It’s one of the world’s leading manufacturers of potato harvesting equipment, and you’re invited on a tour
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BLACKFOOT — Day one of Spudnik’s first-ever two-day ag summit in Blackfoot got underway at 10:00 Monday morning.
The event coincides with the Idaho Potato Conference and Ag Expo in Pocatello. Education sessions will be held both days where people can hear from notable guest speakers in the potato-growing industry. Those who attend will also be able to take a tour of Spudnik’s production facility and see a variety of harvesting equipment on display.
Jamison Potter, a sales and marketing representative, tells EastIdahoNews.com Spudnik is an often overlooked business in eastern Idaho and this summit is a unique opportunity for people to see exactly what they have to offer.
“It’s exciting especially for those who live in eastern Idaho. They see Spudnik equipment around and it gives people a lot of pride to know what’s being produced here. This should be exciting for people to see expansion and development that is happening in the potato business,” Potter says.
Spudnik manufactures harvesting equipment for farmers around the world and the typical annual revenue for Spudnik is hundreds of millions of dollars.
Spudnik began offering potato storage equipment more than 40 years ago. Since then, the company has evolved into one of the leading creators of potato harvesting equipment in the world. They produce machinery for every stage of the harvest season, including planters, harvesters, and windrowers, as well as equipment involved in transporting and storing potatoes.
One of the company’s biggest sellers is the harvester, Potter says. (Potter explains how a harvester works in the video player above.)
Growth in the ag industry and increasing demands for Spudnik products spurred an expansion project that began several years ago. Around 200,000-square-feet of production space has been added, more than doubling the size of their building.
“We used to have four lines that we were producing equipment through. With this expansion, it’s going to give us eight lines,” Potter says. “We have a couple pieces of equipment that (take) 1,100 to 1,200 man-hours (to build).”
The production schedule goes through the end of August, Potter says, so they have to churn out inventory at a fast pace. Having eight production lines will allow them to have greater flexibility in meeting those demands.
“Potato farmers want to be innovative and we try to have four to five prototype pieces of equipment that are ready for the next harvest every year and that’s been one of Spudnik’s biggest strengths,” Potter says.
Potter says they’re producing more windrowers (a digging machine that piles up potatoes in rows for the harvester) this year than they ever have and they’ll be starting production on six-row windrowers in February.
Despite a challenging year for potato growers in eastern Idaho, Potter says the potato market is doing really well in North America and across the globe.
“It was a tough harvest year. We had a lot of cold weather here in Idaho and in other areas,” Potter says. “Manitoba, Canada left 15,000 acres of potatoes in the ground that would’ve gone to Simplot or McCain Foods. That’s a big deal.”
But grocery stores and the restaurant industry drives demand for potatoes, and Potter says a decrease in the supply pushes up the price and makes it good for businesses and consumers.
With the expansion, Spudnik is looking to hire up to 50 new employees in a variety of trades, including engineering, software development and electricians.
Potter says this is an exciting time to be in this industry and there is great opportunity for those who are passionate about potatoes.
“I didn’t grow up on a potato farm. I started in this business in 2008 and I love it,” he says. “Every year, it’s like getting ready for the Superbowl. It’s a fantastic company and a fantastic industry.”
The summit goes until 6 p.m. Monday and then kicks off again at 10 a.m. Tuesday and will go until 9 p.m. Lunch will be provided both days and a career night is scheduled for Monday night at 5:30.
“On Tuesday night, we’ll do our dinner for our open house,” says Potter. “Another fun thing about the potato industry is that we’re all friends. We work with them regularly, and so to get us all together is really exciting.”