In The News ...

Farmer's sweet invention
Fargo Forum 11/16/2007 - Jon Knutson
Abercrombie, N.D.


Don Gunness has proved the skeptics wrong. He's also proven the power of believing in your own ideas.

Two decades ago, the Abercrombie beekeeper and farmer began producing a device to extract honey more easily.

Some of his neighbors laughed at the invention, known as the Dakota Gunness Uncapper, and predicted it would be a failure.

But beekeepers worldwide are now using the machine, and Gunness is vindicated.

"It was a gift of God," he said of his creation. "That's what I always say when people ask me where the idea came from."

A little background:

Bees seal the honeycomb cells containing honey with wax for storage. The wax seal must be removed before honey can be extracted.

When Don Gunness and his wife, Alice, entered the apiary business, they used a machine they purchased to do the job, but the machine didnít work well, causing delays and frustration.

"I told him, 'Either you make this work or else you build one that does. There's no way I'll keep this up if you don't,'" Alice said.

He later patented his invention, which removes the wax seal from the end of honeycomb cells.

The 350-pound machine, equipped with two electric motors, is fabricated in an old lumber-yard building in Abercrombie that Gunness purchased.

The stainless steel uncapper, assembled on their farmstead, costs $4,500. An 8-foot conveyor extension costs an additional $2,000, a 5-foot extension $1,500 more.

The family business Ė Alice handles the phone sales and son Arthur also is involved Ė sells about 25 machines annually. The potential market isnít large, Don Gunness said. Furthermore, the machine is so durable that it lasts for years before wearing out, which limits sales, he said. "We've been very happy with it. It's durable, and it works," said Dick Ruby, a Milnor beekeeper who purchased a Dakota Gunness Uncapper years ago. The machines have provided a nice supplement to the family farm income, Gunness said.

"We never wanted to make a fortune, and we haven't made a fortune. But we've had fun, and we've met so many wonderful people," Alice Gunness said.

She and Don praised several people, including Victor Myhre and Robert Wohlwend, who have helped with the uncapper through the years. Don Gunness, 79, said he never wanted publicity for himself or his invention. But he wants others to benefit from what his invention taught him. "I want to tell people with ideas and dreams not to give up. Always follow up on your ideas," he said.