When Johann Baptist Birchmeier built the world’s first backpack sprayer in around 1890, he wanted to make it easier for Swiss winegrowers to treat their vines. After all, the harvest was under threat as a result of phylloxera and a huge mildew infestation. The sprayer comprised a wooden vat and an internal pump. However, it quickly became clear that internal pumps had major disadvantages in terms of wear and maintenance requirements.
As a result, the pump was moved outside – a key feature of all Birchmeier backpack sprayers ever since. An external pump is always easily accessible, a particularly important consideration when it comes to maintenance. Quite soon after the first model made of wood, the tank was made of brass and copper sheet, before these materials were replaced by modern plastic tanks. The details, from the pump to the hand valves and accessories, were continually improved while ensuring that only the latest technology was used. To this day, the aim remains the same: products which are robust, durable and functional!
If you walk into Birchmeier’s factory in Stetten, Switzerland, today, you will notice the smell of hot plastic. It takes just a few seconds for blow moulding machines to produce a plastic tank for a variety of sprayers using a small amount of heated polyethylene granules. After several automated steps, assembly workers add many other individual parts to the tanks – from pumps, seals and nozzles to electronic control systems. The result is one of more than 300 different sprayers, foamers or dispensers which are shipped worldwide from the company headquarters in Stetten.
The company, which has been based in Aargau for 147 years, holds on to its business location in Switzerland. After all, quality, reliability and skilled workers are an important competitive advantage. Jürg Zwahlen, who bought the company in 2003 and, as owner and Chairman of the Board of Directors, manages the company’s fortunes together with the three-member management team, explains: “This product and service quality is only possible here because we have the training, understanding and culture to achieve and maintain the high standard of quality.”
Customer needs as a driver of innovation
For the company to maintain its leading position, it needs to adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs all the time. Simply doing something new every now and then is not enough – the company must further develop its existing products and come up with innovations too. Foxy Plus for example was the first hand sprayer to be given a 360° function back in 2008. This small change was so well received by customers that all of the company’s hand sprayers can now spray from any position – i.e. standing, lying or upside down.
Jürg Zwahlen believes that for a company to develop positively it must not only maintain and expand its existing product range but also attract new customer groups: “By listening to customers, you quickly realize their needs.” This was the case when developing the Rapidon.
No one had come up with the idea of making it easier to refuel a small-engine device, allowing it to be topped up with fuel at the push of a button without spillage. To this day, the canister is a unique feature and the product epitomizes the entire range: carefully thought-out solutions for spraying, foaming, dispensing and spreading that bear the label ‘Made in Switzerland’, symbolizing Birchmeier’s know-how and values that customers at home and abroad appreciate.
Cutting-edge rechargeable devices set new standards
Remaining competitive also means introducing new technologies which are sustainable and environmentally friendly. In 2013, the company was the world’s first manufacturer to develop a rechargeable sprayer with electronic pressure control. Birchmeier now offers a wide range of rechargeable backpack and mobile sprayers geared to various applications.
With its latest innovation, the AS 1200 rechargeable spray blower, the company even developed a completely new spraying technique: spraying in an air stream with pressure-controlled fluid supply. The patented device is now used worldwide by professional users in the green industry, pest control, disinfection, construction etc.
Since customer feedback is very important to Birchmeier as a manufacturer, the company asked users to rate the rechargeable spray blower. What experiences have professionals had in practical use?
Protecting the environment by using less spray liquid
Users state that the AS 1200 saves time, allows them to treat their plants more effectively, produces no annoying exhaust gases and creates less noise. The majority of users also consider saving spray liquid or more effective spraying as a very important advantage. Depending on the application, savings of up to 50% can be achieved. Such savings are possible because there is less wastage.
The stream of air generated by the blower is elongated and flows in a straight direction, so that the droplets are blown in the intended direction when they are released. This means that more of the spray liquid lands on the plant itself. Spraying takes place in a defined manner: the pressure of the spray liquid, the nozzle for spraying and the airflow speed are optimally matched. This results in even distribution and foliage penetration or surface wetting.
The controlled airflow significantly reduces drift – a big plus especially when treating fruit trees, vines, shrubs and hedges that often border other farmland or residential areas.
Less spray liquid not only means lower costs – it also helps to protect the environment as fewer chemicals are used. Talking about chemicals: The rechargeable sprayers and blowers are also suitable for applying biological agents such as nematodes or microorganisms.
The users surveyed also mentioned that they save a great deal of time when working. Those who treat trees were able to complete the spraying process about 20% faster with the AS 1200 than with conventional sprayers. Birchmeier products also make work much easier for users. With the AS 1200, even treetops up to a height of more than ten meters can be reached with little effort, thus eliminating the need for cherry pickers or other equipment.
The modern rechargeable devices are environmentally friendly as they produce little noise and no harmful exhaust gases.
The CAS rechargeable battery system is another environmentally friendly feature. CAS battery packs are now used in more than 300 devices from a range of manufacturers that are members of the CAS alliance. This compatibility is not only sustainable – it also saves users money as the batteries can be used in a number of different devices.
Customized parameters for ideal application
The AS 1200 spraying system can be used for a variety of applications and achieves optimum results whether users need to spray a specific area with pin-point accuracy or treat dense foliage, hedges or flat areas. The users questioned stressed the good penetration and wetting of the upper and lower sides of leaves. The adjustable spray pressure, the five levels for wind speed (plus turbo) and the choice of three differently sized nozzles or special nozzles for disinfection or mosquito control applications allow each user to adapt the device to their particular application.
For example, applications on box trees with very high blower power and on roses with low wind levels showed very good penetration and uniform wetting.
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