March / April 2022
ENTREPRENEURS IN AGRICULTURE
Shoot for the Stars
Rob Saik’s passion for farming and technology sets the stage for a career of endless possibilities
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Shoot for the Stars By Natalie Noble
Assessing the use of Global Ag Risk Solutions
Hitting the Wall
A Farmer’s Viewpoint by Kevin Hursh
Those Wily Weeds by Tammy Jones
Extra Effort Goes the Mile in Gluten Free Oat Production
Grain Market Analysis
by Natalie Noble
by Scott Shiels
Manufacturers Chase Seeding Efficiency
High Input Costs
by Natalie Noble
by Jeff Melchior
Act Of God Contracts
Turn Negative to Positive
Farming Your Money
by Paul Kuntz
KEVIN HURSH 6
by Jaclyn Krymowski
Get back to the basics of
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Always read and follow label directions. AgSolutions, CERTITUDE and SPHAEREX are registered trade-marks of BASF; all used under license by BASF Canada Inc. SPHAEREX fungicide should be used in a preventative disease control program. © 2022 BASF Canada Inc. Canadian trademark registration has been applied for and is pending for Smoulder™ and Voraxor™.
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90% LESS DRIFT, LESSLESS RUNRUN OFF,OFF, SUPERIOR COVERAGE 90% LESS DRIFT, SUPERIOR COVERAGE
Editor The Air Bubble Jet consistently produces droplets that are 200 - 550 microns in size. Too big to drift - too small to run off.
The Air Bubble Jet consistently produces droplets that are 200
- 550 Jets microns in size. TooEasy big to drift - too small to run off . Air Bubble Jets • 2% Driftable droplets compared to 25% or more with conventional.
• Made for Pulse modulation systems including Aim, Sharpshooter, Hawkeye and JD.
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• 2% Driftable droplets compared to 25% or
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more with conventional. • 2% Driftable droplets • Made for Pulse modulation • Fits most holders or caps. • 200-500 micron droplet size range with compared to 25% or moreappx. 75% insystems including Aim, the sweet spot range of 300-400 • Life expectancy on average 70,000 acres. with conventional. Sharpshooter, Hawkeye • Fits most holders or caps. • 25 years of experience with no update • 200-500 micron droplet • Life expectancy andonJD. required. average 70,000 acres. range with appx. • 2% Driftable 90%size LESS DRIFT, LESS RUN75% OFF, SUPERIOR COVERAGEdroplets in the sweet spot range of compared to 25% or more The Air Bubble Jet consistently produces droplets that are 200 - 550 microns in size. Too big to drift - too small to run off. 300-400 with conventional. North American Distributor: • Fits most holders or caps. • 200-500 micron droplet Air Bubble Jets EasyMurray Jets Purvis 204.724.4519 Air Bubble Jet Life expectancy onoraverage size systems range with appx. 75% ••2% Driftable droplets compared to 25% • Made for Pulse modulation 1254 drops more with conventional. including Aim, Sharpshooter, Hawkeye andPlease JD. Alberta Customers (2.5 U.S. gals/acre) 70,000 acres. in the sweet spotCall: range of HOME OF • 200-500 micron droplet size range with • 2% Driftable droplets compared to 25% or •appx.25 years of experience 300-400 AIR BUBBLE JETS Chad Moff at 403.308.4170 75% in the sweet spot range of 300-400 more with conventional. • Fits most holders caps. • 200-500 micron•droplet size range with holders or caps. Competitors low with noorupdate required. Fits most appx. 75% in the sweet spot range of 300-400 drift nozzle • Life expectancy on average 70,000 acres. • Life expectancy on • Fits most holders or caps. 771 drops • 25 years of experience with no update required. • Life expectancy on average 70,000 acres. (5 U.S. gals/acre) average 70,000 acres.
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ASSESSING THE USE OF GLOBAL AG RISK SOLUTIONS | A FARMER’S VIEWPOINT
Assessing the use of Global Ag Risk Solutions Kevin Hursh, P.Ag. Kevin Hursh is one of the country’s leading agricultural commentators. He is an agrologist, journalist and farmer. Kevin and his wife Marlene run Hursh Consulting & Communications based in Saskatoon. They also own and operate a farm near Cabri in southwest Saskatchewan growing a wide variety of crops. Kevin writes for a number of agricultural publications and serves as executive director for the Canary Seed Development Commission of Saskatchewan and the Inland Terminal Association of Canada (ITAC). Twitter: @KevinHursh1
I frequently enroll in Global Ag Risk Solutions (GARS), so I’m often asked about my thoughts on this privately-run insurance program for your crop revenue gross margin. Here’s my experience for the 2021 growing season and my overall recommendations for producers considering the program. GARS covers your seed, fertilizer and chemical costs, plus a margin over and above those costs. The bigger the margin you choose to insure, the higher the premium you pay. Each producer that applies has to supply their last five years of accrued financial statements to get a quote based on their specific situation. While those are the program basics, there are options beyond picking the margin and associated premium. In my case for 2021, I picked the highest margin I could insure, but I chose the 50 per cent option, which cut any payment in half and also cut the premium in half. You can also choose another option to reduce the premium. For instance, let’s say your seed, fertilizer and chemical costs an average $150 per acre and the top margin you can insure above those costs is $140 per acre. If your crop revenue drops below $290 per acre ($150 plus $140), GARS kicks in and picks up the difference. However, you can choose to simply insure the margin and not seed, fertilizer and chemical costs. So, in these hypothetical numbers, GARS provides coverage down to $150 per acre of crop revenue, but not below that level. Choosing this option cuts the premium slightly. If you also carry crop insurance coverage, that can be used to cover the bottom end of revenue in the event of a big disaster. Crop insurance also provides coverage for each individual crop, while GARS is a basket approach. My 2021 crop was a big disaster with the worst yields since 1988. To add insult to injury, almost all the meagre production was pre-priced under production contracts. Those contracts all had Act of God clauses, so I didn’t have to buy them out, but the grain will almost all be sold at prices that now look very low. 9
A FARMER’S VIEWPOINT | ASSESSING THE USE OF GLOBAL AG RISK SOLUTIONS
Private insurance is in business to make money. Over time, the companies need to take in more money than they pay out and they also have to cover administrative costs. With crop insurance, governments pay half the premium and cover administrative costs. Over the long term, most producers will get more from crop insurance than they pay in. Crop insurance is paying out on each crop and there was also a sizable GARS payment. The payment from GARS was roughly four times the premium paid. The payment would have been doubly large if I hadn’t gone with the 50 per cent option. If I had been able to sell everything at the much higher prices that materialized, GARS may have paid little or nothing. It compensated me for what turned out to be unfortunate marketing decisions. It should be noted that producers buying their way out of contracts is an expense that GARS covers. GARS requires some regular reporting through the growing season and if you’re in a claim position additional time and effort is required. Bins need to be measured and sales information provided. Similar to AgriStability, your expenses for seed, fertilizer and chemical need to line up with what was used to grow the crop with carry in and carry out accounted for. While the claim is in progress, it’s a bit of a pain to provide all the needed information, but that’s all forgotten once the payout cheque arrives.
I’ve made a GARS application for 2022 which includes my seeded acreage plan, my estimate of seed, fertilizer and chemical costs and information on what crops I already have contracted. I’m awaiting their offering for coverage and premiums. With the increase in crop prices, coverage through crop insurance should be higher for the year ahead, but those numbers are not yet known. I’ll estimate my crop insurance coverage and assess what GARS is offering to make a decision on how to proceed. Would I recommend GARS or other private insurance offerings? I recommend producers take the time and effort to get a quote and then determine if the program makes sense for their situation. Private insurance is in business to make money. Over time, the companies need to take in more money than they pay out and they also have to cover administrative costs. With crop insurance, governments pay half the premium and cover administrative costs. Over the long term, most producers will get more from crop insurance than they pay in. That said, crop insurance cover yields, not revenue. For some growers, GARS may be a more attractive option. For others, some combination of crop insurance and GARS may be a good approach. On an interesting note, if you’re worried about another drought, you might cut back on inputs without affecting your crop insurance coverage. With GARS, whatever you spend on inputs is covered, so there’s less incentive to cut back. GARS payments, like hail insurance payments, no longer decrease any AgriStability payouts, but they do count for increasing your AgriStability reference margin. Even if GARS isn’t for you, it’s a good exercise to crunch the numbers and see what it offers. The number crunching can be valuable in any case as you make plans for the upcoming growing season.
