According to the latest Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) information, agriculture-related fatalities are declining.

From 1990 to 2001, an average of 116 people died due to an agriculture-related incident. From 2002 to 2012, the average number of agriculture-related fatalities declined to 85 per year. Also encouraging is the fatality rates of all age groups saw decreases in this period.

“The decrease in the fatality rates is encouraging,” says Marcel Hacault, the Executive Director of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA). “It means that we are moving in the right direction.”

Between 2003 to 2012, farm machinery continued to be involved in most agriculture-related fatalities with runovers (18 per cent), rollovers (18 per cent) and being pinned or struck by a machine component (9 per cent) accounting for the top three ways people were fatality injured.

Fatality rates due to rollovers and from being pinned/struck by a machinery component also declined. Rollover fatality rates decreased an average of 3.6 per cent annually and fatality rates from being pinned/struck by a machinery component decreased an average of 7.8 per cent annually.

Published in Corporate News
The Canadian pickup truck market caters to the multiple needs of those in need of a truck for either work or personal use. But pickups that serve both the workplace and family are becoming the norm. Trying to offer buyers an unbiased perspective is one of the reasons I started the Canadian Truck King Challenge 10 years ago. Each year, a group of journalist judges continue to fulfill that original mandate: testing pickup trucks and vans the same way owners use them.
Published in Machinery
If you leave your pivot exposed all through the winter, you’re going to be working on it a lot longer in the spring,” says Jeff Ewen, an irrigation agrologist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture in Outlook, Sask. To help producers prevent damage from winter’s storms and bone-chilling temperatures, Ewen offers a number of winterizing tips.
Published in Irrigation
Variable rate (VR) technology has been around long enough that VR fertilizer application is common. But what about VR seeding rates? Like VR fertilizer, VR seeding seeks to smooth out field variability so crop establishment is more uniform.
Published in Precision Ag
Sept. 15, 2016 -  The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Company, recently announced the introduction of the company's industry-leading Climate FieldView digital agriculture platform into Eastern Canada for the 2017 growing season.

According to a news release, the platform will give Canadian farmers the ability to easily collect, visualize, and analyze their field data in one centralized platform and uncover personalized field insights to support the many crucial decisions they make each season to maximize crop productivity.

"Similar to the launch of biotechnology in the 1990s, we are now experiencing the next revolution of global agriculture through transformative digital technologies that are helping farmers gain a much deeper understanding of their fields, optimize their resources and maximize their return on every acre," says Mike Stern, chief executive officer for The Climate Corporation.

The Climate FieldView platform is said to combine data science with field science and on-farm data to take the complex, environmental interactions that happen in each unique field and turn them into customized insights farmers can use to make data-driven decisions with confidence.

Officially launched in 2015, Climate FieldView is now on more than 92 million acres across the United States, with more than 100,000 farmers there actively engaging in Climate's digital tools. In less than two growing seasons, Climate FieldView has already become the most broadly connected platform in the industry and has continued to expand new, unique product features and geographic availability of its offerings.

Climate FieldView features in Eastern Canada
  • Data Connectivity - Farmers can experience simple data collection, storage and visualization through the Climate FieldView Drive, a device that provides seamless data connectivity by easily transferring field data from a farmer's equipment into their Climate FieldView account. Launched early this year in the United States, FieldView Drive captures key planting data including hybrid and planting population, as well as key harvest data such as yield, and digitally displays that data in a farmer's Climate FieldView account as the farmer passes through the field. This enables the ability for farmers to easily understand hybrid performance by field, and population with side-by-side views of as-planted and yield data. FieldView Drive will work with many tractors and combines in Eastern Canada. In addition to the FieldView Drive, farmers can connect their field data to their Climate FieldView account through Precision Planting's 20/20 monitors and John Deere's Wireless Data Server (WDS) technology. Climate FieldView also offers farmers the option of cloud-to-cloud connection with many other agricultural software systems, as well as manual file upload.
  • Yield Analysis Tools - The Climate FieldView platform also provides seed performance analysis tools to help farmers evaluate the impact their agronomic decisions have on yield, so they can build the best plan to maximize profitability for the next season. Farmers can analyze seed performance by field and hybrid, and better understand their field variability by quickly and easily comparing digital field maps side-by-side.
  • Advanced Satellite Imagery - With frequent and consistent high-quality field satellite imagery, farmers can find out what's happening beyond the end rows and identify issues early, prioritize scouting, and take action to protect yield. Climate's proprietary imagery process provides consistent imagery quality and frequency by using high-resolution imagery with vegetative data from multiple images, in addition to advanced cloud identification. Farmers can also drop geo-located scouting pins on field health images and navigate back to those spots for a closer look, or share with agronomic partners.
  • Field-Level Weather - With field-level weather information and notifications, farmers can more efficiently prioritize and plan each day. Farmers can view historical, real-time and forecasted weather to decide which fields are workable based on average field precipitation and wind speed.

The Climate FieldView platform will be available for purchase in Eastern Canada in winter 2016, so that farmers can begin using it on their farms in time for the 2017 growing season. To experience the complete value of the platform throughout the entire season, farmers should sign up for Climate FieldView by Jan. 1, 2017. Farmers can try field-level weather insights, including notifications and scouting, as well as advanced satellite imagery for free on two trial fields. Pricing for the Climate FieldView offering in Canada will be available this fall.

