The first Apache sprayer rolled out the door in 1997. It was built by a new Indiana company, which found a home near Mooresville.
“The guys who started the company saw a need for a simple sprayer that farmers could work on,” says Kevin Covey, general manager of product support for Equipment Technologies. “Most of the self-propelled sprayers featured hydrostatic drive. One big selling point of the Apache was mechanical drive, which made it a simpler machine. Roundup Ready soybeans were introduced, and it was good timing to introduce a new line of sprayers.”
Much has changed since then, but Equipment Technologies still builds Apache sprayers with mechanical drive. However, the sprayers can be equipped with cutting-edge precision application technology. Equipment Technologies’ newest model features the Raven Viper 4 controller, with the Raven Hawkeye system as an option. It allows for nozzle-by-nozzle control.
Matt Hays joined Equipment Technologies in 2002, and eventually became one of six owners the company until 2016. “The people who started the company found an empty building in an industrial park, and it became the manufacturing facility,” Hays says. “Today, we’re an anchor for the industrial park.”
Equipment Technologies opened a second major facility just a short distance away in 2012. “It’s our parts distribution center, but it also houses offices and training facilities,” he says. “Training of service technicians is important to us. We have a room with individual stations where we can plug in various monitors and simulate operations.”
Change came to Equipment Technologies in 2016. New owners purchased the company. Business was on a downturn due to the dip in the farm economy. But that wasn’t the reason for the change, Hays says.
“Some owners were getting older and wanted to divest their shares,” he explains. “We found a buyer in Exel Industries in Paris, France.”
Exel Industries is a third-generation, family-owned business, Hays says. “They let us run our own operation, and we remain pretty autonomous,” he notes. “They made it clear early that they preferred that whatever we sold was built in the U.S.”
Equipment Technologies introduced Bruin sprayers with hydrostatic drive for 2018. “It’s like a sprayer Exel sells in Europe, but was redesigned for the American market,” Hays says. “We’re in the process of transferring production here. Hopefully within 12 months, the Bruin line will be built totally here in Mooresville.”
Sales of sprayers slipped significantly for a couple of years after farm prices dipped, Covey says. Last year sales were flat compared to the year before, and this year they were modestly higher than a year ago.
“We feel the market has bottomed out,” Hays says.
Covey notes that rising prices in the used sprayer market is another indication demand is returning.
Meanwhile, the company hasn’t sat still. Besides introducing cutting-edge technology, they also introduced the Apache AS630 — smallest in the line yet new from the ground up.
“We see a need for a sprayer which the 1,500- to 2,000-acre farmer can afford,” Hays says. “We expect good things from this introduction.”