Owner and operator of Welke Ag Tile and Drainage Services, Brent Welke provides drainage tile services to farmers across Central Michigan. Last spring – like many business owners juggling several roles and hats – Brent was at his capacity, on track to burnout, and missing time with his family.
“I was out working long hours especially during peak tiling season, then coming home to design the work,” explained Brent. “I was up until or 1-2 in the morning and then out in the field by 5:30-6 doing it all over again. I realized something had to change.”
Brent reached out to Pinion land advisor, Cody Gass, to see if he could tackle a drainage tile design project for him. The project went well, and Cody and Quint Shambaugh, Pinion land advisory lead, quickly became go-to partners for tile design projects.
As a forward-thinking leader in the industry, Brent saw working with Pinion as an opportunity to leverage their skills and technology for pre-planning and design work so he could focus his time on what he loves and does best – connecting with farmers and providing quality installations.
Cody and Quint have a unique relationship with contractors like Brent. Before Pinion land advisory, they both worked as drainage contractors. They’ve trenched in mains, made connections, moved dirt, operated heavy equipment, and plowed in laterals. They appreciate and understand the on-site struggles and how proper drainage tile design and layout can make a contractor’s life easier. Their experience informs their decisions, and they respect the amount of time and effort it takes to properly install tile.
“It’s been a great relationship, working with Cody and Quint and I consider them team members with how we’re doing this,” says Brent. “It’s like I have engineering expertise right in my back pocket.”
How the partnership works
As the boots-on-the-ground contractor, Brent works closely with local farmers. When he needs a tile system designed, he emails Cody with project details such as location, specific design requirements, and any encumbrances on the farm. Since the land advisory team already has Brent’s specific design requirements and an understanding of his installation equipment, Brent will rarely be bothered after the initial email.
Tile design process
To start, Cody pulls in sub-inch accurate topographic data from Pinion’s proprietary nationwide data layer. Within five minutes he’s able to see watersheds, elevations, make inferences on existing tile, hydrography, and anything else that will impact the project.
Next, Cody works to understand the ins and outs of both the project and contractor. What machinery is Brent running, what size pipe does he need, do they need to split existing laterals or run new sub-mains from existing mains, how does Brent like things in the field, etc. Cody uses the relationship he has built with Brent and his knowledge of Brent’s operation to tailor the design to his specific requirements.
As a contractor, Brent does things differently. He focuses on his project’s watershed, not just the field he’s tiling. Instead of seeing the land as an island, he looks at how that farm is affected by neighboring water, where he needs to obtain a quality outlet and where there could be opportunities for neighboring landowners to work together. Cody analyzes and shares the agricultural watersheds and opportunities for neighboring stakeholder cost share with Brent, and Brent communicates his insights to Cody who then works them into the design.
Finally, Cody designs the project and delivers it to Brent within 72 hours. This ensures a quick turnaround for Brent’s clients and allows him to get out in the field and do his job efficiently.
Brent then reviews the drainage tile design, makes slight changes and lays his guidance lines for auto steer. Once he finalizes the plans, he loads everything into his GPS system and immediately knows the exact position and depth of every tile line and every guidance line for the entire field.
“Instead of doing every single task, I can be in my plow to make sure the quality is there,” says Brent. “I can be a better steward of my time when I go to work for my clients.”
Keys to a successful partnership
Land advisory can be a great benefit for drainage companies wanting to alleviate their project workloads so they can spend more time in the field, with their clients and doing the things that grow their business. The key is an experienced, proactive partner like Cody and a forward-thinking, dedicated contractor like Brent.
“The process only works with a quality contractor who’s local and understands the temperature and needs of that market, and Brent is that contractor. Cody can’t do his best work unless he has a good, communicative, forward-thinking partner. Brent has been that good partner and it’s a pleasure to work with him,” says Quint Shambaugh, Pinion land advisory lead.
Connect with the Pinion land advisory team for questions and guidance on your land improvement projects.