At a recent sales meeting in Grand Island Nebraska, we were doing a SWOT analysis on all of
our product categories. When we came to Weaknesses of our Hydrus Controls line, one
comment was “Hydrus is not well known”. As I looked around the room, I noticed most of our
sales and management group were much younger than me. I decided to date my time in the
industry and said, “Did you know Hydrus was one of the oldest continuous manufacturers of
center pivot controls in the world? Did you know that Hydrus has supplied most of the current
center pivot manufacturers in Nebraska product in the past? They were also suppliers for
others that are no longer in existence. Do names like Gifford Hill, Rain Cat, Wade Rain, Pierce,
Sargent, Pringle, Olson, Rainbow, Hygromatic, Aquanomics, Rainbow and dozens of others ring
a bell? Did you know that the current Hydrus is the world’s 4th largest manufacturer of center
pivot controls and the 3rd largest manufacturer of collector rings? The room got a little quiet and
someone said, “There’s a great story here”. So I decided to look into the history of Hydrus and
this is what I was able to confirm.
My first task was to contact some of the original Hydrus employees to be sure of the facts. After
a lot of Googling, I found one of the founders of Hydrus, Mr. Warren Lohoff in San Antonio. He
was a great resource. Warren designed his first center pivot controls for Rain Cat in 1972. At
that time, Rain Cat was owned by Toro. Ed Hunter, President of Toro (later founded Hunter
Industries), knew Warren because of the controllers he made for the turf industry. These
controllers were made by Warren’s company, Agtronics. Ed asked Warren to design a new
control system for their Rain Cat center pivots. Later Agtronics started making controls for other
manufacturers. In 1978, Agtronics and Integral Corporation (located in Dallas) formed a joint
venture called Hydrus Corporation. Integral was also a controls manufacturer and produced
span and direct burial cable in conduit (they were later acquired by Duraline) for irrigation
companies. Hydrus began expanding their product line and customer base. They came up with
an innovative solid state main panel and tower box panels (Model 8000) along with their
standard electromechanical main and tower controls (Model 1100). ICII became customers of
Hydrus in 1984. ICII purchased both the solid state and electromechanical controls for
distribution in the Middle East. In 1988, it became apparent to the owners of Hydrus that it was
becoming more and more difficult to supply manufacturers in the USA center pivot controls.
The Hydrus VP of Marketing, Walter Becker, contacted me and said they were going to close
the company. They had inventory and tooling they wanted to sell and offered it to ICII. ICII
purchased all the stock and injection molding molds along with drawings and rights to the name
Since the acquisition in 1988, ICII has leveraged our relationships internationally and our
domestic branches to become a factor in the center pivot controls industry. We supply OEM’s in
the USA, Spain, Portugal, Austria, South Africa, Ukraine, France, Argentina, Turkey and Saudi
Arabia with Hydrus product.
It was very rewarding speaking with Mr. Lohoff about the early days of the center pivot control
industry. At the end of the conversation, he said it put a smile on his face to know the company
he founded all those years ago is still prospering. I must say, I was smiling too!
So, when you go to introduce the Hydrus Controls product line and the dealer say’s “I’m not
familiar with Hydrus………………………………….you can tell them our story.
President & Founder
Irrigation Components International, Inc.