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GRAIN MARKET ANALYSIS | EXTRA EFFORT GOES THE MILE IN GLUTEN FREE OAT PRODUCTION
Extra Effort Goes the Mile in Gluten Free Oat Production Scott Shiels Scott grew up in Killarney, Man., and has been in the grain industry for more than 25 years. He has been with Grain Millers Canada for five years, doing both conventional and organic grain procurement as well as marketing for their mills. Scott lives in Yorkton, Sask. with his wife Jenn. www.grainmillers.com
As the demand for oats remains strong, in large part dominated by the gluten-free market, I want to take some time to provide some information to growers considering getting into the production of gluten free oats. While oats are inherently gluten free, most commercially grown oats do include some amount of gluten containing grains (GCGs) such as wheat, barley, rye, durum, kamut, spelt or triticale. Over the past number of years, certain practices have been identified and developed to enable growers to produce oats that are pure enough to be certified as gluten free. These “purity protocols,” as they have come to be known, are giving producers a leg up on making the grade for these premium priced oats. The first, and one of the most important criteria to be considered, is the land you are going to seed the gluten free oats on. The land you are planning to plant the oats on must have been free from any gluten containing grain production for a minimum of two years – the longer the better to minimize the possibility of volunteer grain contamination. Some gluten free oat producers have even gone so far as to take other cereal grains out of their rotation entirely, either on certain blocks of land or on their entire farm. While this is not necessary, it certainly decreases the chances of contamination and reduces rejection rates on deliveries. Next, you need to ensure that the seed you plant is as pure as possible. Certified #1 seed oats are actually allowed to have a higher amount of other grains in them than gluten free oats are, so certified seed does not necessarily ensure the cleanest quality. While some gluten free buyers make it an actual requirement to plant certified seed, others, such as 12
Grain Millers, will allow you to grow your own seed, which could be purer than newly bought certified stock. However, if you do need to buy seed, make sure to let the seed grower know that you are planting it for a gluten free contract as they may have some seed that is cleaner than other lots. It’s imperative to ensure any storage and equipment involved in handling, seeding, harvesting or transporting both the seed and the crop is immaculately clean to achieve success in a gluten free program. Because the tolerance is so minimal for contamination, it takes only a very small amount of a gluten grain left in an auger, bin, combine or truck to cause a rejection. During the growing season, most gluten free oat growers will do regular field scouting to potentially identify any areas where there are volunteer cereal grains that could cause a problem with their quality. These areas are either rogued by hand or marked to harvest separately to avoid possible contamination in their oats. At harvest, the sampling process becomes more important than with regular oats. Buyers will require larger samples to be picked for gluten containing grains, so producers need to make sure that they have taken extra samples from each load during harvest. Generally, buyers will want to pick full kilogram sized samples from each bin for gluten containing grains. So, you see there are certainly some hoops to jump through to get into the gluten free oat market, but there are definitely some rewards to doing so. While they vary from year to year and buyer to buyer, usually you can expect a $1.00-to-$2.00 per bushel premium to the regular milling oat market, definitely worth a little extra work! Until next time. . .
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RISK MANAGEMENT | RISKY BUSINESS
Risky Business Mitigating risk in forward contracting By Natalie Noble
The widespread disappointment the 2021 drought year inflicted across the Prairies may be in the rear-view mirror, but the road ahead is paved with its longer-term effects. One hurdle on farmers’ minds is the question of forward contracting, a marketing strategy many were caught on the wrong side of last year. Stuart Person, SVP of agriculture and national leader of crops at MNP, describes last season as a tale of three scenarios for farmers. Across the Prairies, stories from all three groups were heard in substantial numbers. “The first group made a bunch of money,” says Person. “Some producers had their best year ever with slightly below average to slightly above average crops and hadn’t pre-committed a lot of that production. They were able to catch all the upswing prices.” A second group of farmers broke close to either side of even. “Maybe their crops weren’t the best, or they might have pre-sold a lot and not made much money off the huge price increases,” says Person. “This group also includes producers who did a great job of risk management planning, and 14
therefore, they had good insurance, so they made out okay even without a good crop.” The third group landed in trouble with poor crops, little or nothing to sell and lacked good risk management plans. It’s left many to wonder, will contract numbers decrease this year, and will there be changes made to the way these contracts are designed and enforced? Time will tell, but there were certainly noteworthy learnings coming off the one-in-decades event last season proved to be. The Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA) is a collective membership including Viterra, Richardson, Cargill, G3, Paterson Grain and Parrish & Heimbecker. Executive director Wade Sobkowich spoke on behalf of the collective, noting last spring played out as any typical year. In early spring, farmers were highly optimistic around harvest potential and high prices. So, they forward sold varied percentages of their predicted production anywhere from the typical 10 to 15 per cent, some going as high as 75 per cent. “It really was up to the farmer and their risk tolerance situation,” says Sobkowich.
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RISK MANAGEMENT | RISKY BUSINESS
“Eight dollars is a huge number to have to cover the spread on, and let’s be honest, there were not many other producers lining up to fill that contract.” - Stuart Person Unfortunately, summer’s unrelenting heat and lack of moisture continued into fall, damaging crops. Not only were farmers short on their contracts, grain companies were short on export commitments after placing aggressive forward sales for fall and winter prior to anticipating the drought, says Sobkowich. “They need to fulfill their contracts on the export side and protect our reputation as a reliable supplier of Canadian grains and oilseeds. That is an important objective as well.” Where farmers lacked the grain to meet contracts at delivery time, sellers had to replace those tons, purchasing them from another farmer at the price of that date and charging that difference to the original farmer. Sobkowich stresses this replacement fee is not a penalty or punishment. “It amounts to a wealth transfer from the farmer who forward contracted and didn’t have the production to the farmer who has the production and didn’t forward contract all of it,” he says.
MNP’s Stuart Person encourages farmers to seek advisement where needed to create marketing strategies that use various approaches and mitigate risk.
Many refer to the replacement fee as the spread, or the difference between the contracted price of the grain and the new price when the buyer must replace it elsewhere. For example, say a farmer forward contracts canola at $12 per bushel but can’t deliver and needs out of the contract. If the price at the default date is now $16 per bushel, the grain buyer will charge the farmer $4 per bushel on the spread to cover their cost of going back into the market to find that volume. The anomaly last year was that prices rose so fast and high, creating phenomenal spreads, that farmers who contracted their canola at $12 per bushel were facing $20 a bushel market prices when they realized they were going to default. “Eight dollars is a huge number to have to cover the spread on, and let’s be honest, there were not many other producers lining up to fill that contract,” says Person. In normal years, pricing is not so dramatically impacted where issues tend to be smaller localized events. Because this year’s massively widespread drought hit production right across the Prairies, prices spiked quickly, especially since farmers who had grain were then not willing to part with it at certain prices. “Because they knew production was short, it took more dollars to pry that grain from those farmers’ hands,” says Sobkowich. 16
WGEA’s Wade Sobkowich says when farmers default on delivery contracts, grain buyers must replace the grain, often at a higher price, to fulfill their export contracts and protect Canada’s reputation as a reliable grain and oilseed supplier.
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RISK MANAGEMENT | RISKY BUSINESS A stressful situation to say the least for those caught in it, but Person underlines that all fees are laid out in the contract prior to signing. “None of these fees should have been a surprise to anyone,” he says. “They would have been clearly stated in the contracts. If the producer was not happy with any part of the costs of default, they really shouldn’t have been signing the contract.” As with any marketing tool, forward contracting is one part of an overall marketing and risk management strategy. As such, knowledge, understanding, and often outside advisement, are paramount. “These are important business decisions that involve complex financial instruments,” says Person. “It takes some investment in education to understand them. If you are not comfortable, you should have coaches and advisors on hand until you can get there yourself. These are legal contracts . . . our suggestion is that you have your lawyer review them with you and advise as to what your risks are.” With a better understanding of hedging overall, producers can look to different options that reduce some risk in the marketing game. Person discusses using a put option that creates a floor-price on a certain number of bushels a farmer wants to hedge. For instance, if canola reaches $16 per bushel, the farmer can place a put option on a certain number of bushels for $0.50 per bushel to lock the price in. That net $15.50 per bushel carries much lower risk than a forward contract locked in at $16 per bushel. If prices rise to $20 per bushel and the crop’s not there, there’s no delivery commitment. If the yield is good, the
“These are important business decisions that involve complex financial instruments. It takes some investment in education to understand them. If you are not comfortable, you should have coaches and advisors on hand until you can get there yourself. These are legal contracts . . . our suggestion is that you have your lawyer review them with you and advise as to what your risks are.” - Stuart Person farmer can still sell at $20 per bushel, letting the put option expire. If prices dip below $16 per bushel, they can exercise the put option and still make the $15.50. “This is an example of a lower risk option, as the max cost here was $0.50 per bushel, rather than paying that large spread some were caught with on a futures contract,” says Person.