Fundamental to Climate's data privacy policy is the company's commitment to respect that farmers own their data, including the data they generate on their farming equipment.

For more information about the Climate FieldView platform, contact support at 888-924-7475 or visit
Published in Business & Policy
Are AgBots the way of the future for agriculture in Canada, or simply the latest in a long line of products marketed as must-haves for Canadian producers?

Long used in the dairy industry for autonomous milking and herding, robotics technology is being applied in soil testing, data collection, fertilizer and pesticide application and many other areas of crop production.

“Robotics and automation can play a significant role in society meeting 2050 agricultural production needs,” argues the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Robotics and Automation Society on its website.  

Farmers have a right to question the value of new technologies promising greater efficiency on the farm. But Paul Rocco, president of Ottawa-based Provectus Robotics Solutions, believes robotics offer a suite of potential new solutions for producers short on resources and averse to risk.

“In a perfect world, farmers would have a machine that could perform soil sampling at night, deliver a report in the morning, and be sent out the following night to autonomously spray,” says Rocco. “We’re a ways away from that, but the technology is maturing and the capabilities exist already – it’s about putting it into the hands of farmers and making sure it’s affordable.”

Provectus’ latest project involved problem solving for a banana plantation in Martinique, where human ATV operators are at risk of injury from chemical spray or even death due to unsafe driving conditions. The company recently developed a remotely operated ground vehicle that carries spray equipment and can be controlled by operators in a safe location.

“We see applications in Canada,” says Rocco. “Why expose people to hazardous substances and conditions when you can have an unmanned system?”

Robotics are not all bananas. For example, a Minneapolis-based company, Rowbot Systems, has developed an unmanned, self-driving, multi-use platform that can travel between corn rows – hence, “Rowbots” – to deliver fertilizer, seed cover crops, and collect data.

RowBots are not yet commercially available, but CEO Kent Cavender-Bares says there’s already been interest from corn growers across the United States as well as Canada.

As to whether the use of robotics is cost-effective for farmers, it’s almost too soon to say. But utility can be balanced against cost.

“In terms of cost effectiveness from the farmer’s perspective, there’s a strong story already for driving yields higher while reducing production costs per bushel. Of course, we need to bring down the cost on our side to deliver services while making a profit,” says Cavender-Bares.

He believes that as autonomy spreads within agriculture, there will be a trend toward smaller, robotic machines.

“Not only will smaller machines be safer, but they’ll also compact soil less and enable more precision and greater diversity of crops,” he says.

Case study: ‘BinBots’
Closer to home, a group of University of Saskatchewan engineering students has designed a “BinBot,” an autonomous sensor built to crawl through grain bins and deliver moisture and temperature readings.

The students were part of a 2015 Capstone 495 design course, in which groups of four students are matched with industry sponsors to tackle specific problems.
Joy Agnew, a project manager with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI)’s Agricultural Research Services, stepped forward with a challenge: could students develop an improved grain bin sensor for PAMI?

“It came about from the first summer storage of canola project we did, and the data showing that in the grain at the top of the bin, the temperature stayed steady during the entire sampling period, but the temperature in the headspace grain was fluctuating wildly,” says Agnew.

“We realized the power of grain insulating capacity – there was less than 15 centimetres between the grain that was changing and the grain that wasn’t. That made us think: the sensors are really only telling you the conditions in a one-foot radius around the sensor – less than one per cent of all the grain in the bin.”

The problem she set to the students: can you design sensors with “higher resolution” sensing capabilities than currently available cables?

“We were looking at some high-tech ideas of how we could do that with radio waves or imaging, and we thought we needed more mechanical systems,” says Luke McCreary, who has since graduated. “We ended up with a track system in the bin roof with a robot on a cable. The robot has a couple of augers on it so it can propel itself through the grain, taking temperature and humidity measurements as it goes and sending that data to a logging source to create a 3D map of the temperature, humidity and moisture in the bin,” he says.

Once built, the robot will be six inches in diameter and 14 inches long, with the ability to move laterally, vertically and transversally.

Agnew says PAMI is applying for funding to build the robot, and has already had some interest from manufacturers. She says the technology could reach farmers’ bins between five and 10 years from now.

“We think this is the way of the future to avoid the risk of spoilage,” she says. “The technology is advancing, and costs are declining rapidly.”
Published in Maintenance
Sept. 9, 2016 - Augers and the dangers associated with grain are well-known hazards during harvest. Protocol for safely working around these elements should be outlined and communicated with co-workers to minimize or eliminate the risk of injuries. When using an auger, one person should be designated as being in charge of the task, and be sure that the equipment is periodically inspected during operation. While the auger is running:
  • Observe work area restrictions
  • Keep all safety shields and devices in place
  • Make certain everyone is clear before operating or moving the machine
  • Keep hands, feet, hair and clothing away from moving parts
  • Shut off and lock out power to adjust, service, or clean the equipment
“Grain handling entrapments can happen very quickly,” says Nicole Hornett, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Flowing grain can draw a person down within seconds. High capacity equipment, such as wagons paired with large diameter augers, can be extremely efficient at unloading grain. Flowing grain can pull children and adults down quicker than one thinks they can react.”

