Innovations and Heritage: An Interview with Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser
3 May 247m 37s

Damian talks to Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, grand daughter of the founder of CLAAS and current Chair of the CLAAS Group about heritage & innovation in the farm equipment world.

00:00 So we've been asking the question, what's new here from Commodity Classic 2024. Yesterday we taped with Kevin 00:06 and Chad, who now have cloths combines on their farms. Just got 'em in for the end of harvest in 2023. Well, what's kind of cool is we talked to Katrina Cloths. 00:15 This is the granddaughter of the founder of Cloths. That's right. The man that started back in like the 1930s and created the first combine in Germany. 00:24 Is this Gimme the story here. Yeah, but it's actually 1913, not the thirties. 1913. All right, so it's, 00:30 Take me back. So it's 111 years this year. All right, Take me back. Yeah, No. Um, my grandfather 00:34 founded the company af um, after actually the farm was auctioned and he then took all the patents from my great-grandfather, 00:44 who was also into technology and founded a company which was solely focused on, on technology and took his four brothers in 00:51 and they were building straw binders. That's first product. And he was very good at, uh, binding them. 00:58 So he had a patent for, um, a nutter. And when he got the idea of actually constructing the first European 01:06 combine, he needed some money. Yes. But you couldn't go to the bank and just have a finance. 01:10 So he licensed that out, got the money in, and it had 14 years between 1922 and 1936 to develop the first one, which we launched. 01:18 Launched in 1936. Okay. Very proudly. So, So the bread and butter of the background is the combine. Yes. And I made a point 01:26 before we hit record that there's a cloth chopper that goes across my farm five times a year with my dairy farmer tenant. 01:33 You said? Yes, we are great in choppers. We love choppers. But you know what, let's talk about this. 01:37 This was the beginning of it all. Absolutely. Class lives and breathes, combines. And when I get asked what's my favorite product, I mean, 01:46 some people don't really like me to say that, but it's the combine. Definitely. It's The combine. You've also here 01:51 on the trade for Got a tractor. It's with tracks on it. But this combine's pretty impressive. It's got tracks on the front. 01:56 This is not your biggest, this is like, uh, there's two sizes bigger than this one. Yes. And you're making some big 02:02 inroads here in the United States. You're a farmer yourself. So what's your message to farmers in the United States 02:08 and they're coming by the commodity classic. Yeah. I'm, we're convinced, I mean, as a family, that you can't do agricultural machinery 02:15 without being a farmer yourself. It doesn't really matter what type of farm. I mean, I'm into arable farming in England and in Australia. 02:22 So not so much animals, but still, I mean, actually fits the, fits the business model. 02:28 And this is also what my father always said. He said, we listen, we understand farming and we listen. Yeah. And we've spent a lot 02:37 of time optimizing our products also from North America, which took some time. 02:41 But I think we're there and we have lots of good stuff on offer and we would like to Yeah. Um, get more customers to see that. Yeah. 02:51 And also to see that we're a family company, because I think that's the other thing that differentiates us from the rest. Alright. 02:56 So I want you to give you a little background on that. You grew up in the business, you have been around this, your grandfather founded it. 03:02 He was gone really before you, you know, you came onto this earth, but then your family stayed with us. 03:07 So gimme a little family history. After 1936, this machine gets going. Take me then to your parents. You, 03:14 Yeah, my father was born in 1926, actually. He had me very late. Um, he was a farmer with heart and soul. 03:22 And then first he studied engineering and then he actually went to Paris to do, um, sort of another degree in agriculture. 03:31 Mm-Hmm. And, um, he always had both. And he took me to the farm a lot. My mom's actually a farmer's daughter, so, um, 03:40 we're always very close. And I think I grew up like most people here. I enjoy that so much. Yeah. 03:45 Because it's like, I wasn't born and raised on farm, on farm, but I spent as much time as I could. 03:51 I played in a straw. I climbed a machines, I was riding the machines. Um, and I always had this sort of, yeah. 03:58 Feeling that this is a great opportunity for me to continue the family business. So you're, you got ag in your roots, just like a lot 04:05 of us, those of us that came and worked in the business of Agricul, you're an ag person. Yeah. And then, uh, you know, grew up around it, all that. 04:13 Now you're involved. Take me to the future. Take me farm girl to the future. 5, 10, 20 years from now, 5, 10, 20 years from now. 04:22 I think what everybody wants is more business. Yep. That is what we want here in North America. Yep. We want more business. And I think we have the 04:28 perfect products. We have great partners in distribution. We want to close the gaps, we want to improve there. 04:35 And I think there's are wonderful preconditions to actually achieve that. So that's my future. And in 20 years time, well, 04:42 I would tell you some secrets here, but I'm not gonna do that. But yeah. More business. You 04:46 Need to do that. Okay. And let's get out of this. And I wanna ask you a little bit about your farming. 04:49 You said you farm in, uh, Australia and you farm in England. So you've got your finger on the pulse of this stuff. 04:56 Uh, is it all that different in those places than it is here in the United States? I think farming is so diverse as every farmer. 05:03 It's amazing to me, like every business model is different. Um, I think if you just take the continents, 05:09 which makes it a bit more, uh, easier. Yes. Uh, Europe is very complicated. You know, you have lots of regulations, you have lots 05:15 of documentation, you have lots of bureaucracy going on, and that makes it very complicated. 05:19 We have a six year rotation on three different parts of the firm with different soil types. It's mega complex. Yep. But I learn a lot. Yep. 05:26 I mean, I have a wonderful manager who does it all, and he's a great agronomist. So that's where I pick up my agricultural knowledge more 05:34 or less, you know, then when I bought a farm in Australia, um, I realized that 05:42 that's a completely different type of business. It's less complicated. Yep. But still you have all these specifics 05:49 and uh, sort of in between, um, the environment, the firm, the people, you know, the technology. 05:56 Um, it's a bit more complicated than here. Yeah. Right. I think here is the best business climate that I see in farming. 06:04 Well then that's where I want to go. Is your future going to be you having a farm here? 06:07 Just the front of it. So you can keep your finger on the pulse of American agriculture. 06:10 So you can really talk to the people like here at Commodity Classic. Okay. Then I would have to pick the region that's different. 06:15 Uh, difficult. Sorry. You've got some farm ground in Indiana. I can work out for you. You know, 06:19 anything like that. You could be my neighbor. Yeah. What type of crop? All right, so we're gonna get into that here on a street. 06:25 All right. Get me outta here. What? Still, you're here at Commodity Classic. What excites you? I'm excited about every conversation 06:32 that I have with the customer here. This is the greatest part of my job. I love being here and I love to hear about what pe 06:39 what drives people because then we can fit our products to that and we can take care of them. 06:44 Yes. I enjoyed that. Yeah. And I've been coming to North America every three months, like more or less in the past two years. 06:51 Yep. I'm learning a lot. I've been visiting as many regions as I could, as many dealers as I could, as many customers as I could. 06:57 Of course there's a limitation to that, what I can do. But I'm learning fast. And I think this is, this is just great. 07:03 Thank you for having me here. Appreciate you being here. So her name is Katrina Claus. That's right. The granddaughter of the founder 07:09 of this company that meets this machine that's right over my shoulder right here. More great content. Check out all the stuff we're 07:14, Goul family story here. You know what, what we're kind of learning here is agriculture, whether it's Europe, 07:20 whether it's the United States or America, Canada, Australia, whatever. We've all got the tie that bonds us 07:25 and that is our background. Our blood comes from agriculture. Till next time, thanks for being here. I'm Damien Mason. 07:31 Thank you. Thank you.