EAST ROCHESTER, Ohio — A piece of equipment at Hoopes Fertilizer is putting a new twist on an old job.
The company recently purchased a specially designed robot from Detroit, Mich., to stack 50-pound bags of fertilizer on wooden pallets. It’s a simple job, but an important one.
Up until February 2008, Hoopes had been shipping and palletizing fertilizer by hand. With the help of the new robot, the company has been able to dramatically reduce the amount of manual labor needed to operated.
The robot is a cutting-edge concept in the fertilizer industry and Hoopes Fertilizer co-owner Terry Hoopes said the new addition has cut labor costs in half.
Before making its way to East Rochester, Ohio, the robot welded car doors at an auto manufacturing facility in Detroit. It was refurbished and reprogrammed before being shipped out to perform its current job.
To accommodate the new equipment, Hoopes Fertilizer expanded its location in East Rochester, adding two new buildings.
The company was founded in 1962 by Eugene Hoopes and is currently owned by Eugene’s sons — Terry, Steve and Dave Hoopes. It makes custom fertilizers for farmland, golf courses, turf areas and yards, plus it carries a general line of fertilizers for farmers.
In addition to the fertilizer, Hoopes supplies major area airports and Air Force bases with wing de-icer and runway de-icer. The de-icer is a granular material made from a fertilizer derivative.
Eugene, who died four years ago, didn’t set out to own a fertilizer company, according to Terry. In the 1950s, Eugene owned a business that was next to a fertilizer plant in Minerva. He earned a little extra cash loading fertilizer for farmers who came to the plant after business hours.
Eventually, that side job turned into Eugene’s main focus.
“It was kind of just an accident he got involved in it,” Terry said.
But that accident has turned into a successful local business. Today, the company has 15 employees and two locations: an East Rochester plant, which was constructed in 1980; and an Alliance plant that was purchased in 1987.
Bulk minerals for the fertilizer are taken by rail to each plant and each plant blends and packages its own products.
Customers come from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and New York.
Located in southwest Columbiana County, Hoopes Fertilizer also rents fertilizer spreaders and does some consulting work with farmers.
The original location in Minerva now serves as a warehouse.
Hoopes Fertilizer in East Rochester, Ohio, is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday; call them at 330-894-2121.