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I had a friend, John, who was into motorcycles and had a fairly well equipped shop in his garage and he could weld and all that good stuff, handy for helping build agricultural inventions.
I managed to talk a few friends into investing a few thousand dollars and my motorcycle friend and I went about building my prototype asparagus harvester. Our new agricultural invention.
It wasn't much of a machine. It consisted of an channel and angle iron frame with 4 motor cycle wheels and tires, a sears air compressor, 4 KC dayliter spot lights, my home made digital camera from popular electronics, and 4 air cylinders from Bellows Valve-air company. The prototype did not have a method to pick the spears up, but it could detect the spears, determine which cylinder to cut with, and cut the spear . The prototype was human powered...we pushed it down the asparagus bed by hand. It had to be covered with a black tarp to keep the sunlight from interfering with the optical sensing system.
By now I was again out of money, but I was determined to succeed. My brother had obtained financing for a book of agricultural photographs from my father's accountant. I made an appointment to see him.
The accountant told me he new of a particular woman, Mrs. Geiger, who owned a local machine shop, and who might willing to back my invention. We arranged a demonstration of our prototype for her. We transported our prototype to her sons house where we poked pieces of bamboo into the ground and demonstrated our ability to detect the spears and cut them.
She told us she was impressed with the device and that if we could demonstrate to her that we could pick the cut spears up as well as sensing and cutting them, she would back the new agricultural invention we had come up with.
Over the next couple of weeks I devised a method of picking the spears up as they were cut. My friend John and I rigged up the make shift pickup device on our prototype and again demonstrated it to Mrs. Geiger. She was again impressed and agreed to back the project.
Mrs. Geiger offered to hire me to be the project engineer and I jumped at the chance. I dropped out of college at the end of my Junior year, and went to work for Geiger Manufacturing as the project engineer, to design and build the selective asparagus harvester.
Now I had an entire machine shop and plenty of experienced machinists to help bring the harvester to life.
As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.
Little did I know that I was about to start a 10 year prototyping project, and that it would become a 30 year project by reviving it in 2002.