Maize Kraize: Lifelong friends invent genius farming device in Alabama

Maize Kraize: Lifelong friends invent genius farming device in Alabama
Jason Spiller, left, and Ben Burleson invented the first NTEP-certified automatic corn dispenser, which is now available in four locations in Marion and Franklin County. (Emily Burleson)

Jason Spiller and Ben Burleson are lifelong friends.

The grew up together in Guin, graduated together from Marion County High School and go to church together at First Baptist Church.

About eight years ago, Spiller, a systems technician for 3M, and Burleson, a farmer who works for BNSF Railway, concocted a business idea together that has become a reality.

Maize Kraize’s NTEP-certified machines cost $29,500 without a bin or $39,500 with it. A less-expensive version is available for sale in states that don’t require NTEP certification. (Maize Kraize)

“We saw an ice machine that came to Guin, and I asked Ben if he had tried something like that for corn,” Spiller said. Two years later, they started developing the idea of a machine that sells corn – bring your bucket or pull your truck up, put your money in and drive away with corn for hunting or feeding your farm animals.

“We were selling corn, and you always have people call and say, ‘We want a barrel of corn,’ and you have to stop what you’re doing and go get it for them,” Burleson said. “This is self-service and works for our convenience and their convenience.”

The two built a prototype of their Maize Kraize and began selling them in 2017.

It wasn’t an easy road for the duo, though. Shortly after beginning to sell the Maize Kraize, they were informed that in most states, including Alabama, corn sold by weight had to be determined on National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP)-certified scales. Neither the Maize Kraize nor the handful of other machines on the market were NTEP-certified.

“We had to redesign our equipment,” Spiller said. “We didn’t want to sell anybody something they couldn’t use.”

NTEP certified the new machine in October 2018. Spiller said Maize Kraize is the only NTEP-certified corn vending machine on the market.

There are three Maize Kraizes at service stations in Marion County and one in Russellville in Franklin County.

The machines can sell as little as 20 pounds of corn and as much as 500 pounds. (Maize Kraize)

“We thought they’d be primarily seasonal, and they do pick up a lot in deer season, but the one in Russellville, which is on a farmer’s private property, does pretty well year-round,” Spiller said.

The machines can sell as little as 20 pounds of corn and as much as 500 pounds. The cost is set by the owner of the Maize Kraize.

Spiller and Burleson can build and deliver a Maize Kraize within about a month of an order.

The NTEP-certified machines cost $29,500 or $39,500, depending on whether a bin is required or already exists. A less-expensive version is available for states that don’t require NTEP certification.

“It’s not just limited to corn,” Spiller said, adding that anything that can go through an auger would work.

The two have high praise for their wives, who have helped them maneuver the highs and lows of a new business.

“I think we need to give the Lord a little credit, too,” Spiller said. “There have been a lot of prayers involved with this. It’s been a spiritual journey.”

This story originally appeared on the This is Alabama website.

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