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RISK MANAGEMENT | RISKY BUSINESS
“We expect that there’s going to be a reduction in farmers’ risk tolerance and therefore the amount they’re going to forward contract this year.” - Wade Sobkowich Engaging with a commodity broker, such as RBC’s ag commodities brokerage, or working with a marketing coach like FarmLink can help farmers gain marketing expertise. It’s also important for producers to crunch the numbers around insurance programs to manage any risk created by hedging contract commitments. For those participating in GARS who incurred a cost on defaulted contracts, assuming a claim was triggered, the GARS policy would cover these default costs. AgriStability also covers these costs, again, assuming the situation triggered a payment. “If you take the time to review this in the planning stages each year, this info can be extremely comforting to know when situations like 2021 arise,” says Person. Many anticipate a reduction in forward contracts for the 2022 season, depending on the farmer. Those producers with a weaker understanding who got caught in contracts may be hesitant, especially if they don’t agree with why they’re in the situation of being penalized so strongly. “We expect that there’s going to be a reduction in farmers’ risk tolerance and therefore the amount they’re going to forward contract this year,” says Sobkowich. However, “There will be a group of producers with solid understanding of how the markets and hedging work,” says Person. “They will continue using the contracts, especially with the current high grain prices. Many contracts being offered for the new crop are quite attractive.” Despite 2021 perhaps being a once-in-50-years event, it’s still a learning experience for everyone. “A person would have to be unwise to go through something like last year and not take a step back to reflect on your own contract, process for administering forward contracts and communication with your farmer customers,” says Sobkowich. “As to what specific changes we’re going to see, this is a competitive environment and grain companies will make their own decisions individually. They can’t make decisions as a group, it’s against the law for them to do so under the Competition Act.” Feedback has not all been negative. “Some of the grain buyers have been quite good in helping producers sort through this and finding the cheapest solution they can to get them out of it,” says Person. “Everyone understood that the situation was extreme, and there was effort made to assist where possible.” 20
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SECTION COVER STORY | TITLE| SHOOT FOR THE STARS
SHOOT FOR THE STARS
Rob Saik’s passion for farming and technology sets the stage for a career of endless possibilities By Natalie Noble 22
SHOOT FOR THE STARS | COVER STORY
n January of 2023, two urban-dwelling students enrolled in agriculture technology programming at Olds College will receive the first Robert Saik AgTech Awards. The annual $2,500 scholarships are awarded in thanks to $100,000 donated by Robert (Rob) Saik to attract young talent who may never have stepped foot on a farm into the industry. “Agriculture has treated me very well and I’m extremely passionate about it,” says Saik, recognized in 2021 as one of Canada’s Top 50 Most Influential Agricultural Leaders by The Canada Farm Show. “I have loads of energy, tons of great connections and so I began a strategy to give back.” Olds College’s priority to advance agriculture and technology together align well with Saik’s lifelong drive to generate progress in the industry he loves. “I believe this industry is desperate for farm technology integrators,” says Saik. “Olds College has really stepped up to the plate in building its Smart Farm and creating the Techgronomy diploma. I feel strongly that we need more talent in the industry so I’m supporting that through this scholarship.” The recent endowment complements Saik’s 2016 $100,000 donation to the University of Alberta, establishing the Rob Saik Bar None Award in Agriculture. The award sponsors young rural students who enter studies at the university’s agriculture faculty each year. Saik’s mission to attract brainpower into agriculture from both urban and rural talent pools is not surprising considering his resume. Most of his life the tireless entrepreneur has had a foot planted in the field while his mind focuses on the progressive potential held in the technology realm. Asked about his early years, Saik describes a wonderful youth spent on the family farm while dreaming of becoming an astronaut. “Farming is in my blood,” he says. “Both my maternal and paternal grandparents came from Ukraine and farmed here.” The mixed farm was a sizable operation for its time with upwards of 1,000 acres and more than 400 head of cattle. “I grew up having hogs, chickens, ducks and cattle all the time,” recalls Saik of the hands-on experience. “Dad was more of a cattle guy while I lean towards the crop side of the equation. We did everything on the farm and it was a great place to grow up.” Considering his high energy and motivation, perhaps it’s not so shocking that Saik began farming at 14 years old. “I took out my first loan to put in my first quarter section, working within the Government of Alberta’s Future Farmer program,” says Saik. “My neighbours agreed to be my mentors and I had to provide them my plans, budgets and everything to grow that first quarter section.” Saik describes waking up with a fire and passion for his work each day. “I take my passion for ag that started on the farm in Innisfree and grow it to help shape policy in agriculture,” he says.
With some experience under his belt, Saik purchased nearby farmland in 1981 at 21 near Innisfree. “I hit the peak of the exorbitant land prices bang on at the time I signed that deal.” After a decade of growing crops and raising cattle while 23
COVER STORY | SHOOT FOR THE STARS
enduring punitive interest rates, it was time for Saik to put his energy where better results would be realized. This is where that futuristic astronaut vision re-enters Saik’s big picture. “Along with that desire to stretch my wings, while I was in university, I’d become aware of a much bigger world out there,” says Saik. “The combination of the practicality of farming in addition to my desire to leverage technology really set the stage for my career path.” Upon graduating university with his BSc in agriculture, Saik spent time working in the fertilizer retail business in Manitoba and Alberta while simultaneously running his farm throughout his 20s. Working across Canada with Stoller Enterprises in micronutrients, Saik then helped build the first Agri-Tech Farm Supply in Two Hills, Alta., selling it to his partners at age 30. Working with Tiger-Sul Products, Saik stretched his international wings, working throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe for six years. In 1997, Saik left Tiger to start Agri-Trend Agrology Ltd. with “nothing but a credit card and a Chevette,” he says. As the organization grew into The Agri-Trend Group of Companies, including agronomy and precision ag along with a group of talented and passionate agriculturalists, it also included a grain marketing company and a farm business management firm. In 2001, the company won Alberta E-Business of the Year for its data platform, Agri-Data Solution. “It’s arguably one of the first fully on-line farm management platforms in the world, and it’s built out of Alberta.” says Saik. “We started teaming up with a bunch of John Deere dealerships which took Agri-Trend all the way from La Crête Alberta down to the Mississippi Delta.
We also started Agri-Trend Aggregation, one of the first carbon credit trading companies. It’s now traded over $50 million in carbon offsets with farmers.” Such swift growth takes cash, so Saik and his partners took to the market to raise capital. “We locked eyes with Trimble,” says Saik. “They made us a very nice offer, which we took. Our 20-year journey of Agri-Trend and Agri-Data moved into Trimble’s world. They’re still using the data platform and the carbon company is still going strong.” Never keeping all his eggs in one basket, Saik also published the AG Advance: Journal for Growing Innovations during this time, earning Trade Magazine of the Year in 2014. His team also founded the Farm Forum event, hosting 1,000 farmers annually for 20 years. And, when asked by Norbert Beaujot of SeedMaster to take on the CEO role for DOT robotics, the autonomous farming platform, Saik accepted and the technology was eventually acquired by Raven Industries. The world of agriculture can tend to feel small, but its innovation in practices and technology over recent decades can make heads spin. That attracts unexpected admirers. On May 2, 2017, Saik met with Bill Gates. “He was very impressed with what we’d built with Agri-Trend and Agri-Data, but he said it wouldn’t scale,” says Saik. “I began thinking about technology that could scale the human brain in agriculture and I formed AGVisorPRO.” The platform connects seekers of ag advice with trusted experts who provide virtual answers in an instant. “When I looked into the lens of what it is going to take for agriculture to increase its
Saik facilitates the PowerFARM peer group, made up of progressive farms from Alberta’s Peace region to Portage La Prairie, Man. It gives deep insight into farm-level finances, return on investment into new technologies and precision ag, as well as understanding the pinch points Western Canadian farmers face. 24
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COVER STORY | SHOOT FOR THE STARS
Despite his jampacked schedule, Saik continues his love of on-farm consulting with a few Prairie farms today.