The best way to reduce the risk of grain entrapment is to eliminate the situation. Farm workers, however, are exposed to some risks. To reduce risk, follow these guidelines:
  • Consider all alternate methods to free up grain before resorting to entering a wagon or bin. Bin entry should be the last resort.
  • Lock out power to all types of grain handling equipment - disconnect power and place locks over operating switches
  • Always use the buddy system when you are unloading or loading grain - quickly stopping an auger could mean the difference between an entrapment or a fatal engulfment
  • Never enter a bin when grain is caked or spoiled - mouldy, wet grain clumps and, as it is unloaded, a large air pocket can form just below the surface creating a ‘grain bridge’ that can collapse at any time
“Make this year’s harvest season one where everyone gets home safe and healthy at the end of each work day,” says Hornett. “Whether it is shift work with an extended team of farm hands or a few family members, make the plan work for safety. With all the potential hazards during fall work, it takes some discussion and planning to ensure everyone is on the same path to a safe and bountiful harvest.”
Published in Machinery
August 24, 2016 - Richardson International Limited will invest $120 million in its canola processing plant in Lethbridge, Alta. to maximize operating efficiencies and modernize the facility to significantly increase canola crush capability.

Currently, the plant processes approximately 450,000 metric tonnes of canola annually. With these upgrades, the facility will be able to process in excess of 2,000 metric tonnes of canola per day, increasing annual crush capacity to more than 700,000 metric tonnes. Combined with its canola processing plant in Yorkton, Sask., Richardson will have the capacity to process over 1.7 million tonnes of canola per year.

“We are continuing ongoing capital upgrades in Lethbridge to increase crush capacity and realize greater efficiencies,” says Darwin Sobkow, executive vice-president, agribusiness and processing operations. “This will allow us to better serve our customers and create a state-of-the-art facility that is very efficient for its size, positioning us to compete with the most modern canola crushing facilities in North America.”

Upgrades and enhancements to the facility began last year with the addition of new processing equipment. A modern, high throughput seed receiving facility is now being built to increase efficiency and provide quick turnaround for farmers and truckers delivering seed to the plant.

“Increasing the speed of the receiving plant is a top priority for us to better serve our customers, providing them with the ability to deliver their seed quickly and efficiently,” says Sobkow. “We are committed to making a significant investment in our Lethbridge plant for long-term operations to continue to grow our business.”

The new high speed receiving system will be able to receive 800 metric tonnes of canola per hour, a significant increase from the current system, and will be ready for harvest deliveries in the fall of 2017. Sobkow says the upgrades will be completed with minimal to no disruptions to ensure the Lethbridge facility continues to serve both farm customers and end-use buyers.
Published in Corporate News

Farm Management Canada (FMC) will host an Eastern Ontario Family Farm Safety Day in Douglas, Ont., on July 16. This event is supported by the FCC Ag Safety Fund administered by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) with funding from Farm Credit Canada (FCC).

Published in Business Management
June 29, 2016 - Promising farm cash receipt projections suggest new farm equipment sales will slowly improve over the next two years, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) latest agriculture economics report.

The report, Projecting 2016-17 Farm Receipts and Equipment Sales, forecasts a seven-per-cent recovery in total farm equipment sales for 2017, buoyed by projections of stronger cash receipts in coming years.

“Farm equipment is among the most valuable assets for many farmers and is a great indicator for the state of the farm economy,” says J.P. Gervais, FCC’s chief agricultural economist. “While producers, manufacturers and dealers must exercise caution, strong demand for agricultural commodities, low interest rates and a stable Canadian dollar are all factors that should trigger improvement in the new farm equipment market.”

Total new farm equipment sales fell by 13.8 per cent in 2015, due to uncertainty surrounding Canadian crop production and weaker commodity prices. Higher prices for new equipment in Canada – as a result of a weaker Canadian dollar – also contributed to a decreased demand for equipment.

Strong new equipment sales prior to 2014 made 2015 sales appear low, even though they were in line with the 10-year average.

“Equipment sales are usually a leading indicator of farm health,” Gervais says. “Tighter margins in recent years have led several farmers to choose leasing over buying their agricultural machinery. We’ve also seen new groups of producers in the market buying and sharing farm equipment.”

New farm equipment sales for 2016 started off slow compared to 2015 sales levels, but are expected to turn the corner and should begin strengthening towards the end of 2016 and into 2017 thanks to an improved agriculture economic outlook, according to the FCC report.

“The reason we are projecting a turn-around in new farm equipment sales is that cash receipts for various agriculture sectors are looking stronger,” Gervais says. “Nothing is written in stone, but the key indicators are looking pretty good.”

The report projects crop receipts will increase 5.8 per cent in 2016, with a further 3.8-per-cent increase in 2017. These projections are highly influenced by strong prices in futures markets for major grains and oilseeds, as well as a Canadian dollar that is expected to remain below its five-year average.

Gervais said low interest rates also have both short- and long-term effects on farm equipment sales. Continued low interest rates should boost sales, especially of larger equipment.

