Farm innovations get award

Rotating bale grapple, concrete columns and interactive equipment system recognized

RED DEER — From a busy shop on a farm at Mortlach, Sask., to the high technology laboratories of John Deere, new ideas are always on the drawing board.

Three companies received innovators awards at Red Deer’s Agri Trade farm show held Nov. 5-8. The common dominator was that each product was built to fill a need.

“Lots of times the ideas just come from talking with somebody else and finding out what they need,” said Rhonda Haukaas.

Her family has been inventing and developing farm equipment for more than 30 years at Haukaas Manufacturing in Mortlach. This year, the company’s rotating bale grapple was recognized with an innovation award.

The company has been in business for more than 30 years and started with a swather stabilizer kit.

“We started it to supplement our farm income back in the ’80s and it just progressed from there,” said Rhonda, who works with her husband, Greg, son, Beric, and father-in-law, Duane. They also employ 20 people at the on-farm factory to produce bale carts, rotating grapples, bin door inserts and leveling shovels.

The company works year round and is also an allied supplier to John Deere, Doepker and Honey Bee. Beric runs the grain farm.

“The industry is constantly changing. It gives opportunities to us as smaller manufacturers to say this is something that will help,” said Greg.

Their products have been sold to the United States, Australia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The rotating grapple was also recognized at the 2013 Farm Progress Show in Regina. It came about because most people are using net wrap on their large bales and needed a new way to stack them.

“Net wrap has made it so that doesn’t work very well. The snow and the ice can get on the net wrap and tear it and when you go to lift it up, the net wrap will rip,” he said.

A concept was hatched three years ago after talking with customers.

“We have had the bale cart for nine years and one of our customers came to us and talked about how he liked it. He can drive his semi trailer between the rows. It is very fast to load the bales and it is easy on the tractor loader.”

The bales are stacked on end so they do not freeze to the ground and this machine picks up two at a time and turns them for easier loading and stacking.

“We designed a machine that was easy to stack perfectly,” Greg said.

Another winner at the show was Integrity Post Structures of Okotoks, Alta. The company offers precast concrete columns that are set into a durable concrete foundation to give a building more strength.

“People always asked us about rotting posts. Traditionally, wood posts would go in the ground,” said Al Williams, a partner in the six-year-old company. “This is a solution for people who are concerned about rotting wood.”

The patented posts weigh more than 300 pounds and are manufactured at Okotoks.

Post frame construction is common on the Prairies so these posts give the building added strength, said Williams. The structures can be found in post framed buildings like barns, riding arenas, shops, commercial buildings and storage sheds for agriculture as well as oil and gas companies.

Innovation also happens at multinational companies as well, said Roger Mays of John Deere.

“Our product development process is driven by what our customers need,” he said.

John Deere was recognized for a system that allows the combine operator to ask via a computer for the machine’s recommendations to improve equipment performance. While driving in the field, the system will electronically provide changes needed. The system then asks if it improved the work. It is basic equipment on all new combines.

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