The True Cost of "Cheap" Equipment


You've planted, monitored, and maintained your crop diligently all season, now it’s time to harvest. You've hired a crack harvest team and even decided to speed up the process by purchasing a “cheap” bucking machine that was almost half the price of the best ones on the market.  

Four days into your estimated 25-day harvest window, the “budget” bucker you bought is only doing half the throughput (pounds per hour) touted by the company. Worse yet, the machine is constantly clogging, the rollers already have grooves worn in them, and the grip has diminished to the point where the machine is virtually useless and you might as well buck by hand. 

Then, the machine stops running altogether, due to a broken part. This leaves you scrambling to find other work for your harvest crew to do while the machine is down. You call the company and leave a few voicemails, desperate to order the part for next-day delivery and get back to harvesting. The company doesn't answer their phone so when you finally connect with a human, you find out the part you need is not in stock. You are told “Sure, we can get that part out to you in about 4-5 weeks.” So you ask, “Why so long?!? I need it yesterday!” And they tell you, “It’s on the boat” and they will mail the part once the container shipment clears US customs. 

This is the start of a disastrous domino effect: First, you try to hire more workers to hand buck your crop. Unfortunately, you can’t find more than a few, and frankly, with such short notice, they are not the highest quality employees. Now you are committed to hand bucking your entire crop, and with a short crew, it’s taking much longer than expected. You are at day 30 and only have half your crop in. The rest is well past prime and your market price is getting lower by the day. Then, some bad weather moves in and destroys the remainder of your crop.  

Quality Equipment as “Insurance” 

Sadly, the story above is based on a tragic number of real-world examples. To avoid such scenarios, dependable tools and equipment are critical. Here are a few ways that reliable machinery can help you hedge against the unexpected:

Equipment Failure

In any farming process, equipment breakdowns create expensive and time-consuming work stoppages that can put your entire crop at risk. If a piece of equipment fails, cultivators need the ability to repair it quickly, in the field, with simple tools and basic mechanical knowledge. As with any true piece of industrial farm equipment, a well engineered machine will minimize issues if/when they come up.

Some manufacturers offer a long warranty “on paper.” But what good is a warranty if the machine breaks down during harvest and the company can’t get you replacement parts immediately? Or worse, how does a warranty help if the company denies the majority of their warranty claims? Unfortunately, this is all too common and it underlines the importance of buying from trusted manufacturers.

In our industry, many brands have popped up that have a less than stellar reputation… Indeed, the reason these “discount” brands can even survive is the low bar of a “green rush” marketplace. As our market grows and matures, the brands left standing will be the ones that build quality products and back them with solid customer support. 

Think about this fact: There are virtually no “budget” harvesting equipment brands in traditional agriculture. Why? Experienced farmers are not willing to risk their crop for short-term savings on equipment that actually costs them more in the long term. This is of primary importance when the equipment is needed to get your crop in during a short harvest window.

Short Harvest Window 

Every farmer knows that harvest is a very high-risk time in the cultivation process. Because our crop matures late in the season, it leaves a very tight window. If you can’t get your harvest in before it degrades or the weather turns, you risk wasting all your hard work at the last stage. 

As mentioned in a previous post, automating your harvest process with a bucking machine and hiring a smaller dedicated harvest crew results in a major reduction in labor cost. In addition to bringing you labor savings, this structure can also speed up your harvest timeline significantly. 

The faster you can get your crop out of the ground, the lower the chances of losing your crop. For those in more northern climates, less stable weather patterns are a major concern. Plus in some states, regulators have testing requirements that can shorten your harvest window even further. Automating your harvest with a reliable mechanical bucker will speed up your harvest timeline and help ensure success. 

Wasted Labor Expense

Equipment failure can lead to a “chain reaction” of other events that can risk your entire crop. One of the links in that chain is keeping your workforce focused on harvesting. Another crucial link is worker retention; If you want to hire and retain good workers, you need to provide a safe working environment with quality tools and reliable equipment. Nobody likes working with crummy tools! 

Investing in quality equipment helps you avoid equipment failure, increases efficiency during the short harvest window, and helps you get maximum efficiency from your workforce. Pay for quality up front, and put your mind at ease, knowing you have the added assurance of reliable, durable equipment that won’t let you down when you need it most. 

The Value of Support 

Using quality tools and equipment is only the starting point. Making sure the manufacturers you buy from have a well-earned reputation for customer support is just as important. 

Munch Machine has 80+ years in the harvest automation business. Our sister company, Dauenhauer Manufacturing, has a proven track record for supplying dependable equipment for large-scale hops processing. Our DNA is infused with the same core principles for how we do business, and we are proud to build the best and most reliable bucking machines on the planet.    

If you’d like to know more about where we come from, here is a great video on Dauenhauer Manufacturing (if you like beer, the hops shots will leave you thirsty!)  


Here are a few suggestions to think about when buying tools and equipment:

    • Seek out companies with a solid reputation:
      • Ask around! Our industry is still small and folks are often happy to share their experiences.
    • Look for GMP compliant materials: 
      • Regulations are not going away. Be prepared with GMP compliant tools and equipment. 
    • Work with manufacturers who keep spare parts in stock:
      • Because downtime during harvest is not an option! 
    • Avoid equipment without certified electronics:
      • Certified electronics are required by regulators. Be in compliance.     
    • Assess designs for field serviceability
      • You don't want to be reliant on a technician to fix an issue, field serviceability is key.
    • Avoid companies that make big promises
      • If it seems “too good to be true” it probably is… Work with ethical and honest companies.
    • Find a company that backs their factory warranty:
      • A warranty is only good if the company stands by it.

Thanks for reading! We hope this information helps, and we wish you the best of luck with your harvest.