sustainability and profitability, I became acutely aware that the pinch point really lies in a farmer having the confidence to make decisions and changes within his or her operation with the belief they will be beneficial,” he says. “That confidence comes from talking to experts who’ve been there and done that.” Saik describes the platform as an agricultural version of eharmony in its seeker-expert matching capability; Uber in its virtual scheduling of meetings and easy payment to independent experts within the business; FaceTime in its instant audio-video connection with high-res photo sharing and chat features; all tied into a digital marketing strategy like Twitter. Interestingly, AGvisorPRO launched just prior to the pandemic’s massive shift in the way people do business and leverage technology. The company has no office and its team of 30 work completely virtually with employees residing across Canada, in Brazil, Peru, the U.S. and Italy. “It’s been a couple years of hard going work,” says Saik. The platform has four key focus areas: plants, livestock, equipment and business management. Each space has subcategories of expertise with questions submitted anonymously for experts to respond and seekers can connect with those they like. Each session is immutable, geo-coded and time stamped. “It’s another piece of the blockchain puzzle in which we’re working to provide greater transparency and trust to the consumer,” says Saik. It’s expected to accelerate technology adoption and a shift to more sustainable practices while reducing friction, anxiety and 26
frustration for farmers. “Dialing 1-800 doesn’t work in farming, or other business, today,” says Saik. “With all the complexities in agriculture—crops, livestock, equipment, HR, marketing, biotic and abiotic issues—all happening simultaneously while you’re growing a crop, decision-making has to be fast and fluid. By instantly connecting the right people, we can increase profitability and reduce risk at the farm level.” That momentum is only set to grow. In January, AGvisorPRO beat out 150 other companies to be welcomed into the first Canadian Thrive Accelerator amongst 10 winners. While leading transformation across the ag industry, Saik still consults with a several Prairie farms through the PowerFARM peer group, whose assets total $1 billion across 300,000 total acres. The group allows Saik to dive deep into the numbers at the farm level and see first-hand the evolution of progressive farms integrating precision ag technologies as they get their production nailed down and then shift into marketing and HR strategies. “This gives me tremendous insight as to what’s going on inside farms,” says Saik. “It tells me where we’re headed as well as the pinch point farms are facing as they evolve.” When a person reaches a certain level of success, there’s a freedom in the ability to direct energy into meaningful work projects. “I’m in a really unique position. I don’t have to protect a job, I don’t work for the government, and I don’t work for a big company. I stand on my own two feet. I say what I want to say, do what I want, go where I want, and work with who I want to work with,” says Saik. “I have the ability to speak my mind and
SHOOT FOR THE STARS | COVER STORY move quickly to shape the world. I hope this means I can take my passion for ag that started on the farm in Innisfree and grow that passion to help shape policy in agriculture. I’m so lucky, I wake up every day on fire and so excited.” In recent years, Saik’s taken on projects that showcase the wisdom and sustainable practices Canadian farmers can share as well as those that give back to the industry to foster continued improvement and growth. That includes penning two books, The Agriculture Manifesto: 10 Key Drivers that will Shape Agriculture in the Next Decade and Food 5.0: How we Feed the Future, published in 2019 along with his TEDx talk, Will Agriculture Be ALLOWED To Feed 9 Billion People? Saik and son Nick have also founded KNOW IDEAS Media, an online collection of agriculture science videos. “I believe the way to feed the world more sustainably is not just to grow more in Canada and the US, but also by exporting our knowledge to emerging agriculture areas such as Africa and Mongolia” says Saik. “We have to do way more, punch way above our weight to feed the planet, but I really feel strongly that we need to be working with [others] to lift people to a higher level of prosperity through sustainable farming practices that really work. That’s through adopting modern technology.” Walking the walk, Saik is a partner alongside other Canadian and Australian shareholders in Omer Farms, near Gulu, Uganda. The 5,300 acres are used to grow sorghum, dryland rice, mung beans and chia, at times employing up to 100 people. There’s much to learn with the region’s long growing season supporting two crops per year. The adequate rainfall patterns mean abiotic stresses are less than here on the Prairies, but the biotic stresses of insects and disease make crop management prove more challenging. For Saik, altruistic hopes loom large in his motivation to be involved, including providing employment, lifting the standard of living in the area and improving schools and grocery stores. “The region of Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, if they really harnessed their production power, they could feed most of Africa just using that region alone,” he says. What will it really take to make such deep impact? Leveraging Canadian ag entrepreneurs, that’s what. “We have to get more young people into the sector and put our money where our mouths are,” he says. “I’m encouraging our agricultural entrepreneurs to step up, start more scholarships, support more ag startups, create careers on farms and in businesses and push the clean and green brand of Canada harder. How do we win the agriculture game? We step up. It’s up to those of us who’ve been blessed with success to give back into the industry. I certainly want to influence our industry and I’m in the game for the long-term. I’m not done yet.”
Grateful to work in an industry he says has treated him well, Rob Saik believes successful entrepreneurs should give back to agriculture. Sharing the value of Canadian talent and sustainable practices with the world, here Rob attends a speaking event in Lisbon, Portugal. 27
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FARMING YOUR MONEY | ACT OF GOD CONTRACTS
Act Of God Contracts Paul Kuntz Paul Kuntz is the owner of Wheatland Financial. He offers financial consulting and debt broker services. Kuntz is also an advisor with Global Ag Risk Solutions. He can be reached through wheatlandfinancial.ca.
Every producer who signed a deferred delivery contract for the 2021 crop knew the risk. We just never thought a perfect storm would brew up such carnage. The odds of a massive commodity rally in the midst of a Western Canadian drought are not that common. We have seen spikes due to production issues, but they are usually short lived. When crops like wheat, soybeans and corn drive the commodity markets, a reduction in crop production in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba normally does not affect anything. The 2021 year was different. This left many producers in the absolute worst situation: a grain contract well below market price, the farm not growing enough to cover the grain contract and then being billed for the contract buyout, all in a year when your production is down. It has left many of us to wonder if there is a better way. The whole concept of Act of God clauses in grain contracts became quite important in 2021. If you were fortunate to have one of these contracts, a drought limiting your production would not incur penalties. It led me to ask the question: why are these contracts not more readily available? As a financial adviser, the impacts of grain contracts affect my clients. But I am not a grain marketing expert. I have come at this question purely from a curious farmer-consultant perspective. Fortunately, I have some friends who are grain marketing experts and work in the world of buying and selling grain. I reached out to them for help with this. The first thing I found out was if we all wanted Act of God contracts, we would get them; the industry would respond. I knew some grain contracts had the Act of God clause while most didn’t. I thought the reason some companies were able to do so was because of their specific circumstances or perhaps there was a magical insurance company out there that insured these situations. According to the experts I spoke to, there is no magical insurance company doing so. It is all in how they manage the risk. We see Act of God clauses in identity preserved (IP) canola, pulse crops, specialty crops and organic crops. I am sure there are others, but this is what I have found. Grain contracts that use an
ACT OF GOD CONTRACTS | FARMING YOUR MONEY
Act of God clause have certain characteristics: the price offered is usually a bit lower than a contract without the Act of God clause; the amount of crop you can contract a price for is very conservative; and the grain company has the first right to buy the remaining grain grown over and above the contracted amount. For example, you might be offered a pea contract for 2022. The Act of God contract will guarantee you $15 per bushel for the first 12 bushels per acre along with the first right to buy the rest of your peas. The contract with no Act of God will be for $16 per bushel and you can contract as many bushels per acre as you like. What my industry expert friends tell me is that a grain merchant would treat these two contracts differently. The contract with the Act of God clause only has 12 bushels per acre contracted but that may not happen if there are production issues so that merchant may only forward sell 10 bushels per acre. Whereas the grain contract with no Act of God will be forward sold at closer to 100 per cent of what was contracted by the producer. The experts I spoke with tell me the industry uses Act of God clauses to entice producers to grow and contract certain commodities that are often more difficult to get producers to grow. IP canola is an example of this. This is a commodity that is like the Montreal Canadiens – you either love or hate them. IP canola offers price incentives but there are many producer stories of production issues. Buyers of IP canola need to entice producers to grow this crop versus other choices. The
offering of a higher price is good, but the contract may be risky to sign if you have concerns about production. Buyers offer an Act of God clause in the contract because they need some advantages to get the producer to grow it. When the canola crushing plants near me in Yorkton, Sask. require a million tons of canola, they can get it through regular deferred delivery contracts. They do not need to add any perks into their offering. If all producers demanded an Act of God clause, we would see the industry shift to offer it. The organic industry is good example of this. Although organic producers perhaps have more production risk than conventional producers, it is interesting that most grain contracts in the organic world contain an Act of God clause. When I asked a merchant who buys organic grain why this was, their answer was simply, “That is how everyone does it in the organic industry.” There are other ways you can protect yourself as a producer when you sign a deferred delivery contract. Grain companies are always mitigating their contract risk and producers need to understand how they too can mitigate their risk. The first thing to do is begin a relationship with a commodity broker. All grain producers should have a commodity broker and understand their opportunities. Once a relationship is established with a commodity broker, producers should share their grain movement requirements. If your farm needs to move a thousand tons of canola at 31
FARMING YOUR MONEY | ACT OF GOD CONTRACTS
Not every commodity will have protection available through the exchanges, but some will. Not every commodity will have Act of God protection, but some will. Knowledge will be your best defense. harvest, the only way your farm is doing that is with a deferred delivery contract done early in the year. This creates price risk and the risk of not being able to cover the contract. Once you explain this to your commodity broker, you will be able to offset some of that risk by using the tools available. You can also mitigate commodity price risk without committing to delivering grain. You can create a strategy of protecting your farm if prices rise or if they fall. This can all be done without signing a contract to deliver grain. One tricky part to these strategies is that they really only work well with wheat and canola. To use the tools available by the commodity trade, you need to have a large number of contracts being traded every day. Only canola and wheat offer that advantage. Some commodities we grow are only lightly traded and some are not traded at all. So, for those in the industry who say farmers should protect themselves, we need to understand that the price risk protection tools are not always available. There are no silver bullets out there to remove all risk. The best advice is to understand your risk and the opportunities you have to mitigate that risk. While the risk we face is unknown, knowledge makes the most difference and using trusted advisors or brokers can reduce those unknowns. What if the price rises? What if prices decline? What if I need to deliver grain in a certain month to get cash? You can protect all of these. Not every commodity will have protection available through the exchanges, but some will. Not every commodity will have Act of God protection, but some will. Knowledge will be your best defense. If you like the idea of Act of God contracts, talk to your grain buyer and tell them to pass that on to their superiors. If enough producers request it, changes will occur. I know the clients I work with are not eager to sign grain contracts for 2022 production. If you are in that boat, make some noise with your buyers. Tell them what you would like to see in your contract. This might be the year to enact change. 32
WORKING TOGETHER FOR BETTER RESULTS. For over 45 years, Kubota’s been a dedicated partner to Canadian Farmers. From equipment that helps raise livestock and grow crops, to equipment purpose-built for hay and forage. We’ve also acquired companies that share our commitment to innovation and quality like Kverneland, Land Pride and Great Plains — all to help Canadian Farmers work effectively every season.
