Members of Young Professionals in Agriculture (YPiA) met at Bratney Companies in Des Moines, IA on February 13th to take an exclusive inside look at Bratney’s corporate headquarters and testing facilities. We especially would like to thank Peter Bratney, CEO and Dave Ewald, Director of Marketing and Customer Service for hosting us at Bratney Companies.
Front (L to R): Clint Glaser, Dave Ewald, Jared Bramer, Patrick Kane, Celina Young, Crystal Olig, Peter Bratney, Laura Plumb, Nathan Katzer, Aaron Bartholomay, Ian Anderson, & Kurt Kruger
Back (L to R): Joe Kraber, Joe Ripperger, Don McDowell
In the early 1960s, Bratney Companies’ founder, Ken Bratney, was living and working in the Pacific Northwest. In 1964, Ken packed his wife and five children up and moved to the Midwest to pursue an opportunity to sell seed and grain cleaning equipment in the Iowa and Missouri territory. This was the start of Bratney Companies. Business began to boom shortly after the large move. One of the major issues farmers were facing at this time was how they would handle and store wet shelled corn, because farm equipment manufacturers introduced the self-cleaning rotary combine. Ken Bratney fulfilled his customers’ needs with a top of the line grain dryer.
At first, Bratney Companies only sold equipment, but soon Ken realized how important it was to provide engineering to retrofit and design systems for their customers. Not long after, Bratney began providing construction services as well. Today, 70% of their projects are completed with resources in house.
Bratney Companies currently has 150 employees throughout the United States and Argentina. They are proud to be family-owned. Peter is the third generation leading Bratney Companies.
What They Do:
Bratney provides innovative solutions for many sectors of food and fiber production. The core of the business is specialized equipment which is used for the removal of foreign material and bad product from good desirable agricultural product, as well as the processing, treatment, storage, and packaging of that product. Bratney also provides process design and engineering solutions to support the equipment it sells, as well as in-house construction and fabrication expertise. This allows Bratney to provide its many customers with a total turn-key “A-Z” solution. In many cases, the equipment provided by Bratney utilizes techniques which have been applied all throughout human history, modernized into mechanical and electrical machines to carry out the same exact process. Ultimately, this equipment increases efficiency and adds value for their customers.
Bratney has also developed strategic relationships with equipment companies outside of the U.S.; including Cimbria, Concetti, Omas, Schule, and BoMill. Each of Bratney’s partners are based in Europe, and are internationally recognized as the highest-caliber and quality of equipment for each of their respective product classes. Bratney represents its partners to agricultural end-users on an exclusive basis in the U.S. and Argentina. Bratney also provides ongoing preventative maintenance and on-call emergency repair service for each of these products.
One of Bratney Companies’ core values is that, “If we sell it, design it or build it, it will reflect our commitment to quality and work as intended.”
Question & Answer Session:
What are your backgrounds, Peter & Dave?
Peter said, “I studied business and finance at Boston College. I then attend law school at the University of Iowa. I practiced business and transactional law with a Des Moines firm for a few years. The opportunity then arose to come back to the family business. I have been at Bratney for 10 years now.”
Dave said, “I began at Bratney Companies about 30 years ago. I remember when the entire team could fit around this board room table (~10 employees).”
How did you choose your geographic locations?
“We are involved in many diverse markets in agribusiness, so we knew we had to be strategic on our placement of office and salesperson locations, even though the products sold are very similar within different regions. Overall, by being geographically diversified, we believe we are ideally positioned to serve our customers. Long term, we are going to continue to grow by filling geographic and product solution gaps in the market.”
Why did you expand into Argentina, opposed to another South American country?
“Many U.S. seed industry companies, including many of our current customers, utilize Argentina’s growing season as a second growing season for their products. We chose to expand there to provide additional services to our current US based customers. Our S.A. sales team also has been able to expand the business to service South American based companies.”
How did you go about your agreements and negotiations with your partners?
“Each agreement is negotiated individually between the partner and us. We strive to work with companies with similar business cultures who are focused on customer satisfaction and service, over short-term profit at the expense of the customer. At Bratney, our reputation for integrity drives our long-term customer relationships. Overall, these relationships are mutually beneficial to both Bratney and our proprietary equipment partners.”
How do you stay in compliance with US food safety and safety regulations when you represent products produced outside of the US?
“The European Union has very strict safety and food safety laws, so all machines we represent are manufactured to meet their standards. Our customers see this as a major benefit because they are aware of how difficult it is to meet the EU specifications.”
What is your highest-selling proprietary machine?
“The exact mix of equipment we sell in any given year will vary, depending on industry needs and new technology. Recently, we’ve had great success with advancements in vision sorting equipment manufactured by Cimbria, as well as with state-of-the-art high-speed and high-accuracy packaging and palletizing equipment from Concetti. Our most-sold machine that we’ve developed in house is currently a special tape-coding machine, which is an add-on for packaging systems. It uses laser inkjet technologies to print lot numbers, dates, etc. onto bags during the packaging process.”
Test & Training Facility Tour:
This facility is used for many different things, including customer training, team meetings, service, and sales.
When Bratney is working on capturing a sale with a customer they will have the customer send in samples of their raw products. Bratney then will break down their processes and be able to show the customer the results of their machines. See example below:
Photos of Test & Training Facility Tour:
Peter and Dave show off one of Bratney’s testing facility lab-sized units, the BoMill iQ Grain Quality Separator. BoMill technology is used to separate wheat kernels and other products based on protein content, vomitoxin contamination, kernel hardness, falling number, and other properties. The machine uses light transmittance to create a distribution curve for the kernel lot, which the machine operator may then use for segmenting the product based on the desired trait. This is a highly valued machine, because end customers of wheat products will pay premiums for different protein contents-- for example, biscuit bakers prefer high protein wheat whereas distilleries prefer low protein wheat. The BoMill can also be used to render previously unsafe contaminated lots of wheat safe for animal or human consumption, by removing the kernels with the highest concentration of contamination.
This Frito-Lay facility in Gothenburg, NE was designed and built by Bratney. It is a cleaning and storage facility for yellow and white corn used to make many of Frito-Lay’s chip products.
Dave explains how a cleaning machine works. This machine specifically uses screens and air to clean seed.
Dave demonstrates an optical color sorting machine. The operator can set specific parameters. The machine uses cameras to find the defective seeds. When a defect is found, an air injector shoots a puff of air to knock the defect out of the product stream. There are 50 air injectors that each can fire 500 times per second in this machine.
Dave explains to the group how a flour roll mill works. This machine is produced by their partner Omas. It includes several patented innovations which set it apart from other similar flour milling products—in terms of both energy efficiency and quality of flour produced.