For over 20 years, we’ve been releasing the potential in resources like wood fiber, agricultural residue, green waste, and asphalt shingle scrap by supplying innovative grinding, coloring, and bagging equipment. Since we began manufacturing grinding equipment, a wide range of companies, from international wood product companies to 1-person tree care services, have turned to Rotochopper for practical solutions to their challenging biomass and recycling applications.
Our reputation for innovation has grown because we have continued to say “Yes” to new challenges and ideas. Always responsive to the needs of our customers and shifting market demands, we have developed several unique machines, including the only purpose-built asphalt shingle grinder, the first machines capable of simultaneously grinding and coloring landscape mulch, and the first self-contained portable bagging systems, among many other innovations:
Our company began when two companies that supplied machinery to separate markets joined forces to produce unique recycling equipment solutions. The backgrounds of both companies and the people who founded them would drive a relentless commitment to R & D and a focus on customer needs.
In 1980, Fred Peltz was a recent high school graduate in central Minnesota with an astonishing ability for building, repairing, and designing machinery. Raised on a dairy farm, he learned at an early age the fundamentals of hard work and mechanics. By age 14, he was being hired by local farmers to repair farm equipment. At age 18, he had his own shop on his parents’ farm. When he was 24, he built a new shop to accommodate the growth of his company, Peltz Mfg, which at that time specialized in building machines Fred had designed to fill various market niches. Always looking for new challenges, Fred would study equipment and find ways to improve it or design new machines altogether. In the late 1980s, this obsession with designing better equipment solutions would lead to the creation of the Rotochopper name, when Fred came across a piece of paper recycling equipment and decided he could build a better machine. Finding a company name and phone number on the machine, Fred called up the company owner, Vince Hundt, who would later become his business partner.
Raised 250 miles away on a 400-acre diversified Wisconsin farm, Vince Hundt also learned a great deal about machines at a very early age. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1973, he purchased and began to operate a dairy farm near Coon Valley, Wisconsin. Dairy farms in this area are half cropland and half woodland, and Hundt saw an obvious niche in the marketplace. He founded Poplar Coulee Ridge (PCR) Inc. in 1982 to import and market farm-sized European forestry equipment to utilize the local farm woodlots as a source of saleable wood fiber. Sales of skidding winches and wood chippers were brisk from the start. Then, in 1988, an even bigger opportunity became apparent when a crop failure from a severe drought created a need for new sources of animal bedding. At the same time, recent recycling mandates created a glut of unwanted newspaper in the hands of waste haulers, who lacked suitable equipment to convert this waste into a saleable product. To solve this problem, Hundt designed a one-of-a-kind system that incorporated a John Deere hay baler, a wood chipper, and a sheet metal cyclone that made farm-sized bales of chopped newspaper. The PCR Newspaper Bedding System proved to be an instant hit and was sold all over North America.
One unit showed up near St. Martin, MN, where Fred Peltz saw it, dialed the PCR number, and suggested to Vince that he had the facilities and abilities to build bigger and better recycling equipment. The two entrepreneurs struck a deal and a friendship. From that day forward all manufacturing was moved to St. Martin, Minnesota.
In the summer of 1990 the 1090 Newspaper Bedding System built by Peltz Manufacturing made its debut incorporating a newly designed paper chopper with a 30 horsepower electric motor and a newly minted name, Rotochopper. This system was very successful because it was durable and easy to use but, most importantly, because it made the particle size and package size that the market wanted. This equipment design philosophy, of being keenly aware of the needs of the end user, has been and continues to be central to the success of Rotochopper equipment.
By 1992 dozens of waste handling professionals had developed great faith in the Rotochopper name and were asking for solutions to an array of recycling challenges, resulting in new machines, new processes, and new markets. In 1992, we put in service a machine specifically designed to easily grind wooden pallets into boiler fuel with a uniform particle size in one pass. By 1994, the first Rotochopper horizontal grinder was in use producing boiler fuel and animal bedding from pallets and other forms of wood waste. Featuring a steel infeed conveyor belt and a deep lugged powerfeed drum, this machine was a huge leap forward in wood recycling technology, offering better efficiency and particle size control than anything on the market. Rotochopper horizontal grinders were the first portable systems capable of producing a uniform finished product from pallet waste in a single pass. Rotochopper grinding equipment played an integral role in the development of the pallet recycling market, allowing customers to make high-value end products from waste that had previously been a huge financial liability.
As we continued to expand into new applications, a commitment to finished product control continued to shape our R & D. We focused on designing equipment that would not only provide the end product specs our customers needed but do so conveniently and consistently. To this end, we developed a screen change system in 1996 that allowed operators to quickly change screens to meet different product specs. Through more than 10 years of reliable service, this screen change system has proven the simplest, fastest way to change screens. This commitment to end product control also lead to the first system in the world capable of grinding and coloring landscape mulch. Introduced in 1997, our Power Application System (PAS) remains the most efficient means of producing colored mulch from raw wood fiber. Not just a new system, it was a whole new way of looking at wood waste. This patented technology allowed wood waste handlers to easily enter the whole new arena of selling high-end consumer landscape products. Where waste handlers the year before sold their ground wood for $10 a ton for fuel, they were now able to sell the same wood for $60 and even $100 a ton. Unable to give the wood away in 1996, by 1998 they were looking for more material to grind, color, and sell.
Throughout the late 1990s, the Rotochopper line-up continued to grow. Professionals from a wide range of industries continued to turn to Fred Peltz for solutions to their challenging applications. Sales and the reputation of Rotochopper equipment for “Perfect In One Pass” results were rapidly growing. Company outlook had never been brighter.
Then, in the Spring of 2000, we experienced a horrendous shock. Fred Peltz, while overseeing completion of a factory expansion, fell from the roof and died from his injuries days later. The company, the town, and customers from as far away as 300 miles came to fill the church, the town hall, and Main Street of St. Martin to honor a truly wonderful, energetic, and creative man.
But there was nothing else to do but get up and carry on. Seven days later, Rotochopper was at a major trade show 1000 miles away with 4 machines, 12 men, and all flags in the air. Although Fred passed away in the spring of 2000, his passion for innovative, practical solutions continues to define our company, the equipment we make, and the services we provide to our customers. Fred’s original designs can still be seen in the equipment we’ve developed in recent years, like the RG-1 asphalt shingle grinder and our turnkey bale processing systems. Today, with our company continuing to grow and expand into new markets, we proudly carry on Fred’s tradition of innovation.
But innovation is more than milestones—more than new machines and major design revisions. It’s the day-to-day commitment to continuous advancement, the small changes, as well as the completely new products, that collectively make significant improvements over what came before. And true innovation requires more than technological advancements. New technology means nothing without people to see it through to practical utilization. True innovation occurs when technological improvements, new ways of thinking, and a dedicated group of people converge to produce better results, not simply new products.
The real story of Rotochopper lies with the individuals who have developed new ways of thinking and new equipment designs, from our founders Fred Peltz and Vince Hundt, to the people who continue to shape the success stories of our customers. Our dedication to customer success is perhaps the unifying element of our company history, even more so than the step-by-step advancements we’ve made in grinding technology. After nearly 30 years of providing innovative equipment solutions, the success of our customers remains the measure of our own success, as we meet new challenges and develop new ways of releasing the potential in low-grade resources and the companies who turn to us for practical solutions.