To view the FCC Farm Equipment Sales Report and video, visit
Published in Corporate News
June 28, 2016 - Promising farm cash receipt projections suggest new farm equipment sales will slowly improve over the next two years, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) latest agriculture economics report.

The report, Projecting 2016-17 Farm Receipts and Equipment Sales, forecasts a seven-per-cent recovery in total farm equipment sales for 2017, buoyed by projections of stronger cash receipts in coming years.

“Farm equipment is among the most valuable assets for many farmers and is a great indicator for the state of the farm economy,” said J.P. Gervais, FCC’s chief agricultural economist. “While producers, manufacturers and dealers must exercise caution, strong demand for agricultural commodities, low interest rates and a stable Canadian dollar are all factors that should trigger improvement in the new farm equipment market.”

Total new farm equipment sales fell by 13.8 per cent in 2015, due to uncertainty surrounding Canadian crop production and weaker commodity prices. Higher prices for new equipment in Canada– as a result of a weaker Canadian dollar – also contributed to a decreased demand for equipment.

Strong new equipment sales prior to 2014 made 2015 sales appear low, even though they were in line with the 10-year average.

“Equipment sales are usually a leading indicator of farm health,” Gervais said. “Tighter margins in recent years have led several farmers to choose leasing over buying their agricultural machinery. We’ve also seen new groups of producers in the market buying and sharing farm equipment.”

New farm equipment sales for 2016 started off slow compared to 2015 sales levels, but are expected to turn the corner and should begin strengthening towards the end of 2016 and into 2017 thanks to an improved agriculture economic outlook, according to the FCC report.

“The reason we are projecting a turn-around in new farm equipment sales is that cash receipts for various agriculture sectors are looking stronger,” Gervais said. “Nothing is written in stone, but the key indicators are looking pretty good.”

The report projects crop receipts will increase 5.8 per cent in 2016, with a further 3.8-per-cent increase in 2017. These projections are highly influenced by strong prices in futures markets for major grains and oilseeds, as well as a Canadian dollar that is expected to remain below its five-year average.

Gervais said low interest rates also have both short- and long-term effects on farm equipment sales. Continued low interest rates should boost sales, especially of larger equipment.
Published in Machinery
June 27, 2016 - Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) has revised its Land Classification for Irrigation in Alberta factsheet.

“Land classification for irrigation in Alberta is a multi-faceted process,” says Ravinder Pannu, soil and water specialist, AF, Lethbridge. “It begins with the systematic examination, description, appraisal, and grouping of land. Grouping is based on the physical and chemical characteristics affecting its suitability for sustained production under irrigated agriculture Land selection for irrigation also involves predicting how land will respond after development and the application of irrigation water.”

The factsheet includes sections on standards for classification, irrigation factors, land classes and topography classification.

“Land classification for irrigation is now completed by a professional consulting agrologist,” says Pannu. “A list of land classification consultants is available on AF‘s webpage.”
Published in Business Management

February 17, 2016 - A new partnership between the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS) and GEOSYS International Inc. will bring the latest digital agriculture and satellite imagery technologies to farmers.

Co-op AG Team Agronomists at South Country Co-op will begin using GEOSYS’ Croptical monitoring application this spring. In the first year of the partnership, the application will be used to monitor the field health of a minimum of 120,000 acres in southern Alberta.

GEOSYS, founded 28 years ago and operating globally, is a pioneer in developing tools based on satellite imagery that improve agriculture business efficiency, including farming practices.

“At South Country Co-op, we’re proud to provide services that deliver more value to our farm members and customers,” says Mike Clement, General Manager of South Country Co-op. “Satellite imagery is a proven technology for improving agriculture. Our agronomists are knowledgeable, experienced and ready to help growers adopt this exciting technology.”

Keeping the finger on the pulse of every fieldCroptical provides agronomists with a powerful tool as they build impactful farm strategies for growers.The monitoring application uses daily satellite and weather-based data to produce detailed crop health readings with Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) technology. Field NDVI growth during the season reveals where there are opportunities to push or protect yields and where agronomists and growers should focus their attention and smart-scout.

“First and foremost, we are dedicated to agriculture. It is at the core of everything we do,” says Damien Lepoutre, President of GEOSYS. “Our team is committed to delivering value to the grower and empowering agricultural development through digital technology.”

Throughout the 2016 growing season, South Country Co-op will work with Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) to evaluate Croptical for potential introduction to other Co-op Agro Centres in Western Canada.“The Co-op AG Team and the CRS are committed to innovation,” says Trish Meyers, Knowledge and Innovation Manager at FCL. “By partnering with world-renowned leaders in digital agriculture, we will deliver new services and value to our growers. The Co-op AG Team will build on its reputation in Western Canada as a source of local knowledge and expertise and work with growers to realize the full potential of new agricultural technology and data collection tools.”

About Federated Co-operatives Limited and the Co-operative Retailing System
Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), based in Saskatoon, is the 43rd largest company in Canada and the largest non-financial co-operative in Canada. FCL is a unique multi-billion dollar wholesaling, manufacturing, marketing and administrative co-operative owned by more than 200 autonomous retail co-operatives across Western Canada.