THOSE WILY WEEDS | HITTING THE WALL
Hitting the Wall Downy brome first confirmed glyphosate resistant weed in Canada
Tammy Jones B.Sc., P.Ag Tammy Jones completed her B.Sc. in crop protection at the University of Manitoba. She has more than 15 years of experience in the crops industry in Manitoba and Alberta, with a focus on agronomy. Tammy lives near Carman, Man., and spends her time scouting for weeds and working with cattle at the family farm in Napinka.
Glyphosate resistance has been confirmed in yet another weed in Canada. This time Dr. Charles Geddes and his team have confirmed it in downy brome in Alberta. While it’s inevitable that more weeds will be discovered with herbicide resistance, this is the first grassy weed species in Canada to be confirmed as glyphosate resistant. That being said, Alberta is not the only location where glyphosate resistance has been detected in downy brome. Rachel Zuger, research associate, and Ian Burke, professor in weed science at Washington State University, reported in the SeptemberOctober 2020 edition of Crops & Soils Magazine that three biotypes have been confirmed with glyphosate resistance ranging from 88 to 165 times more resistant than a susceptible biotype. Screening of suspected resistant samples also detected resistance to Group 2 (ALS inhibitor) herbicides and a Group 1 (ACCase inhibitor) herbicide in Washington State. Also known as cheatgrass or downy chess, downy brome has appeared in noxious weed legislation across Western Canada and in some U.S. states, a reflection of its invasive nature. It is particularly problematic in rangeland, forage production and winter wheat production systems, outcompeting native vegetation and significantly reducing yields. The annual grass can act as a winter annual, germinating in the fall, or as a true annual, germinating in the spring. When it germinates in the fall, the developing root system will grow in soil temperatures as low as 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, which gives it advantageous early spring access to available water and nutrients. Downy brome is known to reduce soil moisture and nutrients to levels that make it difficult for anything else to grow. Historic records mention downy brome being sold as a “100-day hay” due to its relatively short maturity. This early maturity meant that it was ideal for spring grazing, but it dried down quickly and became a fire hazard. Downy brome starts producing seed by May or June and the early grazing attributes are diminished by the awned panicles that can cause lump jaw in cattle. As early as April, the plant’s extensive, fibrous root system has developed to a point that it is hard to control with tillage. The root system also enhances its competitiveness in no-till or minimum till systems. Since downy brome can be quite short, ranging from 20 to 70 centimetres, or 8 to 25 inches, tall, it isn’t always noticeable in the field until it is a very heavy infestation.
In 2022, recycle every jug Cleanfarms’ recycling programs help Canadian farmers take care of their land for present and future generations. By taking empty containers (jugs, drums and totes) to nearby collection sites, farmers proudly contribute to a sustainable community and environment. When recycling jugs, every one counts. Ask your ag retailer for an ag collection bag, fill it with rinsed, empty jugs and return to a collection site. And, go to cleanfarms.ca to find out about recycling empty seed, pesticide and inoculant bags in your province.
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Watch for details about new 2022 recycling collection sites for jugs in Alberta and Manitoba. Check with cleanfarms.ca and your local retailer.
THOSE WILY WEEDS | HITTING THE WALL
Studied as ways to kill living plants, both burning and steam heat treatments were effective. While these technologies have not become wildly popular, weed researchers investigating electricity are showing promising results that may need to be considered for future management. The confirmation of glyphosate resistance in downy brome only adds to the complexity of managing this weed. Referring to a previous article about patch management published here in the spring of 2020, I noted that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientist Bob Blackshaw studied downy brome control in winter wheat in the 1990s. He recommended three to four years between winter wheat crops, as well as maintaining an oilseed or pulse crop in the rotation to help keep downy brome under control. This glyphosate resistant downy brome population was discovered in a canola crop. So, we have hit the wall and need to develop or re-introduce other strategies. Geddes also urged growers to look at other management practices when he discussed this topic at a presentation to the Alberta Agronomy Update in early January. Both the Alberta and Washington populations are at resistance levels where higher rates of glyphosate will not provide acceptable control. The Washington study also provides the warning that Group 1 and Group 2 herbicide resistance is an issue. Relearning the old tools to be most effective for downy brome control requires some fine-tuning for the biology of this weed. Here are a few points to consider: Selective herbicides. While there are still options for selective herbicides, only a few are somewhat effective or rated for suppression based on the early maturity of the weed. Soil applied herbicides may also have activity, but the shallow fibrous root system and low water requirements of downy brome mean that residue management is important to ensure the roots contact soil to take up the soil-applied herbicides. Herbicide rotation will delay herbicide resistance but should be part of an integrated strategy. Tillage. Deep burial of downy brome seed has been shown to reduce the seedbank, but the seed needs to be buried more than four inches deep and left buried for approximately four years to reduce the seed viability by 95 per cent. Most farming practices no longer involve a moldboard plow and there needs to be 36
caution if using other tillage implements, such as a heavy harrow, as they are more likely to spread seed than kill the plants. Mowing or grazing. This will reduce seed set but not completely eliminate downy brome seed production. Small plants with even an inch or two of growth are still able to produce a few seeds. This tactic is most effective when there are other strategies being used as well. Hand pulling. Since downy brome is a shallow rooted plant, this is usually effective for small infestations. The key is to notice the patch of small plants and eliminate them before seed set. If the plant has seeds, the bag should be impenetrable as the seeds can work their way through a woven bag and redistribute. Burning or steam treatment. Studied as ways to kill living plants, both heat treatments were effective. While these technologies have not become wildly popular, weed researchers investigating electricity are showing promising results that may need to be considered for future management. The upside to controlling downy brome is that it is primarily a self-pollinated plant with limited dispersal. This means the herbicide resistance genes should not spread rapidly unless we spread them by spreading the seed. The downside is that spatially distant populations have been detected, indicating that the evolution of glyphosate resistance has happened and will continue to happen in this weed. While some farms may never have an issue with downy brome, there are many other grassy weeds that could also develop glyphosate resistance and be even more difficult to manage. Developing a program to control any weed is a challenge but the time burden to limit the weed problem now is a necessary trade-off to future productivity. If you suspect glyphosate-resistant downy brome in your fields, contact Geddes directly at email@example.com.
TROCHU MOTORS TITLE TROUCHU ||SECTION PROFILE
Rich Meding and Jack Stankievech, proud owners of Trochu Motors, located in Trochu, Alta.
75 YEARS OF AWARD-WINNING SERVICE AS PROGRESSIVE FARM INNOVATION CONTINUES
When an ag dealership has been in business for 75 years, owned and operated by the same family, there’s bound to be some great stories of industry evolution. For Jack Stankievech, his son Landis, daughter Camille and business partner Rich Meding of Trochu Motors, serving farmers in their region to keep up with all that innovation is a point of pride.
By Natalie Noble
“Ag is an industry where the technology, practices and equipment are evolving so rapidly,” says Landis. “We’ve seen the move to direct seeding and no till that led to increased production. Self-propelled sprayers with high clearance opened up application windows in the season. We’ve had GPS in the last 20 years and the whole suite of precision ag technologies. It’s keeping up with all this evolution that allows us to stay on top of what our customers need, when they need it.”
