R. Hovey Tinsman and W. Scott Tinsman, less than a year apart in age, grew up in Davenport, Iowa with very similar interest. Their father, an officer in the local utility company, always encouraged them to try and be their own boss in whatever business they worked, small or big.
Hovey in 1953 and Scott in 1954, graduated from Princeton University with degrees in Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. Both then served in the U. S Navy for three and half years aboard destroyers in the Atlantic fleet. After graduate studies at Northwestern business they started looking for ways to put their knowledge of chemical processing into work.
As part of their market survey they ran across the Bernard and Leas Company which was using Phosphoric acid to pickle steel. The Company mentioned that Monsanto Chemical was talking about the possibility of using phosphoric acid as a source of phosphorus for farm fertilizer. They had built a facility to make furnace grade phosphoric acid for sale to the soap industry.
Further investigation, by the brothers, revealed that the process to convert the raw acid into an easily handled complete fertilizer was within their capability. The resulting product would have a number of benefits over the dry bagged fertilizer currently being used by the farmer.
Being fairly cautious with their limited funds and thinking this would probably only a part of the Companies business, it was decided that a piglet size mixing unit would be the prudent way to start. Raw material storage consisted of one 8,000 gallon acid tank, a 12,000 gallon aqua ammonia tank, a 21,000 gallon nitrogen solution tank, and a small bin to hold about 70 ton of potassium chloride. Storage of finished grade product consisted of three 4,000 gallon storage tanks. The reacting was done in a 1,200 gallon tank on scale. Volumetric measuring tanks were used to allow for the joint addition of the ammonia and acid. After painting by their wives, Twin-State Engineering & Chemical Company was open for orders.
While building the new facility, they were spending every free moment educating themselves on the growing of the regional crops and the role of fertilizer in supplying the needed nutrients.
In 1963 an office was built in the west Davenport industrial park in order to have a space for their father, R. Hovey Tinsman, upon his retirement from Iowa Illinois Gas and Electric Company. Unfortunately, he died before the office was finished. After the office was finished, the first office assistant was hired. She took dictation and typed.
Hovey and Scott divided the sales territory in half and spent their time calling on potential dealers in eastern Iowa and western Illinois.
A decision to sell directly to the farmer came about initially when a dealer died and the widow needed a way to exit the business. Hovey and Scott bought back the assets and began to sell directly to the farmer with the addition of new employees.
The underlying criteria when hiring a person to sell direct to the farm was that he would be the most qualified person available. The main strength of Twin State was to be able to help the farmer
On the production side, the spring of 1960 brought forth a big problem for Twin State’. Delivery of fertilizer took place almost exclusively in a 4 week period from the second week of April to the 1st week of May. Twin State’s source of phosphoric acid was from Monsanto which had recently built manufacturing plants to make furnace grade phosphoric acid. This acid was for use in the soap industry. The first week of April in 1960 Monsanto salesman informed Twin State that the soap industry had grown so much that there would be no phosphoric acid for fertilizer. The product was already sold and this created a very serious problem. Twin State scrambled to find another source of phosphorous we came across the byproducts of the pickling industry primarily from the automotive production. It was ammonium phosphate which was a granular product and came to Twin State in a box car frequently along with T-shirts and coke bottles that needed to be screened out and separated from the solids.
After squeaking by the spring season, Twin State contacted the Tennessee Valley Authority which had been doing research on the production of fertilizers and was interested in working with Twin State in bringing their products out of research into commercial use. They made a product with a 10-34-0 analysis containing a significant amount of phosphorous in the poly stage. Twin State also contacted Allied Chemical Corporation in St. Louis who was producing a wet process black acid. Where Monsanto’s furnace grade was a pure acid product, Allied’s black acid carried some metals like aluminum and iron which when reacted with ammonia could precipitate out clogging screens. By combining TVA’s 11-370-0 with polyphosphates the objectionable iron compounds in the black acid could be sequestered to the extent they stayed in solution and could be spread with the application equipment without problems.
TVA recognizing Hovey and Scott’s interest in the chemical processes worked with them to install a pipe reactor to make their own 11-37-0 solution. TVA research personnel spend considerable time at Walcott assessing. The advantage of working with Allied Corporation’s black acid was that Allied saw the fertilizer industry as a profitable business to be in. Unlike Monsanto, Allied would not be diverting the acid for some other use.
TexasGulf would come along in subsequent years with a major expansion into the production and distribution of super phosphoric acid. Twin State recognized the value of this new participant in the industry and was the first company (and only one the first year) to sign a long term contract for the purchase of super phosphoric acid to run through the pipe reactor.
On the marketing side, the dry fertilizer industry began recognizing that liquid fertilizer operations were able to give the farmer the exact analysis needed and was not restricted by the use of ag fertilizer. They went to the establishment of bulk blending granules of high phosphate products with potash granules and ammonium nitrate or urea as a source of nitrogen. The one problem with this is that Twin State was able to demonstrate to the farmer with field applications that dramatically showed how these different particle sizes of the dry product would separate in the transportation and the application of the fertilizer on the field. Liquid fertilizer was able to furnish a product where each drop was of the required analysis because the ingredients were in solution.
As the demand grew for potash on the fields, Twin State recognized the need for a liquid product that would have a higher analysis of potassium and that this could be furnished to the farmer by the development and use of suspension products such as 2-6-35 and 3-10-30. In the development of these products, the products crystals stay suspended uniformly on the lattice of clay microneedles.
Twin State was always interested in research and looking for ways to enhance the performance of their fertilizers to the benefit of the farmer. Twin State participated in joining the National Fertilizer Solutions Association at its beginning in the early 60s. In 1978 Twin State hired a senior agronomist from Purdue University to assist our retail and dealer network in working with the farmer. Ken Washburn also started the research plots located outside Walcott, Iowa, where different products and systems could be tested and demonstrated to the farmers.
Twin State also was a participant in the establishment of Phos Search, a research organization which established demonstration plots across the country showing the advantages of poly phosphates in the growing of various crops including corn and soybeans.
When Scott Tinsman was president of the National Fertilizer Solutions Association he recognized the need to involve researchers throughout the ag universities in the country and started the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation. From this combination of local and national field research came the incorporation of various trace elements to the fertilizer package.
It has also been demonstrated that the timing and placement of fertilizer was critical in maximizing the efficient of the fertilizer purchased by the farmer. Twin State called this program of specific timing and application of these products “Site Specific” and registered the trademark. It is now universally known as “Site Specific” application of fertilizer.
As sales continued to bloom, it became evident that the small plant at Walcott, Iowa, would not be large enough to handle our needs. Therefore, in 1975 112 acres of land 1 ½ miles west of Durant, Iowa, was purchased for the new site of our production facility. The tanks and piping were moved to the new Durant location and expanded dramatically with the installation of a T reactor to produce 10-34-0. This included dramatically larger field storage and a tank and scale system for loading 6 semis at a time. With the new plant capacity, wholesale salesmen were hired to cover the outlying territories. This pushed our delivery needs to North-Central Iowa and even southern Minnesota.
As sales continued to grow, in a larger and larger territory, it became evident that we were not going to be able to handle the trucking adequately to the recipients in northern Iowa in a timely manner. Consequently, in 1983 it was decided to build a new production plant in Hampton, Iowa, to handle both the distribution to our many dealers in that area and also to establish a retail operation there.
In addition, sales in the Wisconsin and northern Illinois market were also growing dramatically. Consequently, in 1987, a new production plant was established outside Janesville, Wisconsin, in order to handle the needs of that expanded territory.