The key to successful modern farming is science and technological development: understanding the soils and conditions, choosing the best farming techniques to optimise productivity sustainably. And what is science without the dreamers? The ones who see the way things might be, could be, if only… The story of HORSCH Australia came from the meeting of two such minds, two Ag men a world apart, who believed passionately there was a better way. Michael Horsch and Peter Jack.
Muddy River Agricultural Pty Ltd
Peter Jack established Muddy River Agricultural in Australia, in 1992. His training in agribusiness and strategic planning, together with years of experience in seeding and cultivation technology, led him to secure exclusive distribution rights to some of the world’s best brands of shortline farm machinery. “I understood the increasing challenges Australian farmers face,” Peter said. “I knew technologies were being developed overseas that could provide synergies with farming practices here, saving time and labour, reducing costs, significantly increasing productivity. “With many Australian distributors and dealers tied to big brand offerings, I saw the chance to introduce the latest and best in shortline farm machinery, but I also knew these machines had to be well suited to Australian conditions.”
Immediately impressed by the build, brilliant design and innovative technology coming out of the HORSCH factory in Germany, Peter approached Michael Horsch about Australian distribution rights for HORSCH seeding and cultivation machinery.
But Michael Horsch declined. At that stage, given their incredible growth, he didn’t think HORSCH in Germany could adequately look after Australian farmers. Working in different conditions on the other side of the world requires changes to suit regional nuances. Peter said, back then, he didn’t fully understand that for Michael Horsch, for the entire Horsch family, it wasn’t just about sales.
“They see it as crucial to their way of working that they offer only the best solutions to farmers. But for me, it felt like I’d stepped up and asked someone to dance and been refused,” he said, laughing. “Eventually, after a visit from Traugott Horsch, I persuaded them it could be done. Years of research and trials followed whilst HORSCH studied Australian regional conditions and worked to configure and adapt their precision designs to our needs.”
“Farmers talk,” Peter said. “They talk about yields, costs, rain, drought – and machinery. They can sometimes be slow to change their ways, slow to spend hard earned cash on new technology. We know they look beyond the claims of the big brands. They want to see on-field proof. Horsch is a farming family producing machinery for farmers, with farmers. A company that is continually developing, trialling and improving farming technology.
And they’re big farmers, big fields, high speeds, tough conditions, and building equipment post 1989 (and the fall of the Berlin wall) for the Eastern bloc, they were inadvertently building equipment that would suit our tough conditions here in Australia.
“I was excited by their passion for farming and the beautiful simplicity of their designs. I knew if I could show Australian farmers what they could achieve with HORSCH machines, they’d see it too,” he said.
Gradually, the results emerged, proving the many benefits of HORSCH machines in the field. Customer testimonials began to flow because farmers talk, and Peter, and his team had given them something great to talk about.
The story of Muddy River Agricultural has become the story of HORSCH in Australia and it has proved to be a much bigger story than anyone – even Peter Jack - anticipated.
Australia, the big picture
Australia, home to Muddy River Agricultural and HORSCH Australia, is one of the driest places in the world. It is also a major agricultural producer and exporter with a mix of irrigation and dryland farming.
Cereals, oilseeds and legumes are grown extensively, and wheat is the cereal with the greatest production in terms of area and value to the economy.
Beef is the largest agricultural industry across all States and territories with some properties in the north carrying herds of more than 200,000 cattle. Smaller mixed farming, dairy and grazing properties can be found around the country.
Agricultural success, against the odds, has left many areas with depleted soils and degraded land. Scientific research on climate change is forecasting decreased precipitation over much of the country. With water availability and quality already a challenge, farming practices that repair damage, improve soil balance and build moisture retention are seen as crucial.
While the Horsch family researched Australian requirements, Peter began to expand and strengthen dealer and training networks that would support HORSCH customers the length and breadth of the continent.
The vision and the plan
Peter understood long ago how the integration of sound scientific and technological practices was the only way forward for modern agriculture. He had the foresight to place HORSCH machines in field right at the time the Australian farming industry was beginning to intensify its search for long term solutions.
Wary of the idea of simply offloading products into a new market, Michael, along with his wife Cornelia, and brother Philipp, had taken the time to ensure the products that carried their family name would be successful in Australia, improving productivity for the long term.
Through Muddy River Agricultural, Peter Jack began to offer HORSCH seeding and cultivation machinery for trials and demonstrations across Australia. He, along with his wife Patty also took farmers, contractors and dealers to meet the Horsch family in Germany to experience the family’s farming passion, their culture, and tour the design and manufacturing hubs.
