Our innovation feeds the world

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Earth will have over two billion more people to feed by 2050. We are less than a lifetime away from having to increase the amount of food produced on our planet by 60 per cent to feed the nine billion projected will be alive that year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations believes this feat is possible, but not without challenges. The challenges include limited resources to produce that food. Suitable land to grow crops and raise livestock is constrained as is water.

“You can’t feed the world with just the right seed, livestock choice or the right weather. It will only occur with the right combination including the right equipment,” said Leah Olson, president of the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada. “We are helping feed the world because if you aren’t using the right equipment, you can’t use these other tools to increase yields.”

The challenges mean farmers need to produce more with less. Innovative machinery is crucial to overcoming the challenges.

“The only way to sell a piece of equipment to farmers is to save them time and money and increase their yields. That’s the sweet spot of providing the customer with value,” said Leah Olson.

Finding a better way to do their work is always top of mind for farmers and manufacturers. It’s the very definition of innovation in the industry. Canadians are in an opportune position to innovate agriculture machinery needed by farmers around the world.

“It’s a short growing season, so you have to be very efficient and the machinery needs to be robust,” said Terry Friggstad, who spent his career designing agriculture machinery. “There’s a two to three-week window to seed millions of acres and we’ve gotten pretty good at that. Then, the winters are so long, so you innovate.”

Many other factors add to the need for innovation. Wither fewer and fewer working on farms, producers need to be highly efficient. So, agriculture equipment must be smarter. That’s where GPS and metering systems come in.

“(The equipment is) mapping every square inch of ground and analyzing what that ground needs and asking the equipment to deliver what it needs at that time,” said Paul Degelman of Degelman Industries.

Often, manufacturers are their own first customer. While working, they encountered a problem and began devising a solution.

“As farmers, that’s what we do. We can’t run to town for every problem. We fix it ourselves,” said Brian Olson, who farmed near Tompkins, Sask. in the 1980s prior to becoming the president of Power Pin Inc. “You can weld. You can machine. You always have a farm shop.”

His innovation was a hitching system that allowed a single person to stay in the cab of his tractor while loading bales. Then others want to buy what’s been created, as was the case for Friggstad. He started by building cultivators, first for his own operation and then for neighbours. Eventually, they developed their own company, Friggstad Manufacturing Ltd. At first, they cloned the products of others’.

“Then we kind of realized that to stay in business, we had to offer something unique,” said Friggstad. “Flexible frames set us apart. That would be the most defining thing that I’ve built,” said Friggstad. Friggstad Manufacturing’s assets were bought by Flexi-Coil, for whom Friggstad worked for years developing many other pieces of equipment, including the Flexi-Coil 5000 air seeder.

The quest to solve problems so farmers are able to produce more with less continues.

“We’re not putting a man on the moon, but we are helping to put breakfast on the table and that may be more important,” said Friggstad.

Those on the farm just a few decades ago could never have dreamed where agriculture technology and machinery would be today.

“The farmers in this country are resilient and, I know for a fact, they are adventurous,” said Friggstad.

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