Good things come to those who wait. The creation of the RamPack by Strobel Manufacturing has taken well over a decade, and the wait is now over for the inventor and others instrumental in bringing a revolutionary new bagger to the marketplace.
Mike Koelker, a longtime distributor of agricultural plastics and an Iowa dairy farmer, started with an idea that came from the same place many good ideas come from — seeing a problem and providing a solution.
Farmers had a host of difficulties when storing forage, haylage or silage. Available baggers were slow and tedious. They took a big tractor with a lot of horsepower, which used a lot of fuel. Most machines were difficult to move from site to site and took valuable time to set up and take down.
“I just knew there had to be a better way,” Koelker says. “One day I was bagging and noticed a farmer in a nearby field making large square bales, and I realized that concept ought to work for bagging.”
New machine has Iowa roots
Koelker and wife JoAnn started the process of creating a prototype and obtaining a patent for a bagger that worked more like a huge baler. The concept was sound, but the road to a finished machine ready for production was not an easy one. Along the way, they teamed up with Matt Mills, an accomplished engineer and a short-line equipment dealer who knows the needs of farmers.
“Matt was the right guy to help me move this idea to fruition,” Koelker says. “Together we developed another improved prototype that confirmed our theories.”
TIME-SAVER: “The faster transport and quick setup time allows you to pack and bag more forage and do it better with RamPack,” says Steve Strobel, of Strobel Manufacturing.
Koelker and Mills started to see the significant advantages of “plunger-driven” compaction.
“Rotary or auger-fill machines need a large tractor to power them,” Mills says. “The RamPack has dual plungers that gain inertia from a flywheel, just like a baler. A lower-horsepower tractor will keep that flywheel turning and save fuel.”
Testing over the next several years confirmed they were onto something that could make a difference for producers. The RamPack allows for reduced HP equipment, less fuel consumption, decreased unload times, more capacity, and greater compaction and density. It is simpler to transport and set up.
While the machine worked well, improvements were still needed to overcome glitches. And taking it to market proved to be a formidable challenge.
In spring 2017, Koelker and Mills approached Strobel Manufacturing in Clarks, Neb. The two men knew that if the RamPack were to succeed, they would need a proven leader in the ag market and a qualified design and manufacturing team. Strobel has a reputation in the marketplace of building innovative and durable products for the farm, ranch, feedlot and construction site.
Steve Strobel, president of Strobel, recalls the process over the past two years. “This has been an exciting venture, involving serious teamwork and outside-the-box thinking,” he says. “My father, Dwight, has been designing and building since my earliest memories. There’s no one I’m aware of who is better at refining a product. He’s done that for years.
“His expertise working alongside my brothers Shane and Scott — and closely with Mike and Matt — have resulted in a product that will be game-changing for the haylage and silage industry. It saves time and money. The testing we have done confirms the efficiency and performance we were aiming for, and we are excited to take RamPack to the market.”
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