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Hunter Industries, commonly known as Hunter, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of automatic irrigation products for green spaces, sports fields and golf courses. The company is based in San Marcos, California, USA.
In 1981, Ed Hunter founded the company Hunter Industries with his son Paul.
The Hunter family nicknamed their company “The Irrigation Innovators”. Ever loyal to this slogan, they introduced cutting-edge production techniques onto the market for fixed spray head and pop-up rotor sprinklers.
The innovations developed at the Hunter plant are able to attract the attention of both experts and amateurs alike, i.e.:
• The assembly carousel thought up by Paul Hunter, the first of its kind: specialised workers are seated inside an assembly line and move in a circle from one assembly point to the next. When one rotation is completed each worker will have finished assembling his sprinkler.
• The injection moulding machine devised by Ed Hunter for the automatic casting of plastic items, which allows for the production of the huge numbers of parts required for the manufacture of a sprinkler.
• Generators with engines run on natural gas.
In less than 10 years, Hunter Industries clawed its way up to become one of the top three sector leaders. Their products were then at the forefront of technology and that is still the case today.
Today the company is led by Edwin’s grandson, Gregory Hunter. The company holds more than 250 patents and 40 trade mark applications are pending. Since its creation, Hunter’s professional ethical code has always been to manufacture irrigation products that allow the professionals to create solutions that use the least possible water and energy so as to create efficient and environmentally-friendly landscaped areas.
The San Marcos site in California.
We were given the opportunity to visit the company’s head office last November. The San Marcos site covers 15 hectares and includes 9 buildings. Eight hundred employees work there. 90 kilometres away in Tijuana, Mexico, there is a second site with 800 employees. Hunter has a work force of 2,000 people employed worldwide.
Designed to meet the demands of irrigation professionals, Hunter’s current range of irrigation products includes pop-up turbine sprinklers, high-efficiency rotary nozzles, spray heads, solenoid valves, standard and centralised controllers, professional drip irrigation systems for green spaces and weather sensors. In 2015, its Luxor ZDC landscape lighting controller was named "best lighting product of the year" by the Irrigation Association.
The MP Rotator is manufactured in the first building we visited, this product being the brand’s star sprinkler, as well as the PGP (turbine sprinkler).
The MP Rotator applies irrigation water efficiently because of its automatic multi-stream sprinkler system. Its lower flow rate allows the water to infiltrate the soil slowly and, therefore, there is a uniform distribution of water over the irrigated area. This improvement in efficiency results in a 30% reduction in water consumption compared with a traditional sprinkler, while significantly cutting down on needless run-off. Furthermore, it is possible to install the MP Rotator on any spray head or adapter, so as to convert it into a sprinkler with a low precipitation rate and greater uniformity.
The sprinklers’ moulding process, quality tests and assembly also take place in this same area. Everything is automated with the employees mainly adopting a monitoring role. The fact that the production process is automated allows for better surveillance and improved product quality. There are posters explaining the whole production process so that the employees can have the full picture and see exactly what they are doing, thus making the work more interesting. Each employee can thus appreciate his or her own contribution to the overall project.
The quality tests are very important for Hunter. There is a large room specifically used for nozzle tests. The environmental effects are cancelled out, allowing for nozzle performance only to be tested. Hunter has three rooms similar to this one.
The spray heads and drip irrigation products are manufactured in another building and a third building is devoted to golf irrigation products.
A little bit further away, we were able to see the distribution centre. Three international containers are ready for departure. Right alongside there is a rose-coloured building, used exclusively for software production. Twenty two employees are in the process of working together on putting the finishing touches to a new software package.
Furthermore, Hunter has expanded its activities over the years with the acquisition of a large number of very diversified product categories: in January 1999 Hunter bought a range of Golf Irrigation products from Buckner Inc.; in April 2007 it was the turn of the MP Rotator, a series of products from the Walla Walla Sprinkler Company followed in 2008 by Grizzle Hunter Plastic LLC, a moulding company; then FX Luminaire a company specialising in landscape lighting was acquired in February 2009 followed by the whole range of Parks and Gardens products of Alex Tronix controls in June 2015, and finally, not long ago, we have Senninger Irrigation, based in Florida and a manufacturer of products for agriculture. Continuing with this policy of expansion, Hunter also bought a precision casting and moulding company, creating Hunter Custom Molding. Thus Hunter also manufactures the components and sells them to other companies such as Toyota, Nissan and GF+.
Over the years we could say that the company Hunter has always focussed its research and development efforts on innovative solutions that allow for savings to be made on the use of water. On the other hand, by improving its infrastructure, Hunter has optimised its use of natural resources in the most rational manner possible.
And the company is still growing, with Hunter just having bought other buildings on the same site in San Marcos, California.