Founded 50 years ago, Senninger is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of agricultural irrigation products, including sprinklers, spray nozzles and pressure regulators. Specializing in low-pressure/high-performance irrigation products, the company helps growers use less water and energy to produce more food, fiber and alternative fuel around the world.
The company was founded by Joe Senninger, a retired engineer from Illinois, who moved his family to Central Florida in 1958 to grow citrus. He bought a 40-acre orange grove and designed his own irrigation system utilizing brass overhead impact sprinklers, based on the latest recommendation from the University of Florida.
For a while, the sprinklers worked well. Then, after a rainy summer while the system was turned off, Senninger needed to irrigate again but discovered a problem that many other growers also experienced in the area—mud-dauber nests in the sprinkler nozzles. The irritating wasp nests blocked almost 100 percent of the sprinkler heads. The cement-like nests made it almost impossible for growers to clean out the nozzles, even after the sprinkler heads were detached from 21-foot risers.
With several effective devices to his patent credit, Senninger utilized his engineering background to solve the problem. Driven to find a way to create a “wasp-proof” sprinkler, Senninger built prototypes of two different concepts that prevented nest building. He designed and built one of them into the first Insect-Proof Impact Sprinkler, which became Senninger’s longest-selling product. Designed with a pin-like plunger—which retracted out of the nozzle orifice when water flowed but snapped into the nozzle orifice when the water was turned off—the invention protected the opening from wasps entering.
As word spread about Senninger’s “dauber-stopper,” first through Orange and then Lake County, Fla., requests for Senninger’s innovation surged overnight. Nearly every grower in the region sought the Insect-Proof Sprinkler due to the same problem with mud-dauber nests. As growers encouraged him, Senninger moved forward to find a way to market the idea. He offered established sprinkler manufacturers a chance to sell his “wasp-proof” creation. Encountering rejections, he grew more and more determined to manufacture the product himself. Assembling parts in his garage, he first recruited family friend Bob Dana, and later called on nephews, Mark and Andy Healy. They brought extensive engineering, marketing and customer service expertise to help the business grow.
Senninger’s wife, Annette—who was there from the beginning—worked as a receptionist, bookkeeper, Insect-Proof Sprinkler assembler and more. Soon, it became essential for Senninger to secure a piece of real estate in Orlando and hire more people. The team continued to manufacture the Insect-Proof Sprinkler as well as other innovative agricultural irrigation products.
Initially, Senninger worked with a local molding company and handled the product assembly in-house. Shortly, the team realized that if they wanted to “stay in business,” they needed to find a way to mold internally. After widespread research and trips to different molding companies, they decided to “go for it.” Being able to closely examine each molded part, Senninger’s quality control quickly improved.
In 1966, Mark, along with Joe, designed and built the industry’s first high-quality “in-line” pressure regulator, providing consistent distribution uniformity by preventing pressure fluctuations and flow deviations. Senninger began to lead the industry, educating customers on the importance of regulators and how the products help save water, energy and increase production.
At the same time, Andy established a Florida-based dealer network, which would later grow to over 2,000 dealers worldwide. Fred Elliot also joined the company and introduced a commitment to customer service that remains unmatched in the industry today.
In 1970, they were faced with the untimely death of its founder, Joe Senninger, and mourned the loss. Ownership was left in the hands of Annette and nephews, Mark and Andy Healy. Honoring Senninger’s persistence, Mark and Andy endured, driving the business forward, continuing with product innovation and the goal of exceeding customer expectations. Later on, Senninger’s son, Tom, joined the company and went on to oversee molding.
The company continued to excel with numerous innovations—many of which became industry standards. A few years after the in-line pressure regulator, Senninger introduced a color-coded nozzle identification system, the first drag hose for spray nozzles, pioneered the use of plastic sprinkler heads on center pivots and released the low angle undertree plastic sprinklers.
Over the years, Senninger continued to earn a reputation for product performance and reliability. By offering various designs and models, the company equipped growers with the best options for their specific needs. Recognizing the company’s success was directly related to helping others succeed, Senninger pressed on to create many more innovative products and concepts that have changed irrigation, including the Super Spray, Wobbler Technology, four-mode LEPA Quad Spray, integral weight concept, double barb gooseneck and truss rod hose sling, irrigation computer design software, UP3 Easy Clean Nozzle and more. This year, the new products Senninger has introduced include the Inverted Micro-Sprinkler, LDN Shroud and the PSR-2.
“To stay alive in this market, you have to constantly be innovating,” said president James Burks. “We continue to meet that goal, but for us at Senninger, it’s not enough. We aim much higher.”
With over 200 team members at the headquarters in Clermont, Fla., Senninger also works with more than 2,000 dealers worldwide. Many of its team members have served for 20 or, in some cases, even 30 years. With team member names and years of service engraved in the front walkway, Senninger proudly shares how dedicated its people are. In the headquarters’ lunchroom the company displays over 30 different countries’ flags, representing team members’ homelands. This diversity is a true benefit to all of us as we learn from one another.
Today, Mark serves as Executive Vice President and Andy as Chairman, while James Burks is president of Senninger Irrigation, Inc. Andy summed it up best saying, “We’ve got a lot to be thankful for going into our second 50 years. We’ve been very blessed.”
From its humble beginning as a one-man shop to the international agricultural irrigation company it is today, Senninger is proud to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Senninger’s innovative products can be found in nurseries, farms, land application of effluent solutions, as well as leaching of gold and copper mining solutions, providing more effective and efficient means of water application and conservation. Used in over 49 countries worldwide, Senninger’s products are available through qualified dealers.
When asked how Senninger will continue growing in the future, Mark Healy replied, “The secret to doing business—a successful business—is to have a good product or service, sell it at a reasonable price, while treating your people, employees, customers, as you’d like to be treated. So, we keep doing that and 50 years from now, we’ll still be going strong.”