Trenching business finds global success
Before Denny Kirian of rural Tiffin invented and built a tractor-mounted field trencher in 2000, he hadn’t thought much about traveling to New Zealand. Or Uruguay. Or Europe.
He hadn’t thought about his business growing so much his daughter, Linley, would join him as sales manager.
He hadn’t even thought much about other applications a trencher might have beyond placing field tile.
But since the machines started selling in the last five years, he has started thinking about it often.
Using his long experience with drainage tiling, Kirian has invented and patented the trencher, and sales have boomed.
“Now, we’re giving the power to the farmer to tile when they want to,” said Kirian, president of DK Precision Trenchers. “With these machines, they can do a professional job. They don’t have to hire a contractor. Now, you can sit in the nice, comfortable cab of the tractor, where it’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
“It’s easier, cheaper, faster, and they can do it when they want.”
The idea took root in the 1970s, Kirian said. As he ran a machine to dig a trench for placing tile, he started thinking about ways to dig a narrower trench.
“I was in the drainage business. I’m the fourth generation in it,” he said. “Machines started getting bigger, better and more accurate.”
He began to experiment with designs and built prototype machines.
“The advancement in tractor technology allowed them to pull the trencher and make the idea work,” he said. “I had expectations, but I didn’t know how long it would take.”
He now holds a patent on the original machine, as well as other patents on parts and equipment and several pending patents.
Kirian said he has been selling trenchers since 2009, but the market hasn’t been local.
“Now, we’re in seven different countries,” he said. “We have a dealer in Europe taking care of the European countries. We’re adding and growing our dealer network. We have machines right around here now. Illinois, Indiana and all those places.”
He estimated DK Trenchers
has 150-200 machines in use worldwide.
“We make everything here,” Kirian said. “Everything’s made to my specs, and everything’s American-made on it.”
“Each one is custom and handmade,” Linley said. “We do it one at a time. That’s been our biggest thing. We can only make them so fast.”
But American-made parts is another satisfying aspect for Kirian.
He said making parts for the trenchers affects 200-some local families. One company is from Illinois, he said, but the rest of them are within a 30-mile radius.
“It’s great how many people are touched by one idea,” he said. “More jobs. More families touched.”
When the business growth began in earnest, Linley said the company began to change and she joined the team about a year ago.
“We’ve had to professionalize our office,” she said. “We’re organizing a warehouse. It’s very exciting. Always something different.”
As the business has grown, Kirian said he has traveled places he never thought he would.
“It’s a steady challenge,” he said. “Different people to meet and places to go.”
Learning about different cultures and land uses have been interesting, he said.
“It’s in my blood,” he said. “I can’t get the digging and the farming out of my blood. I might as well expand and make the best of it.”
In addition to Europe and the United States markets, Linley said DK Trenchers can be found in Canada, New Zealand, South America and soon in Australia.
She said the business is growing through word-of-mouth advertising and a good website presence.
“If someone looks up trenchers, we pop up,” she said.
The Kirians said the business growth process has been a learning experience. Various countries have differing regulations.
“In Canada, you have to have a license to put tile in,” Kirian said. “This is one of the few machines that will be accepted in Canada. Most other machines go in there and they try pulling it through the ground and it will not hold grade.”
“Keeping the tile to a precise slope is important,” Linley added.
Kirian frequently visits the worksites where his equipment is to be used, so he can personally make adaptations to make it work as well as possible, whether it’s being used for farming or mining, and whether the crop is corn or sugar cane.
“It’s so satisfying to go halfway around the world and see your machine being used, and they’re loving it,” Kirian said. “There are all different crops all over the world.”
And not only crops.
He recently talked to a head person in the copper-mining industry.
“I gave him a quote the other day,” he said.
Kirian said he is struck by the simplicity of life in some countries.
“People in New Zealand live very simply,” he said. “They were so smart to look at and see what work would look like in the future. The people are so simple and they could find something so technologically advanced.”
The people he works with in New Zealand are visionaries, he said.
“And we’ve got people from Australia going over there to watch them work,” he said.
He also works with one of the largest landowners in Uruguay, who recently tiled his fields using DK Trencher equipment.
“He owns 2 percent of Uruguay,” he said. “He’s going through his
first-year sales cycle to see how it increases production. And then he wants more. A lot of these counties don’t have anything this sophisticated to do the work they need. This suits their needs.”
Along with new applications and sales in other countries, Kirian said the need for field tile in the United States continues.
“There is still a lot of tile to be put in in Seneca County,” he said, referring to adding strings in existing drainage systems and replacing old clay tile. “There’s not going to be an end to it for a long time.”
“Out West, they’ve jumped on the bandwagon,” he said. “The high price of inputs on their land makes it more feasible. They’re managing their water.”
Kirian isn’t an engineer and never attended college. He said he simply used his observational skills and experience to experiment in his workshop with designs.
“He just always invented things,” Linley said. “He still has his first trencher he made for himself.”
In addition to the DK Trenchers business, Kirian continues to farm about 550 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. He and his son still do tiling work for other people, too, along with custom combining.
Kirian already has several new research and development ideas to try out.
“He makes the new designs in his shop first, and then sends it off to one of the vendors,” Linley said.
“I have to imagine the whole thing in my head before I ever start building it,” Kirian said.
Those ideas are creating an even brighter future.
“I can’t even imagine the next five years,” Linley said. “The demand is just unbelievable.”