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MVI keeps crops growing

Robert Kemperich opened Minnesota Valley Irrigation business in 1991 in Wadena. MVI currently has around 500 customers in central Minnesota.1 / 2
A Minnesota Valley Irrigation system sprays groundwater on a field of soybeans west of Wadena on an August afternoon.2 / 2

Those big Valley Irrigation systems stand like the skeletons of prehistoric dinosaurs in the fields around Wadena. They are silent most of the day but when they do speak they are a fountain of life.

Minnesota Valley Irrigation, the local distributor of Valley equipment, plays a very important

part in the local agricultural scene. The sandy soils of central Minnesota cry

for irrigation and more than 500 farmers depend on MVI to help them water crops

of small grain, soybeans, alfalfa, corn, edible beans, potatoes and even

carrots and onions.

"In Minnesota, we get approximately 30 inches of rainfall annually but it comes at the wrong time of the year," MVI manager Robert Kempenich said. "Half of our 30 inches is in the


Kempenich started his distributorship in Wadena in 1991 after working for an irrigation business in Perham for 10 years. It handles all types of Valley irrigation equipment

including pumping, pipelines and related electrical components. Kempenich said

60 people work out of the Wadena office.

Doing the most with the least might be a motto of the irrigation business. Kempenich said water conservation is always an issue.

"We're trying to grow the optimum crop with the minimum amount of water," Kempenich said.

Watering a summer garden might require nothing more than a garden hose, a sprinkler head and some H2O.Watering a quarter-section (160 acres), the standard size of field for a center pivot irrigation system, calls for a lot more muscle. A center pivot system,

drawing water from a six to 12-inch well, will cover roughly 81 percent of a

quarter section.

"We'll irrigate about 130 acres of it," Kempenich said.

If a landowner wants to put in an irrigation system, Kempenich and his staff will plan, design, build, install it and service it for them. Kempenich said custom designing is an important feature because every farmer has different requirements.

"We tailor each one to each individual grower," Kempenich said.

The electrically-powered motors that operate a modern irrigation system can be controlled remotely. It only takes a one horsepower motor to move an irrigator. According to Kempenich, farmers routinely operate their irrigator from a personal computer, iPad or a

smartphone. Hotlines are set up to give growers data on how much they will have

to rely on their irrigation system.

The local a water table that lends itself to irrigation. Most of the groundwater is only 30-40 feet below the surface.

The amount of water growers need can vary a lot so MVI sells different sizes of irrigation systems.

Kempenich said a smaller unit will put out 200 gallons a minute while one of

the larger units will disperse 500-700 gallons a minute.

The need for irrigation is not always uniform across a field. Lower spots may require less water to produce crops while a ridge line can call for more. A mapping system can be

installed in a control panel to regulate water use.

"They are very high tech pieces of equipment," Kempenich said.

An irrigation system has a lifespan of 35-45 years. A grower can expect to invest $100,000 in setting up a system that will cover a quarter-section. He can also look for an annual

expense of $30 per irrigated acre.

"It's very widely used in central Minnesota," Kempenich said. "Everyone could probably use it to some degree."