“Those trips proved to be really important and ag people from both sides of the world were so eager to share knowledge with each other. We hope to be able to continue them when international travel opens up again,” Peter said. “When we got HORSCH machines into Australia, it quickly became obvious that precision ag engineering is more appreciated than ever before as farmers look to increase efficiencies sustainably. The first thing they comment on is the quality of the HORSCH build, designed for a long and productive life. Farmers appreciate the efficiency of the design and the low maintenance factors, but most of all they like the results. We’ve brought them the technology to improve soil biota, improve germination and yields. No one else is offering this quality of engineering here in Australia. We’re seeing significant efficiency gains from new technologies and farm management practices that are contributing to the overall success of Australian agriculture,” he said.
At the apex of the Muddy River Agricultural team is the customer, the end user, whose feedback informs the whole system and whose results are there for all to see.
At the base level is the full breadth of knowledge and experience of Muddy River Agricultural and HORSCH in Schwandorf, Germany.
“It’s a big country but we’ve got it covered,” Peter said. “MRA has an extensive national network of HORSCH dealers all supported by experienced HORSCH -trained Territory Managers and Service Techs, all able to provide expert advice, before and after sales. In addition to our Toowoomba headquarters in Queensland, Muddy River Agricultural has two other distribution and assembly bases at Mooroopna in Victoria, and Perth in Western Australia. With specialised parts and assembly depots in the east, south and west of the continent, we are well placed to provide fast efficient service to dealers right across the country. It hasn’t always been an easy run. It’s taken a long, long time and an incredible amount of hard work from the whole team. Our people are phenomenal. Everyone pulls in the right direction. They do an amazing job,” he said.
Peter said sales of the HORSCH range of tillage and seeding equipment began to rise steadily as word spread. By early 2020, seven years after he first approached HORSCH, sales had really taken off.
“It was incredible, how busy we were! And then Covid-19 arrived. We had State border closures, flight bans, lockdowns. But despite everything that 2020 threw at us, HORSCH sales kept climbing. We’d already done the groundwork. Our people worked tirelessly, and the machinery is field proven and creating its own momentum now. Covid-19 restrictions affected our ability to look after some things and run demonstrations, but we found ways to keep it all moving,” Peter said. “Farmers are always talking about their HORSCH machines. These are the guys who are doing the selling for us now,” Peter said.
HORSCH products appeal to farmers and contractors with an eye on the future, and there’s also been growing interest from corporate groups looking to invest in multiple sales for long term benefits. Peter Jack feels this all augurs well for the future of HORSCH Australia.
“As Philipp Horsch always told me, the best designs in the world come from nature. The main arm on the Avatar for instance looks like a femur. It’s so simple and strong with clean lines. And people look at the Sprinter and say: how can it be so simple and so functional! It’s really robust and gives absolute accuracy with seed placement and depth. It’s a really simple, leading edge, extremely low maintenance product that just does a tremendous job,” he said.
HORSCH machinery has more than lived up to its early promise, delivering brilliant results across the continent. HORSCH’s persistence in adapting the machines to suit conditions in different Australian regions, and the company’s ongoing focus on engineering R & D has been well worthwhile.
New products are coming. There is a lot of interest in the HORSCH Leeb self-propelled and trailing sprayers about to make their mark here in Australia.
“If all goes well, the first HORSCH Leeb sprayer will be here in July,” Peter said. “We’ve had plenty of farmers and contractors asking how soon they can get one. There’s a lot of excitement about this line of sprayers. It’s another world class product.”
The people factor
Peter acknowledged how many people have contributed to the success of HORSCH in Australia.
“It’s hard to single out one person when you consider our success, but I have played a small part relative to others in our group,” he said. “Every person working here at Muddy River Agricultural is a key person. And right now, when things are really busy, you see what these guys are made of. My wife Patty plays an enormous part in the business, involved in all aspects of finance and senior management. Her influence is one of the reasons we’ve come this far. Like Cornelia Horsch, Michael’s wife, she often brings a different and vital perspective to what we do. There are other people along the way who have believed in me, given me a hand up when I most needed it, my late friend, Brad Nelson, a manufacturer, yet a mentor, and Bill Orthman, another supplier, played a big part in my business life – the relationships have been so powerful and continue to influence the way I think and work. You become so emotionally connected to the products and the people you deal with. Every one of us genuinely cares about what we do. And the Horsch family with their amazing passion for farming. We just feel so incredibly fortunate to be a part of it all. We embraced the culture, that’s the key”.