Farm Progress Show disappoints some

Canada’s Farm Progress Show is promising changes for next year but some wonder if the show has run its course after 42 years.

There were noticeably fewer exhibits at last week’s show. Some estimated the number had dropped by at least 300. Social media took note of the smaller show with many speculating on its future.

Evraz Place chief executive officer Tim Reid said the show will run mid-week next year and bring in entertainment such as bull riding, but at least one show attendee said that’s not the answer.

“Hugely disappointed,” said James Bennett after visiting the show. “It should be renamed Farm Regress.”

The cancellation of the antique tractor and truck parade and fewer exhibits made the $15 admission cost poor value, he said.

Adding bull riding isn’t the answer, he added.

Exhibitor Jed Williams said he found the show slow compared to earlier years. He was exhibiting for the first time with his own product but had worked for other exhibitors in the past.

He said the economy, the drought leading up to the show, and then the torrential rain during the event all played a part.

And, he said the scale of equipment on display only suits a certain segment of the farming population.

“You’re either coming to look at what would be on a massive farm, mostly, or what you could afford in 20 years’ time,” he said.

Williams said if he could give organizers advice he would have used the longest day of the year as a draw. People who work in the city can’t get to the show until after it closes at 5 p.m.

“Also if they could get good food at a reasonable price you would see way more city folk coming through the gates and turning up to a booth like I’ve got,” he said, referring to his Backyard Pollinator leafcutter bees.

An Evraz Place official said the show no longer publicly reports on attendance.

Meanwhile, an Ethiopian delegation attended the show for the first time to be among 60 countries represented.

Bejai Naiker Nerash, owner and general manager of Bejai Ethio Industrial and Engineering Solutions, intended to buy equipment for Ethiopian farm co-operatives. He farms both crops and livestock, and also imports equipment. He was looking specifically for irrigation equipment, fertilizer and bulk-handling systems, tractors and combines.

Ethiopian farmers grow wheat, mustard, corn and teff, he said, and Canadian equipment is suitable.

He said farms in his home country range in size from 2.5 acres to 25,000 acres.

Closer to home, the gold innovation winner from among the 22 entries this year was Raven Industries’ AutoBooom XRT, which uses radar sensors for height control when spraying.

Two sterling standard awards were also presented to First Pass, a subscription-based route optimization software system to integrate equipment and reduce redundant passes, and Precision AI, which produces drones for fully autonomous farming.

Reid said 2020 attendees can expect a shift in focus as the show plans to be “disruptive” and a launchpad to move the industry forward.

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