By the mid-1970s, Kinze was growing steadily through sales of its grain carts and anhydrous ammonia applicators, as well as the adjustable width plow licensed to DMI, Inc.
Still, Jon Kinzenbaw sensed there was something missing from the Kinze product offering. That big idea that could propel his still-young company to the next level. Lo and behold, the big idea walked right into his shop.
In 1975, a farmer from southern Iowa stopped by the shop and commented that somebody should figure out how to fold a big planter horizontally to make it easier to move from field to field.
New to the market were 12-row planters that folded upward, which resulted in seed and insecticide being spilled from the hoppers. Folding vertically simply wasn’t a good way to transport a planter. Furthermore, planters larger than 12 rows were too tall and too wide to safely go down the road.
Another method competitors used to transport planters was the Donahue Trailer. This, however, was extremely time consuming and required farmers to load the planter on a trailer, unhook from the planter, hook up to the trailer and then pull it down the road to the next field.
“This was a just miserable arrangement,” Jon recalls. “Because once you reached the next field, the entire process had to be reversed in order to resume planting. This had to be done again and again for each new field.”
So Jon took it upon himself to build the first folding planter. By the fall of ’75, he had tested the first version of a folding 16-row planter. It was a semi-mounted version, however, and he wanted it to be a pull-type planter, so he redesigned it during the winter of ’76.
The prevailing design, which could accept International Harvester, Allis-Chalmers and John Deere row units, was used to build hundreds of rear-fold planters in 8-row, 12-row, 16-row and 24-row versions.
“There was clearly a need for a planter that you could fold mechanically from the tractor seat, would be narrow enough to drive down the road to the next farm, and then mechanically unfold to planting position,” Jon said. “Folding and transporting a planter this way took very little time and labor, which is why it was an overnight success.”
The innovation helped establish Kinze as the king of the planter toolbar. The company would later go on to reinvent the planter toolbar every way imaginable: split row/interplant (1978), double frame (1981), pivot fold (1985), front fold (1994) mounted stack fold (1995) and flex econo-fold (1998).
And if there’s still yet a better way to do it, rest assured Kinze will design and build it.