Flour-sifting machine earns farmer top prize

LONDON, Ont. — An Ontario farmer’s flour sifter has won a competition that was looking for right-sized and cost-effective technology.

Ahren Hughes’s invention was selected by people attending the recent Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario conference.

Hughes, who runs Blackshire Gardens near Neustadt, won the top prize of $1,000.

“This sifter saved us a lot of money and is an invaluable part of our grain processing system,” said Hughes’ neighbours, Jeff Boesch and Leslie Moscovits, who nominated him for the competition.

“A flour sifter bought brand new or even used costs a minimum of $2,500 and requires an involved setup.”

Hughes’ sifter is used to process flour from rye, spelt, wheat, cornmeal and grits. Its capacity is rated at 80 pounds per hour.

Hughes based his design on a century-old seed cleaner that he acquired for free. Parts to make the necessary modifications, including stainless steel, wood, Plexiglas, screens and hardware, cost $570.

Ken Laing, who farms near St. Thomas, Ont., entered two horse-drawn innovations:

  • His no-till drill was put together with $4,300 in parts, including used double-disc openers, an old seed box, a welded frame and a battery-powered hydraulic pump to lift the implement.
  • His strip-till units are attached to a horse-drawn tool carrier manufactured by Pioneer Equipment Inc.

Ojibway farmer Aric Augonie at Tweed, Ont., grew tired of grinding his Tuscarora white corn with a hand crank machine, so he came up with leg power as an alternative by modifying a lightly used exercise bike that he found. The total cost was $15.

For less than $300, Martin Smith of Viridis Hollow Farm near Hamilton redirected sump-pump water into a small pond lined with bentonite clay.

He uses it as a source of irrigation water for his orchard and to grow watercress. The pond has also attracted frogs, fish and other wildlife. The fountain used for aeration doubles as a water feature.

The Carrot Cache Foundation, which sponsored the competition, is funded through business profits generated by the Big Carrot, a worker-owned, food retail co-operative in Toronto.

It makes small grants to “practical projects in Ontario that are beyond the idea stage.”

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