Charlie Balmer, application pioneer and founder/president of Valmar Airflo Inc., died Sept. 14 after battling cancer. He left behind a legacy of innovations, including granular applicators, air boom spreaders, and self-propelled sprayers. Today, there are still parts sold for some of the first applicators ever built, and his prototype sprayers are still in use.
Several colleagues and friends share their thoughts on the impact Charlie had on them and the industry:
“His passion for product development combined with complete understanding of customer needs set him apart from all others attempting to improve application techniques. The profile of input application would be more primitive today if it weren’t for the impact of Charlie Balmer, a person I have been privileged to call my friend and associate for nearly 35 years.” — Don Pottinger, vice president, major accounts and global partner relations, AGCO
“It has been 30 years since the first Valmar Airflo was in the field. The AirMax System continues to be the most popular air boom spreader on the market. None have yet to find a way to improve on the original designs and it is entirely possible they never will. That speaks volumes about Charlie, a truly unique individual that was so very important to our industry.
“Charlie was not motivated by personal recognition or to be in the spotlight but instead an uncontrollable need to continually improve or build better, safer, easier-to-use equipment.” — Jim Gladstone, sales manager, Valmar Airflo Inc.
“Charlie pushed the window of what engineers thought was possible. He always learned something from a failure. I consider this one of the most important engineering lessons he taught me. Charlie’s applications have stood the test of time and new technology. As he said, ‘keep it simple and practical.'” — Jerry Saude, director of engineering, Redball, LLC
“Charlie’s Airflo changed fertilizer application forever. It has been the only totally new concept introduced to the industry in over 20 years. His thinking outside the box changed the application world, a rare occurrence.” — Jim May, president, J. May Equipment Group
“He is the father of modern fertilizer application because of his inventions. He was an incredible man, a visionary, and a workaholic. The success of our company (Lor-Al) relied greatly on his inventions and engineering advice. Most companies selling fertilizer equipment today have their genesis with Charlie.
“He was one of my best friends. We traveled to Europe together, and spent countless long hours together designing equipment.” — Dean Anderson, former president of Lor-Al
“One thing that Charlie said stuck with me: it’s the reason for the simplicity of his machine. I quote (as best my memory serves me) ‘doesn’t matter how accurate the machine is. If a farmer can’t adjust it or fix it in the field, we go back to the drawing board.'” — Al Raine, assistant vice president Crop Inputs marketing, James Richardson International Ltd.