If there ever was a group of people who can take unpredictable weather in stride, it’s farm folk.
That mindset came in handy as the early blast of winter through Alberta and Saskatchewan made for some ugly road trips for some of the hundreds of Agri-Trade Equipment Expo exhibitors descending on Red Deer’s Westerner Park this week.
“A lot of the exhibitors were having trouble getting their equipment to Red Deer, so that delayed the move-ins a little bit,” said show manager David Fiddler on Tuesday morning.
Many of those hauling in equipment to show off are coming from Saskatchewan, which has been at least as hard as Alberta by the harsh start to winter.
“The TransCanada Highway was closed for the better part of three days, off and on, between Regina and the Alberta border. That slowed things down quite drastically,” said Fiddler.
“But everything is back on track and we’re going to be OK. Yesterday we got the big equipment in and now most of the stuff that’s coming in now is easily handled with forklifts, or it’s on wheels and can be moved into place easily.”
On Tuesday morning, the outdoor exhibition was busy as exhibitors got ready for the agricultural tire kickers, who will soon arrive in the thousands over the course of the three-day show running Wednesday through Friday.
Fiddler said this year’s show, which is a joint venture of Westerner Park and Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce, is shaping up nicely with nearly 500 exhibitors taking booths.
“As it stands right now, we’re expecting a completely sold-out show. There are about 475 companies, but some of them have more than one product line and more than one booth.”
This will be the first Agri-Trade since 2019 not affected by the pandemic. In 2020, the show had to be cancelled entirely and the 2021 show operated with health restrictions in place, such as masking and social distancing.
“This year, we’re back to normal. I think it’s a relief for the public in every aspect of every way. It was a long two years.”
While exhibitors hope for big sales every Agri-Trade, there are plenty of optimistic signs.
“The ag economy is strong. Through the pandemic, when all other Canadian exports shrunk, ag exports grew by 10 per cent and food and beverage exports grew by five per cent,” he said.
“So, it’s a very resilient industry.”
Many will use the show to get the latest ideas on how to tackle the current challenges, such as inflation and higher input costs.
“They’re going to come to the show looking for ways to be more efficient. And that’s what our exhibitors are all about, is creating ways for farmers to be more profitable and more efficient.”
One of the more popular attractions is the annual Ag Innovations program, which allows agricultural companies to showcase their ingenuity, which the public can see. The top five get an opportunity to make their best “perfect pitch” to a panel of judges with the winner taking home $20,000.
A Farmer’s Choice Award chosen by show visitors offers a $5,000 prize. Those interested in checking out the competition should be at the Frontier Room Thursday at 3 p.m.
“It’s become a lot more popular and there’s been a lot more awareness since we added the cash prize. I guess that just gives it more appeal to everyone.”
Last year, Vincent Pawluski, creator of the RC Farm Arm, and his family took home the grand prize at the competition, as well as the Farmers’ Choice Award prize.
The RC Farm Arm provides wireless tractor control for use with auger, bagger, extractors and any other stationary power take-off work.
For more information go to agri-trade.com.