Together FCL and those local retail co-operatives form the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS). The CRS serves our members and communities with products and services that help build, feed and fuel individuals and communities from Vancouver Island to northwestern Ontario. Our total workforce of 24,500 employees serve 1.8 million active individual members and many more non-member customers at 2,500 retail locations in more than 500 communities. We are a different kind of business – we are locally invested, community-minded and offer lifetime membership benefits including patronage refunds, quality products, quality service and fair prices. More information is available at

GEOSYS is the first global digital agriculture company founded by agronomists. With more than 28 years of industry experience and business in more than 50 countries, GEOSYS is the world leader in agricultural information and decision support tools based on satellite imagery, remote sensing, geographic information systems and data analytics. GEOSYS combines the most advanced agronomic research with information technologies to provide its clients the data, analysis and insights they need to make more informed decisions. Acquired by Land O’Lakes, Inc. in 2013, GEOSYS is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with offices in France, Switzerland, Australia and Brazil.

Published in Precision Ag

For the past nine years, veteran automotive journalists have donated their time to act as judges in the only annual North American truck competition that tests pickup and van models head to head – while hauling payload and also towing.  

The Canadian Truck King Challenge started in 2006, and each year these writers return because they believe in this straightforward approach to testing and they know their readers want the results it creates.

I started it (and continue to do it) for the same reason – that, and my belief that after 40 years of putting trucks to work I know what’s important to Canadians. Now, that’s a long list of qualifications, but in a nutshell it’s the concept that a truck can be pretty, but that alone is just not enough. It had also better do its job – and do it well.

This year, nine judges travelled from Quebec, Saskatchewan and across Ontario to the Kawartha Lakes Region where we test the trucks each year.  All the entries are delivered to my 70-acre IronWood test site days before the judges arrive so we can prepare them for hauling and towing. In the meantime they are all outfitted with digital data collectors. These gadgets plug into the USB readers on each vehicle and transmit fuel consumption data to a company in Kitchener, Ont. (MyCarma) that records, compiles and translates those readings into fuel economy results that span the almost 4,000 test kilometers we accumulate over two long days.  

These results are as real world as it gets. The numbers are broken into empty runs, loaded results and even consumption while towing. Each segment is measured during test loops with the trucks being driven by five judges – one after the other. That’s five different driving styles, acceleration, braking and idling (we don’t shut the engines down during seat changes).  

The Head River test loop itself is also a combination of road surfaces and speed limits. At 17-kilometres long it runs on gravel, secondary paved road and highway. Speed limits vary from 50 to 80 km/h and the road climbs and drops off an escarpment-like ridgeline several times; plus it crosses the Head River twice at its lowest elevation. The off-road part of our testing is done on my own course at IronWood. Vans are not tested on the off-road course, though it’s noteworthy that the Mercedes Sprinter was equipped with a four-wheel drive system this year.

This is the third year that we have used the data collection system and released the final fuel consumption report that MyCarma prepares for the Truck King Challenge. It’s become one of our most anticipated results.

But how do we decide what to test? Well as anyone who’s bought a truck knows, the manufacturers never sleep, bringing something different to market every year. As the challenge looks to follow market trends, what and how we test must change each year too and the 2016 model year proved no different. We had a field of 14 contenders at IronWood this year covering four categories. They were as follows:

Full-size half-ton pickup truck

  • Ford F-150, Platinum, 3.5L, V6 EcoBoost, gas, 6-speed Auto
  • Ford F-150, XLT, 2.7L, V6 EcoBoost, gas, 6-speed Auto
  • Chevrolet Silverado, High Country, 6.2L, V8, gas, 8-speed Auto
  • Ram 1500, Laramie, 3L EcoDiesel, V6, diesel, 8-speed Auto

Mid-size pickup truck

  • Toyota Tacoma, TRD Off-Road, 3.5L V6, gas, 6-speed Auto
  • GMC Canyon, SLT, 2.8L Duramax, I-4 diesel, 6-speed Auto
  • Chevrolet Colorado, Z71, 3.6L V6, gas, 6-speed Auto

Full-size commercial vans

  • Ford Transit 250, 3.2L Power Stroke I-5 diesel, 6-speed Auto
  • Mercedes Sprinter 2.0L BLUE-Tec I-4 diesel, 2X4
  • Mercedes Sprinter 3.0L BLUE-Tec V6 diesel, 4X4
  • Ram ProMaster 1500, 3.0L I-4 diesel, 6-speed Auto/Manual

Mid-size commercial vans

  • Ram ProMaster City, SLT, 2.4L Tigershark I-4 gas, 9-speed Auto
  • Nissan NV200, 2.0L I-4, gas, Xtronic CVT Auto
  • Mercedes Metris, 2.0L I-4, gas, 7-speed Auto

These vehicles are each all-new – or have had significant changes made to them. However, this year, the Truck King Challenge decided to try something else new by offering a returning champion category.

This idea had been growing for a while and had everything to do with the engineering cycles that each manufacturer follows. Simply put, trucks are not significantly updated each year and to date we have only included “new” iron in each year’s competition. However, we started to think that just because a truck is in the second or third year of its current generational life shouldn’t make it non-competitive. Certainly if you watch the builders’ ads it doesn’t!  