TROCHU MOTORS CELEBRATING 75 YEARS
PROFILE | TROCHU MOTORS
Serving farmers over the decades, Rich Meding and Jack Stankievech have seen rapid progress in innovation and industry practices.
“It inspires me when a customer is surprised that not only are we open on a Sunday, we’ve got that part they need. It’s great to be that person who gets them fixed up where maybe they wouldn’t have if we weren’t there.” - Jack Stankievech Versatile Delta Track and an Elmer’s grain cart being serviced in the Trochu Motors service bay.
At Trochu Motors, that might mean bringing in new brands and products, or hiring for new roles, such as their Precision Ag Specialist. A full line dealership, their team loves the sales part of their business, but they’re also focused on providing the best in parts and outstanding service. In fact, Jack, whose uncle Aaron and father John started the business in 1947, jokes that during the busy harvest season, Trochu Motors is open eight days a week. Through his own family farming experience and long-standing customer relationships, he understands the critical time-factor at harvest when people need parts or service to get their crops off. “It inspires me when a customer is surprised that not only are we open on a Sunday, we’ve got that part they need,” says Jack. “It’s great to be that person who gets them fixed up where maybe they wouldn’t have if we weren’t there.”
The original Trochu Motors facility welcomed farmers near and far from 1947-to-2014.
Originally a Cockshutt and Ford automotive dealership with six employees, Trochu Motors has solely focused on ag equipment since 1977. Today, their staff of over 40 serves
TROCHU MOTORS CELEBRATING 75 YEARS
® The Hesston bybyMassey The Hesston MasseyFerguson Ferguson®WR9900 WR9900 Series windrower Series windrowerand andthe the9300 9300Series Series disc disc mower attachment mower attachmentgive giveproducers producersthe the fastest drydownpossible possiblewith withsteel-on-steel steel-on-steel fastest drydown conditioner rollsthat thatcrimp crimpstems stemsevery every 1-2 1-2 conditioner rolls inches. Thisallows allowsleaves leavestotostay stayhealthy healthy inches. This and whole for maximum nutrient value. and whole for maximum nutrient value.
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QUALITY MACHINES MACHINES QUALITY FOR QUALITY QUALITY CROPS. FOR CROPS. VISIT US TODAY FOR A QUOTE ON HAY OR APPLICATION EQUIPMENT. VISIT US TODAY FOR A QUOTE ON HAY OR APPLICATION EQUIPMENT.
Trochu Motors Trochu Motors 102 Eckenfelder St, Trochu, 102 St, Trochu, ABEckenfelder T0M 2C0, Canada AB T0M 2C0, Canada 403-442-3866 403-442-3866
©2022 AGCO Corporation. Massey Ferguson and Fendt are worldwide brands of AGCO Corporation. AGCO, Massey Ferguson and Fendt are trademarks of AGCO. All rights reserved. ©2022 AGCO Corporation. Massey Ferguson and Fendt are worldwide brands of AGCO Corporation. AGCO, Massey Ferguson and Fendt are trademarks of AGCO. All rights reserved.
SECTION||TROCHU PROFILE TITLE MOTORS
“The reason we’re here is for our customers and everything we do is about giving them excellent service.” - Landis Stankievech
farmers with 15 product lines. Primarily offering AGCO products brings a host of brands from Massey Ferguson to Gleaner, and Fendt, all through one manufacturer. “We also sell a lot of Versatile tractors and tillage equipment,” says Landis. “Kubota is also popular, mostly their ag, turf equipment and skid steers.” “Elmer’s has become a strong product line too,” adds Camille. “We sell a lot of their grain carts, harrows and bale processors. We also sell a lot of Salford application and tillage products and have recently become a MacDon dealer for combine headers.” versatile-ag.com
DON’T LET COLD AND SNOW SLOW YOU DOWN. THE KUBOTA M7 WAS MADE FOR CANADIAN WINTERS.
102 Eckenfelder St. Trochu, AB T0M 2C0 403.442.3866 www.trochumotors.com
As Trochu Motors continues their award-winning service and focuses on growing with Western Canadian farmers, it’s interesting that at a time of farm and dealership consolidation trends, the business continues to operate solely in Trochu. 11:03 AM “We’ve been successful so far, we cover a large territory, sell a large volume and have a large staff despite being a single store,” says Landis. It’s that staff that works as a team and values family and farming that the Stankievech’s credit for their high-quality service. They’re counting on that team to keep up with the rapidly changing industry. “The reason we’re here is for our customers and everything we do is about giving them excellent service,” says Landis. “But we could not do that for 75 years without having an incredible team. Without them, we can’t take care of our customers in the way they deserve and that keeps them running. We look forward to continuing our work to serve all our farmers, big and small, and ensure they have product choice, for years to come.”
www.trochumotors.com TROCHU MOTORS CELEBRATING 75 YEARS
TROCHU MOTORS | PROFILE
Jack Stankievech, Rich Meding, Landis Stankievech and Camille Stankievech, the team behind Trochu Motors’ award-winning operation and continued success.
Inside the Trochu Motors shop, Massey Ferguson combines and Rogator sprayers receive winter inspections.
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Right or Left Auger Available 2300 Bushel Available Haulmaster CONNECT Scale System Fire Suppression System
NEW SOLID PULL ARM \\
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Increased Maneuverability Reduced Whip When Cornering Ability to Reverse Prevents Unwanted Wing Travel
SecureLock is a combination of a custom designed, spring-tensioned cylinder and an interlock system to prevent the possibility of solid pull arm unlatching during operation.
TROCHU MOTORS CELEBRATING 75 YEARS
SEEDING TECHNOLOGY | MANUFACTURERS CHASE SEEDING EFFICIENCY
Manufacturers Chase Seeding Efficiency Equipment innovation options for better seeding performance By Jeff Melchior
Efficiency is never far from farmers’ minds. With fertilizer in short supply and last year’s hot, dry growing season fresh in their minds, they’ll be looking for anything to help. Maintenance is a big part of the seeding efficiency equation. One of the biggest obstacles to opener efficiency is wear, says Shawn Senko, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada. He recommends checking openers at the beginning of seeding and then regularly throughout the season. “Once they wear, the seed and fertilizer tend to get closer and closer together and eventually they’ll end up together,” he adds. “So just choose the right openers for your conditions and then make sure they’re properly maintained.” Besides maintenance, farmers have some recently improved equipment options to choose from as well. We asked a couple major equipment manufacturers in Western Canada about new innovations helping producers improve speed, placement accuracy and, ultimately, yield as they venture out into the field this spring. Here’s a breakdown.
“Once they wear, the seed and fertilizer tend to get closer and closer together and eventually they’ll end up together. So just choose the right openers for your conditions and then make sure they’re properly maintained.” - Shawn Senko
Single rank SeedMaster toolbar sheds a lot of steel
SeedMaster had this very scenario in mind as it developed its Ultra SR single rank toolbar, says Tim Criddle, global sales director with SeedMaster. The company’s goal was to create a unit that wouldn’t require the purchase of a new tractor to attain higher speeds and overall efficiency. As you may have guessed from its prominence in the unit’s name, it’s the single rank configuration that’s at the root of this strategy. “It speaks directly to this chasing of the horsepower,” says Criddle.
Tell us if you’ve heard this one before. You walk into your local machinery dealer looking to buy a nice, shiny new 80-ft. seeder plus product cart. However, your jaw drops as you realize you’re going to need a powerful new tractor to pull it.
The 60 ft., 75-bushel capacity Ultra SR is actually a reworking of the long-available SeedMaster toolbar. Perhaps the biggest difference is its integrated design – the tanks are mounted on the toolbar while the openers are all on a single rank.
MANUFACTURERS CHASE SEEDING EFFICIENCY | SEEDING TECHNOLOGY
This eliminates a lot of expensive steel, creating a smaller unit that tackles some of the limitations found on heavier, multi-rank drills. It also adds up to a major savings with the bonus of the latest seeding technology. “You get the electric drives, the turn compensation and the trash clearance all in one so you can fill and go,” says Criddle. The single rank enables speed capabilities that would be more difficult to reach on a multi-rank machine, says Criddle, adding that the unit’s relatively light frame gives it a productive speed advantage compared to wider, heavier drills. “If you’re using a 60-ft. drill and you’re doing six miles per hour, you are just as productive as a neighbour who has an 80-foot drill and he’s throwing dirt all over the place and he can’t go any faster than five miles per hour,” says Criddle. Its residue management system – comprised of rotating 40-inch spoked wheels – is built for heavy trash clearance, pulling heavy straw or organic buildup through the rows and leaving it piled up and separated from the seed bed. The single rank also performs a role in residue management. Having no trailing ranks removes the risk of dirt or trash mucking up following openers.
