The Man Behind U.S. Patent No. 2,604,359

For many years, producers have looked for innovative, efficient ways to irrigate their crops and bring land that was historically dry into productive parcels to provide food and fiber to the world. According to the Smithsonian magazine, “By the late 19th century, farmers had started pumping groundwater from wells, first using power from windmills — which became ubiquitous — and later from gasoline engines. But these techniques were expensive, far beyond the reach of most settlers.”

The Smithsonian noted that “In 1948, an innovative Nebraska farmer named Frank Zybach developed a new type of sprinkler system, the center pivot, which he patented in 1952. Placing the pump at the center of the field next to a well, irrigation pipes supported by trusses were mounted on wheeled towers that could make a circuit of the field under their own power.”

His invention was documented as U.S. Patent No. 2,604,359. In 2022, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which published “10 Things You Need To Know About Frank Zybach” as listed below:

1. Zybach was born in 1894 in Lafayette, Oregon.

2. He learned blacksmithing and a love of metalworking from his father.

3. At an early age, Zybach began developing several inventions designed to lessen the manual labor required of farm workers.

4. His first patent in 1920, was for an automatic, driverless tractor guide.

5. Zybach also developed an automatic transmission for automobiles that came very close to being purchased by the Chrysler Corp.

6. He was a farmer in Colorado when he decided to work on a new form of sprinkler irrigation.

7. Zybach and a business partner sold the exclusive manufacturing rights to the center-pivot irrigation system in 1954 to the Valley Manufacturing Co. (now Valmont Industries).

8. When he created the center-pivot irrigation system, Zybach never realized how his invention’s crop circles would transform the landscape of the Midwestern and Western United States.

9. He died in 1980 in Columbus, Nebraska.

10. Zybach has 10 U.S.patents.

Today, university researchers and those in the irrigation industry have continued to improve Zybach’s invention with the goal of developing strategies for water-use efficiency while maintaining profits.

In paying homage to the popular American radio personality, Paul Harvey, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

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