So, this spring we decided that for the first time the immediate previous year’s winner (in each category) would be offered the chance to send its current truck back to IronWood to compete against what’s new on the market.  

This year the invitation was sent to the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, Ford Transit 250 and Nissan NV200 – all previous winners that accepted the offer to return and fight for their crowns.

They, along with the new vehicles, took the tests over two days with the judges evaluating everything from towing feel to interior features.

The judges score each vehicle in 20 different categories; these scores are then averaged across the field of judges and converted to a score out of 100. Finally the “as tested” price of each vehicle is also weighted against the average (adding or subtracting points) for the final outcome.

And this year’s segment winners are...

  • Full-Size Half-Ton Pickup Truck – Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – 82.97 per cent
  • Mid-Size Pickup Truck – GMC Canyon Duramax – 76.30 per cent
  • Full-Size Commercial Van – Ford Transit 250 – 73.90 per cent
  • Mid-Size Commercial Van – Mercedes Metris – 75.69 per cent

The overall top scoring 2016 Canadian Truck King Challenge winner is the Ram 1500, Laramie, 3L EcoDiesel, V6 diesel, 8-speed Auto.

Congratulations to all the winners and to the two repeating champions – the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and the Ford Transit 250.

Published in Maintenance


At Ag Days 2015 in Brandon, Man., an Ontario farmer told listeners: “A tablet is so much more useful than all those monitors in tractor cabs.” When he isn’t farming, Peter Gredig is one of three principals operating a company that develops Internet applications for mobile technology.

Since it was formed in 2010, AgNition Inc. has been producing mobile technology on request, for farming. It also has a few products of its own. The best known is ScoutDoc, a GPS-enabled field scouting application with cloud-based data storage.

Gredig is a big believer in what he calls a “mobile mindset” for handling everyday problems. Literally, it’s a different way of thinking.

Carrying his smartphone and tablet computer is as vital, and comfortable, as putting on his trousers and boots. The mobile communication tools don’t stay in the cab, like dog-eared notebooks. In fact, they’ve replaced the notebook.

It’s one thing to have a smartphone on the hip or in the cab; it’s another thing to make use of its real potential. “Suppose you’re in a field and have an employee five miles away. You have a problem with a piece of equipment and need to do something. What would you do, get on the phone?”

“Our kids would FaceTime immediately. They would go to FaceTime and say, ‘Here’s what I’m seeing or this is what I’m hearing. What do I do?’ At the other end, you hear it and see it. That’s communication power,” Gredig says.

FaceTime, along with a GPS location sensor, camera, email, messaging and Internet service, came along in the smartphone package – probably four or five years ago. Now there are ag apps to add to the mobile technology.

The typical ag app, Gredig explains, uses the original smartphone functions and integrates them with one or more databases. AgNition has built a few apps for farming, but the market is exploding. A few should be on every farm smartphone.

“One of our goals as a company is to build apps that allow producers to do their tasks easily, so they’re not doing a long Internet search. We try to provide tools to make it a 30-second process to go through management decisions,” he says.

That mindset is very far removed from the traditional idea. The old-school method was (or is) to check email and do a quick Internet search in the morning over coffee, then go out to work. “I don’t do that anymore,” Gredig says. “That’s another thing young people do differently. They understand that the tools, the smartphone and tablet, dictate when and where they get their information, their entertainment, the resources they want, so it’s on their hip. Farmers should be this way, too.

That may mean using FaceTime to answer a question about a button on a monitor, or a weed, but it may mean using an app when there’s an issue.

Gredig uses a New Holland 8770 tractor. He’s downloaded a New Holland app called MyShed. After he got the app, he punched in the serial numbers for all his New Holland equipment. “It knows exactly what products I have. If I’m in the field and decide that my 8770 needs a fuel gauge, I can pull up a schematic diagram, select the component or the part, check to see if it’s in inventory and order it. It’s really easy to look at parts diagrams, keep track of parts you’ve ordered and do maintenance records,” he says.

 Instead of using a notebook, when he notices a weed infestation that needs attention, he opens up the ScoutDoc app. It already knows which field he’s in and brings it up on the screen. He does “pindrop” to mark the exact point, takes a picture of what he sees and writes a note that is tagged to the pindrop. Months later, he can flip through notes on ScoutDoc to locate issues and deal with them.

At another level, new ag apps are making some cab monitors obsolete. A dedicated monitor in a tractor – built ruggedly for one thing – can cost thousands of dollars. A tablet computer, for $500, can do the work of hundreds of traditional monitors. If you need rugged casing for a tablet, that’s available.

The new mindset really is moving toward “cloud” computing – moving all the bits of data onto enormous digital server farms that are accessible instantly and wherever there is an Internet connection. “What really makes the phone and tablet a whole new level of power is that I can place any information I like on the cloud, from my desktop. Whether it’s a spreadsheet, field records, pictures, music or contact information. Once it’s on the cloud, I have access to it anywhere in the world on any device in the world as long as I can remember my password and have an Internet connection. That converts the tractor cab into a virtual office.”