SH Opener Inline Side Band Knife Rear View. Väderstad says its new inline side band opener for the Seed Hawk toolbar allows better soil flow and performance in residues, resulting in a smoother field finish. Photo courtesy Väderstad
Forestry tillers designed to clean up fields from non-commercial trees, stumps, roots and rocks to create a diversified organic matter seeding bed. Different models available for tractors ranging from 100 to 500 hp.
Contact us to find out our other ranges of mulchers. 43
SEEDING TECHNOLOGY | MANUFACTURERS CHASE SEEDING EFFICIENCY
“When we’re taking a half-inch piece of steel and putting it into the ground, we’re moving as much soil as needed but as little as required to create that environment.” - Nathan Sapach SeedMaster claims the Ultra SR eliminates the groundfollowing variability and inaccuracies of other manufacturers’ three and four-rank toolbars. This means the openers all engage the ground at the same time, maintaining a uniform depth and minimizing many of the overlap issues associated with cornering, says Criddle. “[The openers] run side-by-side perfectly separated so even on the inside or the outside where you would normally have the openers start to come together and overlap a little bit, you don’t have any of that,” he adds. “You maintain the exact same distance between each 44
opener on the single rank system so we are not throwing any dirt and are not running the risk of overlap on one row to the other on corners.”
Seed Hawk brings interchangeability to openers The Seed Hawk name has a long legacy on the Prairies. A big draw for the Seed Hawk air seeder toolbar has been its series of knife openers. This all started with its single side band configuration, which includes a single fertilizer knife that engages into the ground by a hydraulic cylinder. Since then, Väderstad, which acquired the brand in the mid-2000s, has added some different concepts to its knife openers to improve user convenience and efficiency, says Nathan Sapach, director of product management in air seeders with Väderstad. “Some newer ones would include our three-piece seed and fertilizer knives that just allow a quick change of the tip versus changing the whole knife assembly.” The three-piece system set the stage for one of the company’s most recent opener offerings – the inline side band knife. The new inline design allows for better soil flow and performance
MANUFACTURERS CHASE SEEDING EFFICIENCY | SEEDINGTITLE TECHNOLOGY | SECTION
Thanks to its single-rank design, SeedMaster says its 60-ft. Ultra SR toolbar allows producers to get the same, or better, efficiency as wider seeders while using less horsepower. Photo: Greg Huszar.
in residues, resulting in a smoother field finish, says Sapach. “The side band knife, which is positioned directly behind the fertilizer knife, is bent at an angle over to the side, creating a two-inch gap between the seed and fertilizer,” he adds. “Because it’s directly behind the fertilizer knife, it allows for optimal trash clearance by closing that window where trash can catch to only a half-inch, the width of our seed and fertilizer knives.” The inline side band knife is interchangeable on the Seed Hawk toolbar with the company’s twin wing knife opener. This opener seeds an inch-and-a-half to either side of the fertilizer band. “Growers can purchase a drill and utilize it either in a twin wing or inline side band configuration by just changing the seed knife along with some repositioning of the packer tire, depending on soil conditions,” says Sapach. A major difference between the inline side band opener and its predecessors is its two-inch distance between the seed and fertilizer knives. This compares to a one-and-a-half-inch distance on most of the earlier Seed Hawk openers and offers some extra insurance in dry years.
“In some cases, depending on your soil type, you may need just a little extra separation,” says Sapach. “If it’s a dry year and you’re using anhydrous you need a little bit more of a gap between the seed and fertilizer. We were safe at an inch-anda-half but, with some of the extreme high rates today, we’re ultra-safe with the inline side band knife.” Ultimately, all of these factors combine to create seeding precision. The width of the knives even play a key role in moisture conservation. “When we’re taking a half-inch piece of steel and putting it into the ground, we’re moving as much soil as needed but as little as required to create that environment,” says Sapach. “Consolidating with that packing tire at the back makes sure we’re losing as little moisture as possible. All the soil in between your rows is undisturbed. That ability to preserve moisture and yet still have the advantage of some soil movement force for anchoring that fine tilth creates a really good seedbed.” The half-inch profile can also drive fuel efficiency. “That definitely adds more fuel efficiency as opposed to pulling something four inches wide through the soil.” 45
RESIDUAL FERTILIZER | TURN NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE
Turn Negative to Positive Using residual fertility after 2021 drought By Jaclyn Krymowski
Without a doubt, drought conditions that plagued Western Canada throughout 2021 have taken a heavy toll on all facets of the agriculture sector. Even in the midst of post-harvest last season, effects remained, especially in regard to soil conditions. However, the impacts are a mixed bag of both positives and negatives, some of which farmers can use to their advantage in the coming year. Due to reduced crop growth and nutrient uptake during the drought, the soil in many regions retains more macro and micronutrients that boost residual fertility levels as compared to a year of average or more prolific growth. This brings with it some noteworthy implications as farmers prepare for next year’s planting and fertilizing. Some of these aspects are especially of interest in light of the unusually high fertilizer prices anticipated well into next year.
Soil conditions in 2021 According to 2021 data from AGVISE Laboratories, last season’s drought conditions have some interesting and exceptional highlights. Residual nitrogen levels – specifically in 46
the nitrate form – from the Canadian Prairies and down through the Great Plains were exceptionally high following both the wheat and corn harvest compared to previous years. Now, it should be noted that variability across and within fields was significant, but overall, nitrogen levels were higher than expected. Results from fields sampled in the fall of 2021 confirmed this across regions and according to crop. Over 20 per cent of wheatfields in Manitoba and Saskatchewan showed over 100 lb. per acre of nitrate remaining compared to only 5 per cent at that level last year. The median residual nitrate level for these fields was 63 lb. per acre, nearly double that of 36 lb. per acre in 2020. This marks the highest median level in over a decade. Thirty-five per cent of Western Canadian cornfields saw over 100 lb. per acre of nitrate this year where in 2020, only 12 per cent of fields were that high post-harvest. Canola wasn’t far behind with 19 per cent of fields breaching 100 lb. per acre, also reaching an unusually high 59 lb. per acre median. However, experts like Jeff Schoenau, University of Saskatchewan professor and Central Butte, Sask. farmer
TURN NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE | RESIDUAL FERTILIZER
Drought conditions go beyond the same-year impacts such as decreased harvest. Lack of soil moisture and poor plant growth can also leave significant levels of nutrients in the soil resulting in higher residual fertility than in an average or good year. Courtesy of Hebert Grain Ventures
growing 1,600 acres of wheat, canola and peas, note that these numbers may not remain the same throughout the entire winter. Instead, they will depend on more climatic elements. “Nitrate is a form of nitrogen that is susceptible to loss, especially under very wet conditions through processes like nitrification and leaching,” explains Schoenau. “If we have a scenario where suddenly things turn out very wet those available levels could change. I think it is prudent to certainly do some checking again in the spring to see how that residual nitrogen has fared over the winter and into the early spring.” Changes also depend on how cold the winter is and the length of the time the ground remains frozen. Ray Dowbenko, a retired senior agronomist with Nutrien, says areas where soil tends to stay completely frozen over the winter months lose less nutrients because the freezing actions help them stay locked in. Areas that don’t completely freeze over, or repeatedly freeze and thaw, have a continual risk of losing them at unknown levels. Only before and after testing can provide an accurate picture. Hebert Grain Ventures, located in Moosomin, Sask., decided
“If we have a scenario where suddenly things turn out very wet those available [nitrate] levels could change. I think it is prudent to certainly do some checking again in the spring to see how that residual nitrogen has fared over the winter and into the early spring.” - Jeff Schoenau to get a jump on fertilizer before last fall. The 28,000-acre diversified cropping operation lost 30 per cent of their usual yields due to the drought, according to managing partner 47
RESIDUAL FERTILIZER | TURN NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE
“Especially in the face of what might be $1,000 urea and $1,800 per ton ammonia . . . farmers need to make use of their nutrients from this past season and still be confident that they’re still in the ground next year. There is no reason to put more money into a field when there’s already fertilizer material.” - Ray Dowbenko Kristjan Hebert. The end results of their soil testing showed significant carryover of macronutrients available for the 2022 growing season. “We went about our fertilizer purchases in the summer months before soil tests had been completed resulting in an over-purchase of fertilizer,” says Hebert. “The 2022 crop will only require 70 to 75 per cent of our normal fertilizer application to reach average target yields.” Dowbenko adds that while the dry conditions affected most of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, there are some specific areas that experienced a significant late-season rainfall. This event ended up undoing at least some of that droughtinduced residual fertility seen in drier areas. “In some cases where farmers were expected to see 60 or 70 pounds of leftover nitrogen . . . they were only seeing 20 or 30,” says Dowbenko. “[That’s] because we had a late-season fall growth that took a lot of nutrients. That [rainfall] didn’t amount to a great crop, but it still grew like a weed in the fall.”
