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Making farming tools that last

Interview with Philip Westman, Sales Director Subsidiaries at Väderstad AB

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“The soil in the area around Väderstad is fairly heavy, so not only were the wooden implements time-consuming to produce every year, they didn’t do a particularly good job either,” explains Sales Director Subsidiaries Philip Westman. “This was another reason why Rune Stark decided that steel tools would be far more effective. Initially, as a farmer, he just wanted to make his own life easier, but as other farmers saw the benefits, his vision formed the basis of what is today a hugely successful company.”

Väderstad is renowned for innovation, bringing new machines to the market that directly improve farming methods and add value for its customers. From its roots in Mr. Stark’s invention, the company has continued to set trends over the following six decades, with a steady stream of new components and machinery. “In 1991, we launched a repeat seed drill,” Mr. Westman illustrates. “This changed the market completely because it was capable of driving into many different types of soils and, as a result, managed to double the speed of drilling.”

Both speed and efficiency are crucial for farmers; in the same year, and with this goal in mind, Väderstad launched its new disk cultivators, and in 2012 it introduced Tempo, its new generation, high-speed, high-precision planter. “The Tempo has changed the industry completely,” underlines Mr. Westman. “We proved that it was possible to double planting speed – previously this had been unthinkable – and, as a result, we are now the market leader in this area. This is actually quite an achievement, since Sweden is a northern country and doesn’t grow very many planter crops. Nevertheless, we have shown that we have the expertise.”

Today, Väderstad produces agricultural components in three categories: Tillage, Drilling and Planting. The company is 100% focused on these three sectors, with no plans to diversify into other areas. “Our goal is market leadership across these three product segments,” the Sales Director stresses. “The overriding aim of the company is to provide modern agriculture with the tools it needs to simplify the work of farmers and enable them to produce more food. The world’s population is rising, resulting in more people to feed, and the demand for higher food standards is also increasing. At the same time, a lot of agricultural land is disappearing, which means that we need to get more out of each hectare, and be more efficient in growing food.”

We proved that it was possible to double planting speed. Philip WestmanSales Director
Philip Westman

To achieve this goal, innovation remains at the heart of Väderstad’s operation. For the past two decades, the company has been working with digital technologies; over the last ten years, this aspect of its work has grown dramatically. A wireless connection to the tractor provides the facility to monitor Väderstad’s machines by iPad, which offers huge advantages and creates a strong platform on which to build.

So what other factors have contributed to Väderstad’s significant and continuing success? “We build very robust machines, which last a lifetime,” Mr. Westman says. “They are built to withstand harsh Swedish conditions – hard stony soil – so I am convinced that the lifespan of our machines when used on challenging terrain is much longer than for other products on the market. We try to get close to the farmers to understand every aspect of their work. Our importers and dealers are continually listening and collecting ideas, but this philosophy applies throughout the whole company. I also think the fact that we are still a family-owned company helps farmers feel a strong connection; farms are often also family businesses.”

Still owned by the Stark family, the Väderstad group consists of three production units: a main factory and a parts factory in Sweden, and a facility in Canada. Most of the components are manufactured in house. With 1,500 employees in total, Väderstad turns over 335 million EUR per annum; revenues have grown dramatically over the past two years due to the success of the Tempo planter. With a network of sales subsidiaries – either direct or via dealers – in 15 countries, Väderstad is well placed to serve the international market.

“We have a good foundation in Europe – Sweden, Germany, the UK and France – as well as Russia, the Ukraine and Canada, and are now trying to build upon this as well as expand into new markets – North and South America, for example, where precision drillers and planters are of particular interest,” Mr. Westman explains.

The Sales Director joined Väderstad in 2011, and is currently responsible for the sales subsidiaries. “I have always been interested in the farming business,” he says. “Initially, I actually wanted to become a farmer, but then went to university and decided to focus on the development of farming machinery instead.”

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Väderstad has been able to keep its operations running and fulfil farmers’ orders, a very positive message for farmers who are, generally, not extensively affected by recession. The company is continuing to look to the future, and is currently rebuilding its facilities in Sweden and investing in a new spare parts production unit in Canada. “Digitalization continues to be high on our agenda, to allow us to connect to future trends,” Mr. Westman sums up. “Our aim is steady, manageable growth – one new innovation a year, which must ultimately be faster, better and capable of handling two operations in one pass. Väderstad’s vision is to be the leading partner for outstanding emergence, simplifying the work of farmers while maintaining safety and quality.” All underpinned, naturally, by Rune Stark’s philosophy of ‘make it last’.