Stephen Batten, owner of Raindrop Repair, has received the 10-Year PLUS Longevity Award from Rinke Manufacturing Company.

Stephen Batten, own- er of Raindrop Repair of St. John, recently received the 10-Year PLUS Longevity Award from Rinke Manufacturing Company for his continued training in the Rinke PLUS program. He said keeping up with technology training was key to his success.

Raindrop Repair sells and services Rinke irrigation equipment and services other brands as well, Batten said.

Rinke PLUS program provides the latest technical training available in the irrigation industry. While it’s not required, Rinke strongly suggests its suppliers to take the training to keep up with the industry. Batten said he encourages his employees to take the training so they can handle any technical issues.

“The more education they get, the more valuable they are,” Batten said. “They have to go through the classes to be at the top level of the service program.”

Batten said he was a little surprised to receive the award. He has been in irrigation sales and service for 23 years. Over the years, technology has changed greatly in the irrigation industry and he felt it was necessary for he and his employees to use the training to keep up with the technology.

The classes are essential to keep up the advancing electronics so the staff can service the systems. Over the years, center pivot operation has gone from being pretty simple to systems that have GPS, on-board computers with touch screens, Batten said.

Now, with remote access, the owner can do anything they want to do from a distance.

“Anything you can do standing there (at the system) you can do on your cell phone,” Batten said.

But with advanced electronics, it can get complicated in a hurry.

“It would be tough to keep up with this on your own, Batten said. “The technology is phenomenal. It’s just amazing what we can do any more.”

Keeping up with all the information gathering is one of the biggest challenges facing the irrigation industry. There are sensors that keep track of how many gallons of water have been used, sensors that keep track of the amount of moisture in the soil and more.

“We’re getting more precise on how to apply the water and make it go further,” Batten said. “With water application, we can tap into things we never even thought of 20 years ago.”

Batten started Raindrop Repair in 1985 with two employees. It is located just south of St. John on U.S. 281. Rinke Manufacturing Company sells center pivot and lateral moving irrigation systems.