Farm Industry News Blog

Life after the Bi-Rotor combine

Cousins Ralph Lagergren and Mark Underwood reached celebrity status when they sold the patent rights to their Bi-Rotor combine to John Deere.  A book, called “Dream Reaper: The Story of an Old-Fashioned Inventor in the High-Tech, High-Stakes World of Modern Agriculture,” was written about their journey, and even today they remain recognizable figures.

“It’s bizarre,” Lagergren says. “People come up to me at farm shows or when I’m flying somewhere and ask if I’m the guy who helped develop the Bi-Rotor combine.”

Since then, Lagergren has gone on to work on other entrepreneurial products in the categories of retail, construction, television, games, and equipment, having both successes and failures.  “The economic downturn made it more difficult to accomplish all the goals I’d set for myself, but I’ve stayed true to my calling,” he says. “Now I’m working on several projects in packaging, construction tools, electrical components, chemical eductors, and a revamped beach game.” (Google, “Rageball 5.”)

Lagergren says he works on projects that can make a difference, and he also wants to help would-be inventors become successful so they, as Lagergren puts it, “can turn around and do it all over again.” (See, "Reinventing the rinse cycle.")

He has learned that working in alignment with companies and manufacturers through licensing agreements is the best way to get a product to market. “It’s up to the inventors to develop new products, but it then makes sense to license those products to companies who can add them to their portfolios and already have manufacturing and distribution,” Lagergren says. “This wasn’t possible a few years back, but now companies are looking to the outside for ideas and it is a win-win situation."

Lagergren’s long-term goal is to donate major portions of his profits to help children in need of craniofacial surgery whose family can't afford the operation. (Visit https://www.worldcf.org.) “Nobody should have to live that way,” Lagergren says. “I went into the surgery room with Dr. Kenneth Salyer in Dallas and saw a child's life transformed." [Note: Salyer is the one who made headlines when he successfully separated the conjoined Egyptian twin boys Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim in 2003.]

"That's when I made the decision to help all the kids I can in this area. That is my major motivation for making millions and what drives me every day.”

[To learn about Lagergren's early involvement in the John Deere Bi-Rotor combine, read "Show me the rotories," in the July 1999 issue of Farm Industry News.]

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Discuss this Blog Entry 8

on Jul 11, 2014

Ralph Lagergren is the kind of man who accomplishes what he sets his sights and his heart on. And he is committed to doing everything he can to help children with craniofacial abnormalities. His heart is as big as his ability to transform whole industries. You can see for yourself why these children move him so much at www.worldcf.org and at www.beautifulfacesfilm.com, the site for my film about every child's right to grow up with a normal face. Please join Ralph and all of us in this great and very important endeavor.

on Oct 7, 2014

www.pineycreekpresbyterianchurch.org
La coalition américano-arabe, qui a débuté des raids en Syrie le 23 septembre, n'a mené qu'un nombre limité de frappes dans le secteur, ne permettant pas d'arrêter l'avancée de Daech.

on Oct 7, 2014

www.pineycreekpresbyterianchurch.org
The raids "are insufficient to defeat the terrorists on the ground," lamented a Kurdish official, Idris Nahsen, claiming "weapons and ammunition."

S. Richardson (not verified)
on Jul 11, 2014

What a great "feel good" story! Ralph Lagergren entrepreneurial talents are numerous and heart for giving back is BIG. The world should be filled of more people like him! Kuddo's to Jodie Weherspann for writing such a great article!
Sincerely,
S. Richardson

Ethan Eck (not verified)
on Jul 11, 2014

I’m lucky to have Ralph as a partner. When he goes after something hard there is no stopping him. He treats me as an equal even though he has so many years of experience and I’ve become a better inventor because of his knowledge and what he does. I know he will make a difference in children’s lives as well. He isn’t your typical person who is only about money. My hat is off to him for working on something close to his heart.

Chance Lagergren (not verified)
on Jul 15, 2014

This is my Dad, everything in this article is perfectly accurate and he will do whatever it takes to make sure that he is able to contribute through his successes to kids in need of craniofacial surgeries.

Ethan Eck (not verified)
on Jul 15, 2014

I’m lucky to have Ralph as a partner. When he goes after something hard there is no stopping him. He treats me as an equal even though he has so many years of experience and I’ve become a better inventor because of his knowledge and what he does. I know he will make a difference in children’s lives as well. He isn’t your typical person who is only about money. My hat is off to him for working on something close to his heart.

Glen Jackson (not verified)
on Jul 15, 2014

I worked with Ralph two times. Once with the full blown version of the Bi-Rotor combine concept we called "Whitey". Whitey was a welcome sight for many farmers looking for new harvesting technology. So much so, after about two years we were building another full blown harvesting machine from the ground up, designed specifically on rubber tracks to boot!
I was an engineer working for Peterbilt Motors at the time.
Ralph contacted me again, and put together a team to accomplish this momentous task. He already had things going when he contacted me. It was a big risk on my part as well as all the other team members involved.
Ralph new what he and his cousin Mark needed to do, and had investors lined up to further develop this new Bi-Rotor concept. It was grueling hard work, but in the end it paid off. It was a dream come true for them and the rest of us.
Ralph is a great motivator and has a keen eye for product development.
His cousin Mark is a mechanical mastermind, which made things very interesting during the development stages.
The concept of the Bi-Rotor being Marks concept.
It was a great privilege working with Ralph.
Ralph brought the Bi-Rotor to the front stage and promoted the concept to reality. Mark's "Dream Reaper" made it to the top, John Deere. What a thrill to have had the opportunity to be a part of that great team and work with John Deere as well. The highlight of my engineering career.

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