Implications for 2022 With nitrogen reaching record-high prices likely to continue into the new growing year, it’s in the interest of farms to be fully aware of what their nutrient requirements will be with so much residual nitrate. “Especially in the face of what might be $1,000 urea and $1,800 per ton ammonia . . . farmers need to make use of their nutrients from this past season and still be confident that they’re still in the 48
Surface soil sampling in a field using a simplistic, hand-operated soil auger. Courtesy of Jeff Schoenau, University of Saskatchewan
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RESIDUAL FERTILIZER | TURN NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE
“If I can grow more bushels and grain prices go up steadily, I stand to make a lot more money when I do the economics. An extra $20 in fertilizer is pale in comparison to making an extra $100 an acre of grain price. You have to look at crop and fertilizer prices in the context of what the grain is worth.” - Ray Dowbenko ground next year,” says Dowbenko. “There is no reason to put more money into a field when there’s already fertilizer material.”
I think it is an appropriate risk management strategy under those conditions.”
Because of this, he recommends a soil retest in the spring prior to any planting to see if the nutrient levels seen in the fall have stayed the same or changed.
In the case of Hebert Grain Ventures, Hebert says they have plans to use a similar mode of action accordingly with the anticipated drier conditions to get the most out of their fertilizer purchase. “We plan to only apply 75 to 80 per cent of nutrient needs at spring planting time,” he says. “Then, we will top dress additional needs based on water availability to the crop in May and June.”
With that in mind, aggressive testing with multiple samples is important to account for variabilities within fields. Schoenau notes that low areas will have seen more moisture, even in a drought, compared to the higher spots of the same field.He recommends farmers take the initiative to submit even more core samples and use specific horizontal sampling approaches to account for the variation present across fields. While considering higher levels of residual nutrients are certainly an asset, many farmers will still be applying some degree of fertilizer. However, next season’s possible climatic elements should be considered. “It’s very difficult to predict, but under dry conditions, and given high fertilizer prices and uncertainty over availability, what some growers may consider doing is putting on some fertilizer at the time of seeding, but waiting to see what happens,” says Schoenau. “If it rains and things look good, a post-emergent application can provide the additional nitrogen that crop needs.
Dowbenko adds that farmers can reference meteorological maps, such as those provided by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, when making their final decisions about how much to fertilize at various times. When using residual nutrients to an advantage through strategic application, Dowbenko cautions against the temptation to cut back on appropriate fertilizer amounts, especially in regard to nutrients that are immobile, due to high prices. “If I can grow more bushels and grain prices go up steadily, I stand to make a lot more money when I do the economics. An extra $20 in fertilizer is pale in comparison to making an extra $100 an acre of grain price,” he explains. “You have to look at crop and fertilizer prices in the context of what the grain is worth.”
Deep soil sampling in a field using a truck mounted hydraulic punch. Courtesy of Jeff Schoenau, University of Saskatchewan
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NEWS & INNOVATIONS
PAMI PrairiesCan investment of over $600,000 provides increased capabilities for product development and enhances the competitive advantage of manufacturers in the West. The Government of Canada is investing to ensure western Canadian manufacturers have the tools and resources they need to innovate and become more competitive. New digital equipment at the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba will help improve product design and performance opportunities for manufacturers while reducing product failure rates. This testing equipment makes it possible to simulate the lifecycle of a component in a matter of days. Early testing enables manufacturers to rapidly innovate and adopt advanced materials and manufacturing techniques. “It’s about being able to more efficiently serve clients on an ongoing basis” says Leah Olson, PAMI president and CEO “Clients will experience less set-up time to get their testing done meaning they will be able to make informed decisions about their product development and performance quicker.”
Olson says this makes PAMI the only organization in Western Canada that has this system, and they’ve already had global manufacturers express an interest in having some work done there. The Government of Canada is committed to building a strong, competitive Canadian economy by supporting business, innovation, and community economic development. This investment supports original equipment manufacturers as well as small and medium size enterprises to increase competitiveness and capitalize on growth opportunities. PAMI has locations in Humboldt, SK and Portage la Prairie, MB and is involved with product development, testing and validation for clients in the agriculture, mining and transportation industries.
KIOTI KIOTI Tractor welcomed dealers from the United States, Canada and overseas to its annual meeting, held Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Orlando. Each year, the event serves as an opportunity to recognize KIOTI’s dealer network, celebrate new product announcements and discuss industry trends. This year’s meeting, with the theme of “Next Level,” marked a return to an in-person gathering with a record-breaking attendance after being held virtually in 2020. “KIOTI’s continuously expanding dealer network across the globe is the backbone of our Pack and the driving force behind our success across the compact equipment and turf care industries,” said Peter Dong-Kyun Kim, president and CEO of Daedong-USA, Inc. KIOTI Tractor Division. “We were excited to once again gather in person to celebrate their success, provide educational and training opportunities, and prepare for the year ahead. We hope the experience empowered dealers to take their businesses to the next level in 2022.” The meeting kicked off with a welcome reception Monday evening, followed by a variety of educational sessions and 52
product overviews on Tuesday. On Wednesday, dealers tested KIOTI’s latest product line offerings at a daylong Ride-N-Drive event. The meeting closed with an awards banquet honoring top dealers. Dealers were also able to preview the custom KIOTI tractor the company recently donated to a local nonprofit as part of its Dirt Brigade initiative. Dan Sargent, executive director of Rebuilding Together of the Triangle, presented the one-ofa-kind CK2610 HST tractor.
Remuda works year-round, building workshops, barns, cold storage, shelters, and homes that Western Canadian farm families will enjoy for generations. remudabuilding.com
NEWS & INNOVATIONS
Advancing Women In Agriculture Advancing Women In Agriculture Conference will be held in Calgary at the Hyyatt Regency March 21 and 22, 2022. The Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference is created for every woman who is passionate about agriculture and food, whether you are a university student studying agriculture, producer, entrepreneur, representative of a grower association or corporate agribusiness. AWC is for women who want to enhance their family life, community, career and industry through: communications, coaching, mentoring, networking, financial management, independence, health, balance of life strategies career planning, and setting goals in all areas. “Very interesting, uplifting and motivating conference that is amazing for young women who often question their decision to enter this industry,” said Melissa D., Olds, AB. “This conference smashed all doubts.” AWC has a proven track record of bringing women in agriculture and food together from across Canada and parts of the U.S. AWC is proud of the quality of speakers that we bring to the podium, including business experts, motivational and inspirational leaders, and industry representatives.
“AWC provided students the opportunity for interaction and networking with leaders, which is important for their own individual growth and for the future of community development and leadership, “said Tony Morris, P.Ag, director of GRAS (The Grand River Agricultural Society). “AWC was excellent with very interesting topics. It was an amazing experience for personal growth. It helped me with a better understanding of the differences in viewpoints and critical analysis that are evident between the sexes, as well as improving my own personal ability to interact in such a setting.”
Olds College Olds College is one of five Alberta colleges that made the national list, and was also ranked in the top 10 of small size colleges for number of research partnerships and number of completed research projects. “We are pleased to be listed as one of the top research colleges in the country,” comments Dr. Joy Agnew, associate vice president, Applied Research, Olds College. “The Olds College Smart Ag Ecosystem is focused on accelerating the progress and innovation needed to grow Canada’s ag industry through applied research. The Olds College Centre for Innovation, together with our Smart Farm and Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production, continues to focus on practical, industry-driven applied research that is implementable by the agriculture industry.” The College’s primary research areas of focus include field crop production, livestock production, environmental stewardship, barley and triticale variety development, and smart agriculture technologies and practices. The College collaborates with 54
industry, academics and government to support applied research, innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship. The Olds College Smart Farm is at the heart of the Smart Ag Ecosystem at the College and has grown to include 2,800 acres of farmland, infrastructure and staff who are experienced in agricultural technology research and development. Olds College joins NAIT, SAIT, Lethbridge College and Bow Valley College on the annual national ranking list. According to Research Infosource Inc., Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges reported $270.9 million of sponsored research income in Fiscal 2020 in the form of research grants, contracts and contributions from third parties — an increase of 20.8 per cent over last year.
MOTHER NATURE SHOWS NO MERCY
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It can be overwhelming to determine the best risk management strategies for your operation. MNP’s Agriculture Risk Management Resources (ARMR) helps you understand, evaluate and effectively participate in the best options for you, your farm business and your peace of mind. Through our full-service approach, we’re here to support you – from AgriStability and other insurance sign-up times through to the final assessments – so you can grow your business while protecting it during challenging times.
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