By Pat Rediger
Farmers are known for having a strong voice. When they raise the need for an innovative product to meet their farming needs, Morris Industries has always been willing to lend an ear.
Morris Industries, founded in 1929, specializes in creating a wide range of products for farmers including air drills, air carts, tillage, seedbed preparation and bale carrier products. The company has a corporate office and training centre in Saskatoon and manufacturing facilities in Yorkton and Minnedosa, MB.
For several years the company’s slogan has been: “We hear you”.
“Listening to the farmer is one of the core principles that this company was founded on,” said Morris Industries President and CEO Ben Voss. “It continues to play an important role in setting the direction of the company. From 1929 until today, we have listened – intently and sincerely – to the farmer. Over the years, farmers have told us what they need to be successful and we have worked hard to translate innovative technology into products that help farmers succeed. We don’t tell our customer what they should want in the area of precision seeding technology; we ask them what they want to do, and we help them do it. It’s a simple idea, but a powerful one.”
Voss said the company’s philosophy was inspired by its founder, George Morris, who was always trying to understand the needs of farmers. In 1929, Morris owned the Morris Rod-Weeder Company in Bangor and experienced a breakthrough that truly laid the roots for Morris Industries. He developed the world's first automatic trip release, enabling farmers working stony land to greatly increase the life of their tillage equipment.
“It's a matter of doing the right thing at the right time,” George Morris was once quoted.
As Morris Industries has expanded over the years and gone through leadership changes, the company has continued to listen to the customer and create innovative products in response to their feedback.
In 1960, the company developed the Morris Seed-Rite Hoe Drill, which combines the functions of the cultivator, seed drill and rod weeder in a single implement. The equipment reduces costs for farmers and helps prevent soil erosion and moisture loss.
In 2007, Morris Industries was sold to Casey Davis. Under new leadership, Morris expanded its line of bale hauling equipment by acquiring ProAG Designs, Inc., a Montana based premier manufacturer of large bale hauling and stacking machines. That same year, Morris Industries released its Contour Drill, which provides increased crop yields as a result of precise seed placement utilizing independent row units.
Another leadership change occurred in 2017 when Voss led a group of new investors who became majority shareholders of the company. Since then, the company has embarked on what Voss calls an “ambitious plan of regrowth with a focus on technological innovation and expanded engineering capacity.”
In recent years, the company introduced the 9 Series air carts, which significantly enhances the functionality and options that farmers have.
The company’s Quantum air drill was launched last year, which Voss said marks a major step forward for the company. After hearing from farmers who said they wanted more durable seeding equipment, Morris set its research and development to work.
“The Quantum air drill is an excellent example of how listening to our customers has helped us design a product that is better suited to the changing needs of the industry,” Voss said. “We invested heavily into new manufacturing tools and adopted a process of continuous improvement that is allowing us to design and build durability into our products in ways no other agricultural manufacturer can easily replicate.”
He added that the company also heard from its dealer network that there was a concern over the trade-in value of used equipment. this led to the Quantum being designed so it can easily be reconfigured to match the requirements of future customers. This, in turn, makes it easier for dealers to match the traded-in equipment with new owners.
As Morris Industries continue to grow moving forward, the company is utilizing technology to enhance its manufacturing process. Voss noted that the company has invested heavily in upgrading its manufacturing plants with tube laser and robotic laser welding technology.
“This is allowing us to completely change how we design and manufacture products, so we can meet the needs of farmers,” Voss said. “We are going to be able to solve the problems that farmers face when it comes to producing durable equipment, that deliver high productivity gains, in ways that are unique from other agricultural equipment manufacturers.”
Being located on the prairies, which Voss considers to be the “Silicon Valley” of precision air seeding technology development, gives Morris Industries confidence to explore new technology. “Consider that most of the big equipment in agriculture is made by huge companies with global footprints. By contrast, almost all the new ideas and innovations for precision seeding technology come out of companies like Morris,” Voss said. “That is why I am so confident about the future of Morris Industries. We know who we are, and we know why we are here. Our customers tell us every day what it is they need to be successful and that helps us develop products that meet their needs and the needs of farmers all over the world.”
Morris Industries feels right at home in Saskatchewan. Voss said he sometimes thinks of Morris Industries as a “seed planted in fertile ground.”
“There is an ecosystem here of engineers, agronomists and farming experts who have grown up in Western Canada; these professionals care deeply about agriculture and use their knowledge and experience to continually bring the farmer fresh ideas and better tools,” Voss said. “Many of the best and most passionate of these people work right here. Though grounded in the prairies, we have also grown an extensive network that expands well outside of our Western Canadian home base. The world recognizes this, which speaks to why we export to so many countries around the world.”