A busy month for agriculture

All kinds of agriculture events have been front and centre the last few weeks in central Alberta.

All kinds of agriculture events have been front and centre the last few weeks in central Alberta.

The highest profile one was Agri-Trade, which filled every available inch at Westerner Park in Red Deer with exhibits of big and small farm machinery, and ag business tools ranging from high tech to simple, good ideas. It also filled the city with visitors from all across Western Canada and parts of the U.S. To walk the Agri-Trade floor is to get a glimpse of how big, technologically advanced, and diverse the business of agriculture really is today. Exhibitors I talked with were happy, calling it one of the best shows they attend. And they were doing business this year, which is an indicator of the economic stability still evident in many parts of ag, despite uncertainties in the rest of the economy.

The opening day of Agri-Trade also coincided with a major business announcement. Word came that Red Deer based firm Agri-Trend had been purchased by Trimble of California. Agri-Trend is a group of companies founded by Red Deer entrepreneur Rob Saik, who has also served as the Agri-Trade committee chair for the last several years. In 1997, he started the private company, now considered the largest network of independent agricultural consultants in North America, with a ‘Chevette and a soil probe,’ as he puts it. By putting together a team of Agri-Coaches to help advise farmers on crop production, he was able to lead producers into new areas of precision agriculture, with things like field mapping and diagnostic plant work. That led to the formation of other divisions like Agri-Data, and providing grain marketing, business information and even carbon credit selling services. It was an attractive package to Trimble, which is known as a precision ag technology engineering and hardware provider.

“Trimble’s acquisition of Agri-Trend is another step towards total farm management for the grower,” said Joe Denniston, vice president for Trimble’s Agriculture Division. “Together, Trimble and Agri-Trend will enable the integration of decisions and execution to give greater control over the outcome, resulting in maximized productivity for the grower.”

“Agri-Trend has been working side by side with farmers for over 17 years. With the strength that Trimble provides, we aim to help even more farmers as the move to precision agriculture continues to gain momentum globally,” said Saik.

Saik adds it was key for him that Agri-Trend be able to maintain its independent position. Trimble provides technology for various manufacturers, so isn’t allied with any one particular brand of equipment or farm inputs. Agri-Trend will continue to operate as in the past, with Darren Howie of Lacombe now moving into the G.M.’s role.

It’s a real agri-business success story, in our own back yard.

“It’s really a dream come true for me,” added Saik. “It’s like watching a child, conceived in Red Deer, and nurtured in Western Canada, which now can be taken out globally.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it likely wouldn’t be far off the mark to call Saik Red Deer’s newest millionaire.

Saik himself becomes an employee of the new entity, staying on in charge of Global Business Development. That will also enable him to work on another current project; a documentary film he and his son Nick are producing called Know GMO, showcasing the real science and the ‘other’ side of the GMO story from around the globe. Filming is nearly complete and now comes the mammoth tasks of boiling 95 hours of footage down to a 90 minute product, plus raising the rest of the needed funds. They’re hoping to have to have it ready for release by next summer.

In the meantime, many Agri-Trade visitors make a ‘double-duty’ trip, by also spending some time at Farmfair International, the livestock show, and the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton, which runs at the same time. There’s always a good crowd on hand for the Alberta Supreme Championship. It brings together the Farmfair beef breed champions, along with the winners from the Olds Fall Classic and the Lloydminster Stockade Round-Up. A panel of judges sizes up the impressive bunch of bovines, and then Supreme champions are selected. The winners receive a Ram truck, which is a huge bonus to the purebred owners. This year proved to be a real boost for the community of Forestburg, since both the bull and female winners were from that community. It was also a sweep for the Red Angus breed. Taking Supreme female honors was a cow-calf pair that were proven winners, Red K Adams Zaria, and her calf Red Ter-Ron Shocker; owned by Ter-Ron Farms. The bull was Red Redrich Aftershock; owned by Redrich Farms and Wood Coulee Red Angus. The two families are neighbours and friends, and were thrilled to share such a big day of victory.

Another big ag event held recently in Red Deer was the Westerner Park Championship Dairy Showcase, which attracted one of its largest slate of entries in several years. Getting the nod as the Grand Champion Holstein this year was an eight-year-old cow still in peak form, Lakefield Dundee Janice. She’s proudly owned by Continental Holsteins of Leduc. The reserve champion was a three-year-old with a bright future, Wendon Dempsey Prude. She’s owned by a group including B. Murphy & Borba, Eaton, and Pat Conroy, but was bred by Wendon Holsteins of Innisfail. Young local breeders (and committee members) Markus and Amanda Hehli of Mosnang Holsteins of Rimbey were excited to be named Premier Breeders of the Holstein show. Premier Exhibitor honours went to Westcoast Holsteins of B.C. For the Jersey breed, Lone Pine Jerseys of Didsbury claimed both those awards. Shady Nook Farms had the Champion Jersey, with Reserve going to Steve and Marie Smith.

Also, the Outstanding Young Farmers of Canada program is holding its national event in Edmonton this week. It brings together regional winners from across the country to share their stories and get to know each other. Alberta is represented by Patrick and Cherylynn Bos of Rock Ridge Dairy, an innovative goat milk farm business.

So, there are plenty of accomplishments in agriculture to celebrate this month!

Dianne Finstad is a veteran broadcaster and reporter who has covered agricultural news in Central Alberta for more than 30 years. From the Field appears monthly in the Advocate.