Dave Staheli, founder and CEO of Staheli West, credits a crockpot, local taco shop, and a very dry summer with inspiring an idea that has translated to an internationally recognized agricultural technology company.
Staheli West’s main office resides along Cedar City’s Industrial Road with eye-catching machinery lining the building’s south side. The machines are state of the art hay steamers.
The DewPoint hay steamers service farmers by applying steam to windrowed hay in an effort to keep the plants soft and to preserve the leaves. Each machine is a boiler on wheels producing steam that is transported to the hay through hoses.
Steamers are connected between a tractor and a baler creating a train. This allows for direct application of the generated steam to the hay while it is being baled, ensuring the proper moisture content in the resulting product.
Weighing in at nearly 14.5 tons, it’s hard to believe that the massive steam machines are the product of simple, but genuine curiosity of the Staheli West founder.
“[He] was only trying to solve a problem,” Dave’s son and Director of Marketing, Logan Staheli, said when discussing his dad’s journey in developing the DewPoint machines.
That journey began in the summer of 1994 on a Cedar City farm owned by Brent Hunter and managed, at the time, with the help of Dave. During what the company’s website described as a “hot and dry” summer, Brent and Dave were facing a problem preventing them from baling their hay crop.
That problem: a lack of natural dew.
“Natural dew is critical to make good quality hay,” a September 23 Staheli West Facebook post explains, “However, getting the right natural dew was an age old problem…”
The leaves are considered the most nutritious part of a plant for livestock consumption due to the higher concentration of digestible nutrients they contain. This makes leaf content a major factor in determining overall hay quality.
Moisture is needed to keep the hay from becoming brittle and to protect the leaves while compiling the hay into its bailed form. During the dry summer of 1994, farmers were faced with little humidity which resulted in the absence of the natural dew their hay needed.
Dave was considering this dew dilemma when he observed a local taco shop and the steam technology that it used to make a tortilla soft spurred curiosity in his mind.
“He’s not a learned engineer but he’s just so creative,” Logan said of his father who, after his experience at the taco shop, began experimenting with dry hay and steam released by his wife’s crockpot.
Upon observing the moistening effects steam had on the hay, Dave began considering ways in which he could introduce artificial dew to his crop.
For two years the curious farmer experienced a great deal of trial and error, but by 1996 he developed his first successful steamer that serviced the Hunter farm for 12 years with positive results.
It wasn’t long before Dave’s machine began gaining attention from other agriculturalists, including three of the largest agriculture equipment manufacturers in the world. Dave licensed the steamer to John Deere and that’s when Logan says his dad “knew it was a technology he wanted to take to the world.”
After eight years of refining the steamer’s design with the major manufacturer, Dave received his patent to the machine back and in 2008 he had built the first official DewPoint 6110 machine.
Upon posting several Youtube videos showcasing the capabilities of the improved technology, Dave had his first customers and in 2010, Staheli West built the first five DewPoints to be sold under Hunter’s hay barn.
The company has since graduated to its current facility and now employs 25 people at the main office. Staheli West also purchased the Cedar City Western Powder Coating company that does all powder coating on the machines adding ten additional employees to their forces.
“It’s only been about ten years since my dad really decided to take it to the market,” Logan said. In those ten years Staheli West has sold more than 480 DewPoint machines and continues to build upon and explore new technologies.
Staheli West has seen demand for the steamers across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia, and recently sold their first machine in New Zealand.
According to Logan, “Utah is one of the greatest hay producers in the country.” So, it is no surprise that Utah farmers remain their top market.
“We’ve been able to help a lot of people, “ Logan said.
“I think it has allowed my dad to help out in the community more,” Logan continued, noting his father’s recent recognition as Cedar City’ Man of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce.
Dave’s journey to develop the DewPoint steamers and the successful business that resulted is a story his son believes should be shared.
“It’s such a cool story about tacos and praying,” Logan said, “I just want to be able to tell the story and I want to be able to have it for our family.”
Logan’s desire to share his dad’s journey led him to sponsor a “Making Dew” series to be released on the Staheli West website and social media. The four-part series is a compilation of the development of the steam technology and eventual rise of the successful business.
Story by: Mikyla Bagley
Photos by: Staheli West Facebook Page and Mikyla Bagley