What if your customer base had the option of purchasing tractors directly from the manufacturer for less money, with a simple design and components that could be sourced from local auto parts stores and serviced by non-certified independent mechanics? A partnership in Alabama, Cleber LLC, is pushing this concept that originated when the political climate recently began to change between the U.S. and Cuba.
It was December of 2014 when President Obama announced a desire to improve relations with Cuba, a country the U.S. had boycotted in one form or another for 56 years. Saul Berenthal called Horace Clemmons and wanted to immediately start exploring the possibility of establishing trade there, his home country until the age of 16.
Berenthal and Clemons were former IBM employees and had been partners in a computer software business. Berenthal had returned to his home country many times since 2007 and wanted to help the people there, originally planning to assist them in acquiring technology. More research revealed Cuba’s bigger need was improvements in food production techniques, and an opportunity existed to replace the country’s aging tractor population.
The partners employed Liberty Steel Fabrication, a machine shop in Fyffe, Ala., to build a prototype. In June 2015 that machine was unveiled, somewhat resembling an Allis Chalmers G and designed for small food production and cultivation, but adaptable to yard grooming and brush control. After an international trade show, it became apparent that Cuba wasn’t the only country in need of an inexpensive and serviceable small tractor. Later exhibitions revealed the “back to the country” movement, toward locally grown produce here in the U.S., meant there was a potential domestic demand as well.
Called the Oggun after a Cuban word coined by farmers for the mythical god of metal works and protector of the people, the tractor is designed in what’s known as an “open model system” using parts available from farm supply stores, auto parts retailers, or off the internet. The simple technology means that a mechanic with a basic understanding of tractor service can execute repairs.
Bypassing a dealer network and utilizing word of mouth and social media advertising keeps costs low. The owners’ plan is to reach the large segment of the world’s potential tractor market unable to afford the current manufacturers’ offering of new machines. For the customer who wishes they could buy a new 8N or Farmall Cub, the Oggun Tractor would appear to be the best alternative.
There’s an idealistic and humanitarian vision to the partnership. The international business goal is to produce the tractor in each country where they’ll be sold with locally sourced parts to control freight costs and benefit the regional economy. Localized production could mean other machines will be developed from the original tractor platform and possibly be used in non-agricultural applications as needed.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer met with Horace Clemmons recently as he was demonstrating the tractor to a group of Hmong farmers in southwest Missouri. View the video: