FARGO, N.D. — When the Big Iron farm show rolls around this week, show-goers can learn about technologies and services that will help farms and ranches thrive into the future.
Among the 900 exhibitor booths will be Red E LLC (Booth spaces W37 and W38) of Fargo, North Dakota, an engineering services and manufacturing support company that specializes in reviving and upgrading experienced air seeders.
This year is Red E’s sixth appearance at the 41-year-old event.
Red E representatives will be joined in their booth by ”FarmTubers” — agricultural “social media influencers” who they’ve done work for — each with hundreds of thousands of followers and views.
Red E has gained major exposure across the world after doing rebuilds with farms that have YouTube channels: Millennial Farmer, Zack Johnson from west-central Minnesota; Welker Farms, Shelby, Montana; and Fast Ag Montana, northeast Montana . The companies will have representatives in the Red E booth Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, and Wednesday, Sept. 15, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Red E is headed by the Faul brothers — Matt, president, and Jesse, vice president. The 38-year-old, distinctive, red-haired identical twins, both are engineering graduates from North Dakota State University.
Matt started Red E in West Fargo in December 2012. Jesse joined in 2015. Initially they focused on engineering service and part-sourcing for companies.
Red E got into designing a complete line of high-performance aftermarket parts for farmers.
Since 2013, they’ve manufactured extended wear parts for drills. Since 2017, they’ve made full stainless steel kits to replace the popular John Deere 1900 and 1910 model air carts, as well as analogous parts for Case IH and Flexi-Coil brands, both under the CNH umbrella.
They developed a hydraulic drive conversion on ground-drive air carts, to deliver accurate variable rating and easier calibration.
Increasingly, they’ve done on-site rebuilds.
They saw patterns of need for extended wear parts for air seeders in particular. They moved on to upgrading air carts, whose components — stainless steel metered housings, other things fertilizer touched — were rotting out from heavy fertilizer use.
“We constantly heard, over and over and over, that this equipment is growing in cost for new equipment, getting more and more expensive to replace,” Jesse said, adding, “We were able to help them repair their equipment and for a fraction of the cost of new.”
In 2020, Red E expanded and moved to Fargo. A big part of their business now is helping farmers rebuild and update the older air seeders they own on their farms, without having to trade them off for new.
It all starts when a customer contacts the company to order parts or to get an assessment on their machine. In about a fourth of those calls, the company sends a representative to physically provide a free inspection and estimate. Most visits result in business. A fourth of the customers hire the company for an on-site company “rebuild.”
Currently the crews are scheduling out more than a month for major rebuilds.
“We see a big uptick right before spring seeding,” which happens earlier in the southern U.S. versus Canada, Matt said. They expect to increase to do 100 on-site rebuilds a year.
When the farmer does the work themselves, Red E provides printed materials but also YouTube videos and phone consultations.
A “rebuild crew” visit, which involves four or five people — sometimes the company’s engineers — spending three to four days.
“Farmers love seeing engineers out there, working on their equipment,” Matt said.
It takes roughly 120 to 180 man hours to complete a rebuild project. The Red E crew will work in the winter, but with heated shops. And the work comes with a warranty.
“If we screwed up, it’s on us,” Matt said.
Besides designing better parts, they’re designing better tools — things like hydraulic press tools, geared specifically to accomplish a rebuild more efficiently or safely.
Better than before
Often, Red E’s clients own 10- to 20-year-old machines that have relatively low value because they need to be upgraded to do more than what they originally did.
In a typical example, Red E worked on a machine that a farmer purchased new in 2012 for about $100,000. The John Deere 1895 no-till drill was 43 feet wide drill with 430-bushel three-tank cart. The dealer (naturally) wanted the customer to trade the old drill in, but the model the farmer would trade for had gone up in price.
The dealer would take the drill in trade for a new machine of the original size if the farmer came up with $185,000. “It was no different, just newer,” Matt said.
Red E, however, offered to rebuild the drill for about $100,000, and add extras. They replaced disks, gauge wheels, all of the pivots, installed a full wireless blockage system, and added after-market notched “crumbler” closing wheels and seed diffusers. In addition, they did a full, three-tank stainless steel upgrade, with stainless tubes.
The difference — about $80,000 to $100,000 — is money the farmer can plow into other equipment needs.
The Fauls acknowledge farmers always can purchase replacement parts from the manufacturer and other after-market supplier. But Red E builds parts as upgrades — to last longer than the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts.
In 2020, Red E LLC moved its headquarters from a rented space in West Fargo to a space three times as large at 2700 Seventh Ave. N in Fargo — next door to Amity Technology, where the Fauls worked earlier in their careers. (Amity’s Howard Dahl is on Red E’s board of directors.)
They tripled their full-time staff to 17 and have another dozen part-timers, including interns. Red E also has a products specialist who farms full-time.
In 2021, Red E was honored by ranking 923rd in the so-called “Inc. 5000” list, a magazine’s rating of companies for overall revenue growth across three years (2018, 2019, and 2020). The company’s revenue grew by 524% across the three years. The company ranked second in North Dakota (behind PRx Performance, a company that makes fitness equipment), and 11th among engineering company applicants nationwide.
The Fauls said their parts customers often complained that their old blockage detection systems on air-seeders no longer worked — or never had in the first place. “We’ve identified the blockage system as the No. 1 of the top 10 drill fixes to do, is to make sure you have functioning blockage (detection),” Matt said.
“If you don’t (have a functioning system), like our engineering manager said, you’re just drawing lines in the sand and not getting a crop,” Jesse said.
And so Red E became a dealer for the Recon system, built by Intelligent Ag Solutions of Fargo. It’s a wireless blockage detection system, designed and assembled in Fargo, with most of the parts sourced in the United States. Intelligent Ag Solutions LLC was formed in 2011, a company started by Howard Dahl and Barry Batcheller — two living legends in agricultural machinery entrepreneurship. The Recon Wireless Blockage and Flow Monitor system uses acoustic sensors to monitor seed flow, compatible with tablets and nearly any brand of equipment.
In fact, Red E became the No. 1 dealership in the world for Intelligent Ag.
Increasingly, Red E gets their message out using social media, reaching customers in most of the United States and Canadian provinces, but also in countries worldwide, Australia New Zealand, Russia, and Ukraine among them. The company ships kits to Washington, Oregon, New York, Quebec. They've done rebuilds in Saskatchewan.
Social media and magazine ratings offer advantages, but the Fauls — both strong Christians — emphasize that the bedrock of strength is from the Lord, who they believe provides skills and employees to help them succeed. “Red E hasn’t changed who we are,” Matt said, of the recognition. “We’ve just been discovered.”