Here’s the thought process needed, according to Gredig: One, I want to do XYZ. Two, can I do it with my tablet or smartphone? Three, can I get an app to do it?

“Once you have that mindset, you will be amazed at what is available. The last place I want to be is in an office. If I do this mobile, I can avoid the office.”




Published in Other Crops

Oct. 27, 2015, Lacombe, Alta. – Renn Mill Center has purchased the manufacturing and distribution rights to the Jiffy brand of agriculture equipment, including the Jiffy bale shredder, hay rake and harrow drawbar.

Renn purchased the Jiffy product line from ProAll International Manufacturing Inc., an equipment manufacturer based in Olds, Alberta, where Jiffy products have been manufactured since 1959. Renn also purchased the Pro-Care line of lawn maintenance equipment from ProAll as part of the deal.

Renn products are sold to farmers in more than 20 countries worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the U.K., Ireland, Australia and Eastern Europe. Jiffy products are currently distributed across North America. RENN will merge the two distribution networks, expanding market access to both brands. 


Published in Corporate News

September 9, 2015 – A new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) designed and built in Ontario specifically for agricultural uses is now available.

A&L Canada Laboratories of London, Ontario has developed and equipped the first-of-its kind drone with the sensors, equipment, and software that will let farmers easily collect and interpret meaningful data related to yield determination, disease detection and more.

“We have built a plane that is a full solution – easy to fly, affordable, and with reliable software that works seamlessly,” explains Greg Patterson, Certified Crop Advisor and President of A&L Canada Laboratories. “We can have data from a plane onto a tablet on the edge of the field in 10 minutes.”

The company has also developed a multispectral sensor that can fit either into the UAV it has developed or can be retrofitted into other drones. A&L’s multispectral sensor will pick up more bandwidths of light than the currently used infrared sensors, enabling users to collect and extract more data that can be used to determine crop yield, identify nutritional disorders, or detect the presence of disease in a field.

“We’re about selling a technology that is useful to farmers in gathering crop production data, offering a solution that is practical and easy for anyone to use,” says Patterson. “Not only does our technology collect data, but we also offer the agronomy support for interpreting that data, which no one else in the industry currently does.”

A&L Canada began experimenting with UAV technology in 2009, but challenges linked to finding suitable equipment and reliable software convinced the company to design their own system from the ground up with the needs of their agricultural client base in mind.

The beta version of the UAV will be on display at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock September 15 – 17, and A&L will be taking orders for spring 2016 delivery of the units. A&L is also planning to offer customized data collection services using UAVs.

The technology will be marketed by Aero Insights Inc., a division of A&L Canada Laboratories. A&L Canada was formed in 1985 and is Canada’s largest agricultural and environmental laboratory specializing in soil, plant tissue, fertilizer and water testing.

Published in Precision Ag

August 13, 2015 - Drones have long been used for military purposes, but Nova Scotia-based start-up Sky Squirrel Technologies Inc. has found a more peaceful use for the technology.

Sky Squirrel deploys small drones equipped with infrared cameras to cruise the skies over vineyards, sending back images that help growers monitor for moisture level, disease, rot, insect damage and general crop health – all things that contribute to the quality of the grapes and the resulting wine.

In the past, farmers would have had to walk their fields, taking samples back to send off to the lab. “If you have hundreds of acres, that is just not feasible,” says Richard van der Put, the Swiss-born co-founder and chief technology officer for Sky Squirrel.

In comparison, the company’s drone technology takes as many as 500 images during a single flight. “Our clients send the images to us via the cloud and we combine them into a map,” says van der Put. “Then we use a specialized image algorithm that allows us to assess crop health.” With the help of GPS positioning on their mobile devices, farmers, “can see where they are currently in the field and correlate that with the analysis” to pinpoint areas of concern, van der Put says.


Published in Precision Ag

Equipment technologies are continually advancing to provide more opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness. But according to Jason Deveau, an application technology specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), farmers do not have to buy a new sprayer to take advantage of the newest tools.

Deveau works with technology companies worldwide to learn about and test their latest sprayer advancements, and he says a multitude of aftermarket products can be purchased to improve operation and application.

Improving management
Oil- and water-sensitive papers are yellow cards that turn blue when sprayed. Deveau says the papers provide a cost-effective way to show coverage, spray drift and sprayer contamination. 

“By taking your time and using a clothespin and flag in the field, you can get a very good, immediate picture of how well you are doing,” he says, adding the tool can help farmers put recommended practices to the test by using the papers before and after changing methods, and analyzing the difference.

TeeJet Technologies offers two monitor products that Deveau sees as opportunities to improve operator management – the Sentry 6140 Flow Tip Monitor and the Sentry 6120 Droplet Size Monitor. The flow tip tool detects plugged tips as well as high and low flow errors or partial blockages. Deveau says using a minimum of three tips, sensors are mounted at each spray tip location without impacting flow. The sensors are linked to a touchscreen monitor, and errors are indicated by audible alarm and display notification. “This type of tool could replace hard-to-read floats, and could be used when planting, spraying and applying fertilizer.”

