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Ag innovations recognized

A half-dozen agricultural innovations were recognized on Wednesday, during the first day of Agri-Trade 2012.

JTL Industries Ltd., Dutch Industries, Mandako Agri, Gallagher Animal Management Systems Inc., Houston Seed Saver and Biln Holdings Inc. all earned Ag Innovation Awards at the farm equipment exposition in Red Deer.

JTL Industries was recognized for its Force line of leg-style bins, which feature an aeration system that forces air up each leg of the bin and into its hopper.

Lester Thiessen, founder of the Neilburg, Sask., metal fabrication company, said the system is ideal for damp or overheated grain. Developed this summer, the Force bin is being patented, he said.

By mid-afternoon on Wednesday, JTL Industries had already sold more than 25 of the bins.

Dutch Industries earned its award for the company’s Airguard seed brakes.

Used on air-seeders, they control airflow to ensure it matches the opener, using a series of removable washers on the exhaust port.

The result is “optimal seed placement,” said Brian Cruson, a partner in the Pilot Butte, Sask., business and its research and development manager.

Airguard seed brakes also reduce plugging from fertilizer dust and other contaminants, he added.

“This is the first time anybody’s seen it,” said Cruson from the Agri-Trade floor.

Yet on Wednesday, Dutch Industries sold more Airguard seed brakes than it had expected to move during the entire four-day show. Cruson said that’s indicative of a product that fills a real need.

“In the ag industry there’s a lot of innovation, and a lot of it is driven by the end user,” he said, adding that it’s important for ag equipment manufacturers to stay in contact with farmers.

Mandako Agri won recognition for its Twister vertical tillage unit, which allows for the angle of its coulter disks to be adjusted on the fly.

“The farmer can really customize what he wants for field finish,” explained Murray Hunter, Mandako Agri’s rep for Alberta and Saskatchewan.

That’s important, he added, because field conditions can vary significantly and coulters that are locked at one fixed angle may not be suitable. Mandako Agri received this message from farmers, said Hunter.

“We listened, we learned, we adapted, we improvised and made it work.”

The first Twisters hit fields in the Olds and Eckville areas last year, he said, with the Plum Coulee, Man. company just completing its first full year of production.

Agri-Trade has been an “absolutely excellent” place to showcase the technology, he said.

For Gallagher, it was the Owen Sound, Ont.’s Sheep Auto Drafter that impressed the judges.

The equipment is a lightweight enclosure that allows for the automated weighing and sorting of sheep.

Biln Holdings Inc. of Macklin, Sask., was rewarded for developing a lateral implement boom attachment that enables the operator to shift a working implement.

And the Houston Seed Saver, which is a product of Southey, Sask., is mounted onto a combine header to prevent grain and other seeds from spilling over during harvest.

Now in their fifth year, the Ag Innovation Awards recognize industry-leading innovations in the agricultural sector. Recipients are chosen by a panel of farmers.

“It’s certainly very flattering,” said Hunter of Mandako Agri’s award.

He said the recognition is also a testament to the ingenuity of Western Canadian manufacturers.

Thiessen is optimistic his Ag Innovation Award will help him market the Force bin.

“I feel it’s going to do us a lot of good. If nothing else, it puts a stamp of approval on it.”

Cruson agreed that this kind of recognition is invaluable for a company trying to raise farmers’ awareness about a new innovation.

“That’s the important thing when you’re trying to launch a product is just to get the word out so that people know about it.”



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