Improving lives, part by part

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — A small warehouse here is supplying the world with new and improved parts for air seeders.

Airguard Industries owned by Brian and Kim Cruson has doubled business since they started three years ago.

They deal with farmers from Norway to Australia selling specially designed parts Brian assembles in a corner of the shop.

Brian, whose grandfather started Dutch Industries in Regina, has been in the farm implement business all his life.

He is an engineer and inventor who is as comfortable with technology as he is talking directly with farmers about problems they encounter in their fields. He sees a problem and intuitively starts to consider solutions.

“The air systems on air drills are fairly inaccurate. A lot of people have issues with plugging and uneven placement. That is the concept of this whole business is to focus on that particular problem,” he said.

His seed brakes distribute seeds more consistently and he wants scientific data to back up his claims.

“We have been trying to partner with a research facility that can actually give us some statistical data on that and show us the difference in placement,” he said.

His other product is the award winning and patented Airguard blockage prevention system. It attaches to the air intake of the air drill. It cools the hydraulic oil while increasing the temperature and lowering the moisture level of the air going through system to improve product flow.

Brian and Kim are the only employees, handling marketing, parts assembly, shipping, receiving and trouble shooting via Facetime, Twitter or phone calls.

“We advertise a lot on Twitter. That is probably our biggest thing, which is surprising. There are a lot of farmers on Twitter,” he said.

Trade shows also promote the product but the added travel has them looking to hire more people.

The first half of the year is busy with orders going out the door every day. Invention time is during the slow periods.

“I have a lot of new ideas for our next seed brakes for next year on our next model,” Brian said.

He starts with a prototype and uses a 3-D printer to make and test the initial design.

Seed brake components are made in China where they are fabricated by hand using high grade plastic or stainless steel.

Components for the de-humidifier are made in Canada.

“I know a lot of people have issues with manufacturing things in China but the parts we get made there, we couldn’t even source in North America because no one here had the expertise to do it and they didn’t want to because it is too complicated,” he said.

Brian and Kim came from the Prairies, but Abbotsford is their home. Much of what they do is rather foreign to Fraser Valley farmers, where dairies, berries and other horticulture crops are common.

However, as more farmers plant corn in the region, they also need help.

“When you talk to farmers they have the same issues. It might be different agriculture, but even with our de-humidifier we found customers here. Potato farmers use a floater to drop fertilizer on the ground. They have the same problems with plugging in the lines so we have actually retrofitted that same unit onto a fertilizer floater,” he said.

They work with a network of dealers around the world. Bourgault has started offering their seed brakes as a factory option.

The Crusons are also interested in international agriculture development. Kim spent her teenage years in Africa where most farmers are not ready for the kind of technology they offer, but they are amenable to finding other ways to help in the future.

“One of the things that is important for both of us is giving back to the agriculture community and if we can do that into developing countries then so much the better. The business isn’t just for us, but to make a difference in other people’s lives,” she said.

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