Deveau notes droplet size affects coverage and drift, and operators should be using catalogues to determine the average droplet size given their pressure and nozzle choice. He describes TeeJet’s droplet monitor as a catalogue tool, as it provides real-time droplet size display and highlights size changes with auto-rate controllers.

The Accu-Volume System, manufactured by Custom Concepts Mfg. Inc., claims to increase operator efficiency and Deveau agrees it answers the question of what exactly is in the tank. He says some gauges can be inaccurate by approximately 25 gallons, and sprayer grade can create a difference of up to 80 gallons during filling. The monitor, which includes a digital display in the cab and at the loading station, reduces the chances of running short or over-batching, and helps operators to avoid diluting existing solutions.

Deveau says Johnson’s Innovations manufactures Peek-a-boom, a remote controlled system for performing timed output tests safely and easily. Peek-a-boom allows operators to turn individual or all boom sections on and off from the cab or other nearby locations. ATI Agritronics Inc. has a similar smartphone application product called
AppliMax Spray Boom Remote Control.   

Nozzle technology
New in 2014, Pentair Ltd. announced the Hypro Duo React Twin Valve Nozzle Body. The product features a single nozzle holder and a rotatable four-way turret in one unit which Deveau says allows the operator to select either or both tips from the cab. He notes this tool could be convenient for operators aiming to switch from fertilizer to fungicide, from conventional flat fan to air induced or to dual fans.

Deveau says the Pentair Hypro Express Nozzle Body End Caps product could be applicable to more operators. “The caps are also air aspirators which could mean an 85 per cent faster shut-off valve operation.”

In terms of nozzle calibration tools, Deveau points to the SpotOn Sprayer Calibrator made by Innoquest Inc. He says this digital spray tip tester can be described as a vessel with two inside sensors. Once the meter is held under the nozzle at a slight angle, the tool displays how many litres, ounces or gallons per minute it is emitting within approximately 10 seconds.

Research and development
Deveau also reviews products currently in development or not yet available in Canada such as K-B Agri-Tech LLC’s Pattern Master, Harrie Hoeben’s Wingssprayer and Coraltec Inc.’s D30.

The creators of Pattern Master (patent pending) are claiming this product will change the way the industry looks at drift control. “It is a brush that is mounted in front of the nozzle, which means more coverage and less drift,” Deveau says, noting the brush has bottom bristles to diffuse but not block air flow. The product is currently being tested in the U.S. Deveau says initial trial results comparing brush to no brush show significant coverage improvement.

Wingssprayer has been available in Europe for four years and the manufacturer is considering expanding into Canada this year. Deveau says the product is a floating shield that blocks oncoming wind and flexes to lightly drag the crop surface which opens the crop canopy. Because the shield decreases the distance between the nozzle and crop, the creators claim Wingssprayer reduces dosage by up to 30 per cent.
Deveau says Coraltec Inc.’s D30 spray droplet size measurement system research is currently focused on industry applications, but the technology will be modified for agriculture.

“Spray mix viscosity can change nozzle output by as much as 30 per cent and also changes the volume median diameter (VMD),” Deveau says. “D30 could provide a way to check this quickly to ensure effective material deposition.”

As product technologies advance and new educational courses become available, information and free downloads can be found at, or by following Deveau on Twitter @Spray_Guy.

Published in Sprayers

Feb. 9, 2015 - Alberta's new Farm Implement and Dealership Act will continue to ensure Alberta farmers are treated fairly when purchasing and maintaining farm equipment, according to the province's Farmers' Advocate Office (FAO).

"The Farm Implement and Dealership Act helps protect the investment that Albertan farmers make in farm implements by establishing minimum requirements for sale agreements, warranties and the availability of spare parts," Jeana Les with the FAO says. "The Act also provides a mechanism for resolving disputes regarding farm implements."

The new Farm Implement and Dealership Act is a blended act combining the old Farm Implement Dealerships Act and the Farm Implement Act. The two acts were combined on December 17, 2014, when Bill 6, the Statutes Amendment Act, received royal assent. Bill 6 also includes numerous changes to sections of the former Farm Implement Act.

"The revised statute addresses gaps in the legislation and adds more clarity. This legislation has been around since the mid-1960s and, like any good legislation, it needs to keep evolving to meet the realities we're facing. We've also taken this opportunity make our Farm Implement and Dealership Act more consistent with equivalent legislation in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba."

As the administrator for the Farm Implement and Dealership Act, the FAO provides support to the Farm Implement Board, employs a farm implement inspector, and manages licensing for dealers and distributors. The Farm Implement Board is comprised of three farmers, three industry representatives, and one member appointed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

"The FAO strives to resolve complaints through the Farm Implement Inspector to help limit costs and ensure expediency for affected farmers," said Les. "In 2013-14, the farm implement inspector spoke with approximately 240 different farmers and agri-business owners, mediated 155 disputes and completed over 20 farm implement inspections. As a result, the Farm Implement Board did not need to review any disputes in 2013-14."

More information on these changes is available on the FAO website. The new legislation will come into force in 2015, once the required amendments to the regulation are completed to align with the amended legislation. Updated copies of the Farm Implement and Dealership Act will also be available on the FAO website once they become available.



Published in Combines/Harvesters
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