Morris ownership focuses on western Canadian roots

Morris Industries Ltd. has a new chief executive officer and a new majority shareholder.

The Saskatoon-based farm implement manufacturer announced Sept. 5 that Ben Voss will take over as the company’s top executive, replacing former CEO and majority shareholder Casey Davis.

Voss and Davis made a joint decision to transition majority ownership to a group of investors led by Voss.

Voss, who has been Morris president since 2015,  is backed by private investors Avrio Capital and Lamont Brown Group, both headquartered in Calgary.

Avrio has been an active investor in agricultural and food innovation and technology for the past 15 years. The Morris transaction marks one of its largest investments to date.

Lamont Brown Group is a family owned company started by Keith Brown, founder of Trailtech Inc.

Davis will remain a minority shareholder of Morris and will also remain on the board of directors in an advisory role to the company.

“I am truly honoured and excited today to be part of the next chapter of what is a historic and iconic company,” said Voss in a Sept. 5 news release.

“The company’s founder, Mr. George Morris, had a vision to help farmers be more productive, and he applied a great deal of innovation and ingenuity to his products and the way he manufactured them. I want to continue that tradition and build on that great legacy with even more innovation and success.”

Voss said the change in ownership is something that he and Davis have been working on for the past two years or so.

He said both he and Davis were committed to keeping Morris in Western Canada with western Canadian ownership.

“We really wanted this to remain a western Canadian owned and headquartered company and we wanted to stay true to our roots, so this (deal) allows us to do that.”

The transition marks a significant commitment to growth and re-investment in the company, he added.

In April, Morris Industries received $4 million in federal funding to upgrade and modernize manufacturing technologies and production processes at its plants in Western Canada.

Morris is headquartered in Saskatoon but has manufacturing facilities in Yorkton, Sask., and Minnedosa, Man.

With those manufacturing upgrades now in place, the company will focus on increasing operational efficiencies, expanding its product line and increasing sales in North America and abroad.

Details of the ownership detail were not disclosed, but Voss said the company’s growth strategy could eventually involve the addition of new staff with a focus on technological innovation and expanding engineering capacity.

“The plan for the next five to 10 years … (will include) putting even more investment into research and development, more investment into our factories and coming out with lots of new products,” he said.

“We’re going to be launching a new product on the hay hauling segment, so that will be coming in the near future … and in the medium term — I’d say in the next six to 12 months — we’ll be coming out with quite a significant new advancement on the seeding side, so we’re quite excited about the things that are coming.”

New products will fall into industry segments where Morris already has an established reputation, namely seeding and tillage, and hay hauling.

Morris Industries Ltd. was founded in 1924 and is one of Western Canada’s longest-established short-line agricultural equipment manufacturers.

Its current product line includes air carts, air drills, air seeders, packer harrow bars and bale carriers.

About half of the company’s revenue is generated through export sales to countries such as Australia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, Argentina and Western Europe.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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