Toro Co.'s chief executive told shareholders Tuesday that the lawn equipment maker expects to play a much bigger role in the micro-irrigation market in years to come.

CEO Mike Hoffman shared his vision during the company's annual meeting and noted that micro-irrigation sales now make up just 6 percent of the Bloomington-based firm's $1.9 billion in annual sales.

The company's growing micro-irrigation business delivers precise amounts of water to the roots of targeted plants, which helps farmers and others concerned with water conservation, efficiency and droughts.

"We are not a market leader today, but we are moving in that direction," Hoffman said.

Most sales now come from golf course and landscape machinery.

Toro will soon acquire a small Chinese firm that specializes in micro-irrigation products. The size of that deal is not as important as its role in helping Toro expand into foreign markets, Hoffman told shareholders during the brief meeting.

Toro is also developing new trench and plow products in conjunction with two newly acquired firms. Those new products will be marketed to landscapers, municipalities and utility and telecommunications companies, Hoffman said.

His message to shareholders came after highlighting the company's strong first fiscal quarter, one that overcame drought conditions, lackluster snowfall and snow thrower sales and "economic challenges around the world," Hoffman said.

First-quarter earnings rose 57 percent to $31.4 million, or 53 cents a share.