The concepts behind the Oggun tractor originated with the opening of relations with Cuba in 2014. Saul Berenthal, a Cuban born software entrepreneur, and business partner, Horace Clemmons, wanted to build a tractor to help Cuban farmers. But now that has turned into a mission to solve the global food problem. Thus was born CleBer (Clemmons & Berenthal). The phrase “Iron Horse Tractor” was given to the Cubans, who provided the name “Oggun” – The god of metal works and the protector in their Santeria religion.
Mr. Horace Clemmons was born in rural Alabama and served with the US Marine Corp in Vietnam. He has not forgotten one step in the journey that got him to where he is today and that journey changed his perspective. “You do not change things by doing an analysis of where you can make money, but by leading the change and figuring out how to make money in the new environment.” – Horace Clemmons
Cleber’s goal is to provide for regional food and nutrition security by empowering smallholder farmers, especially women, to establish a regional economy based on small farmers and merchants. Farm technology has become so expensive that only the big farmers can afford it. With Oggún’s Open Systems Equipment, they can provide better technology in support of the local economy.
CleBer’s Open System design (meaning made available) for Oggun tractors provides flexibility in how you purchase a tractor. Prospective customers the world over can purchase tractors manufactured in Alabama, or they can License the design for the tractors and build them themselves in their own markets – using parts from Alabama or parts sourced locally. In designing Oggún, CleBer first designed a base power system to be used for a range of small-scale equipment beyond tractors. It’s called the Universal Power Platform (UPP). Anyone can license this design and create the piece of equipment they need – a skid-steer, an excavator, a light truck and more.
CleBer to date has sold tractors in over 25 US states and 10 countries, with manufacturing of the Oggun design tractors happening in 4 different countries, and discussions in many more. That has resulted in more than $1,600,000 in revenue. They currently have 4 full time employees in Alabama.
They have sold tractors into Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Angola, South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal, Ukraine, Cambodia, Puerto Rico and Peru. And they have manufacturing agreements in Ukraine, South Africa, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Puerto Rico, with negotiations ongoing with in several other countries.
The Alabama International Trade Center and the Alabama SBDC have worked with CleBer since 2016 providing a variety of services and expertise. AITC team members conducted market research to identify potential sub-contractors for fabrication, new potential export markets, provided in-house export training on a variety of export-related topics, identified and vetted potential foreign distributors, and provided assistance in the formulation of export market entry strategies. The AITC also educated CleBer on Export Finance Strategies including the SBA and EXIM Bank programs. The AITC is a member of the Alabama SBDC Network, a SBA resource partner. CleBer has made use of the Export Alabama Alliance by working with agencies including the US Commercial Service.
Horace Clemmons says this about the service and assistance he has received from the AITC. “I have found the AITC team to be very responsive, knowledgeable and professional. They defy the quote, “You can’t get something for nothing.”