation, The Milk Producers’ Organisation, Pecan nut farmers and Grain SA to establish what exactly the needs of the farmer are before we start hunting for it on the international market,” says Wynn.
Another requirement is that Valtrac prefer to form partnerships with organisations which respect its own values and these are mostly family undertakings. “For example – there is a Mr Jeantil and a Mr Pöttinger,” says Wynn. “They are representatives of such organisations which attended the celebration.
All the equipment manufacturers, similar to Valtra, are top international achievers, regularly winning sought-after accolades for technology.
Valtrac’s relationship with no-till practice also came about as a result of keen observations. Wynn says he observed that the soil in his cultivated pasture land, where only sowing is done and no cultivation, was much softer and more fertile than the soil in the mealie lands, which were cultivated annually.
This observation again took him to Brazil – the leader with no-till – and Valtrac was the first company to distribute special no-till seed-drills in South Africa.
It is part of Valtrac’s principles to be responsible towards the environment and also towards the farmers. “Even in a difficult season a farmer cannot only save on inset costs, but he has a better chance of gaining a yield in a drought,” says Wynn.
Valtrac’s responsibility towards the farmer stretches much further than the supply of top quality equipment. For every 40 new tractors that are sold, a further technical team is formed regarding politics and to ensure that no Valtrac farmer comes to a standstill.
Regarding politics and uncertainties about land ownership that are in the air at present, Wynn believes things will calm down after the election. “We have a responsibility towards the 200 people employed by Wynnwith Dairies and Valtrac, and towards the community around us. As long as we are able to do business in South Africa, we will be here to do that business!”
The next generation is waiting in the wings to take over!