SureFire Ag Systems

Providing well-tuned fertilizer application systems for growers
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

In 2007 Matt Wolters, Josh and Lisa Wolters, as well as Blaine and Erin Ginther established SureFire Ag Systems (SureFire). All founding members of the SureFire team came from backgrounds in agricultural equipment technology. After innumerable conversations about setting out on their own, the team set up shop at an old farmstead in Atwood, Kansas. For more than seven years, the business has grown, eventually requiring more space. The team upgraded facilities and has remained connected to the Atwood community since inception.

SureFire is a unique business, combining technology with classic American know-how to provide innovative agricultural products throughout the United States and Canada. The company specializes in providing onboard liquid application solutions for a range of farm equipment, from row crop planters, and small grains seeders to specialized potato planting.

With a growing market share from coast to coast in North America, the crew of 40 dedicated employees works with customers to tailor liquid fertilizer and chemical application products to the equipment and functional needs of individual growers.

Up to spec

“The products we produce are typically a package of goods or a kit that go on as an attachment to existing equipment,” Matt elaborates. “Most often the application is fertilizer, though in some types of production there are fungicides and pesticides used, as well. For example, the most common thing we do is provide a fertilizer attachment kit for a corn planter. The kit is custom configured for the specific make and model of planter the customer is using. Additionally it is designed with the correct harnessing to integrate with the electronic control platform the customer is utilizing.”

Matt goes on to explain that approximately 20 years ago the technology used in tractor cabs started evolving at a rapid rate. “Today nearly all tractors have a computerized control platform that controls the many functions of the tractor and implement,” he elaborates. “Our goal is to make integrating our fertilizer systems simple and easy with the technology the producer already has in the cab.”

SureFire systems are not typically patented. Successfully configuring an application system requires attention to detail. The benefit of working with SureFire is the team’s collective experience, so farmers do not have to go through the learning curves on their own.

The organization custom-fits products to operate efficiently with different equipment, implements, interface capabilities and requirements, as well as the type of fertilizer or chemical the grower will be using. SureFire works with end-users to specify exactly what kind of system will meet their needs.

A growing product line

In 2011, the company began bulking up capabilities by developing an engineering group to perform more in-house design work. In the years since, the team has been working to provide innovative, precise and durable products for SureFire’s large customer base. In September 2013, the business introduced the first major addition to the product line.

The QuickDraw is a fully automated spray tender system that manages the process of loading and mixing a field sprayer. “From a development perspective, the electrical specialists on our team really brought this product to life,” Matt explains. “Our in-house mechanical drafter was also a great asset. We had a limited release of the QuickDraw all through last winter, and as of December 2014, we are now in full production.”

In spring 2014, the business introduced Liquishift, a system for variable rate application of liquids. “With traditional equipment, there is a limit to how wide of a range of application you can apply as you go across a field,” Matt elaborates. “With this product, our growers are able to achieve five to eight wider range of application rates. This product serves what is widely referred to as precision farming. The controls allow site-specific management of materials, applying prescription rates as growers move across the field. We are also in full production of this product.”

Managing growth

SureFire has experienced steady growth since it began in 2007. The team is proud of the progress the business has made, although Matt notes that growth is not as rapid as it was the first five years.

“2007 marked the beginning of the five most profitable years for U.S. agriculture in a long time,” he explains. “We were very fortunate, but there were some growing pains. The biggest challenges at that point were just keeping our arms around what was going on. Over the last 18 months, things have begun to slow down as commodities prices stabilize. We are in new territory, but we are working to adjust the way we approach management. There are still a lot of opportunities for us, but the market is different.”

With serious fluctuation in agriculture, Matt says he is most grateful for his team. “Relationships have been one of the biggest factors in our success these last seven years,” he elaborates. “Our existing relationships are what helped us get our foot in the door when we first started this organization. Now our greatest asset is our staff. Our team is second to none when it comes to what they do and the commitment they show in taking care of our customers. I can’t emphasize that enough.”

While the people are great, SureFire’s management structure helps encourage employee involvement. In 2010, the business established an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) that gives team members’ financial stake in the business.

When it comes to personal stake, management keeps employees involved through inviting them to participate in the decision-making process. Every member of the staff attends regular financial meetings, outlining the company’s position. Matt and his partners also trust employees to take more control over their work by reducing the amount of decisions that have to come through the higher-ups.

With such a tight-knit team, it should come as no surprise that employee engagement has paid off. Matt is happy to report that the business has low turnover and a high rate of customer satisfaction. Together, the crew at SureFire Ag Systems continues to provide unparalleled service and products to growers across North America.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Wilger, Inc.