PAMI regroups as it prepares for the future

Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute increases the size of its board and renews its focus on the mining and transportation sectors

The Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute has announced a new streamlined operating model to bolster its priorities for the next five years.

Several sluggish years, exasperated by the pandemic, have motivated the research and testing organization to regroup.

PAMI plans to concentrate on the transportation and mining sectors to enhance its existing agriculture services, which align with its core skills, including future economic growth into autonomous machinery and the integration of electronics with other machine operating systems.

A new and larger board of directors was recently announced, which will oversee PAMI’s five-year strategic plan.

Growing from five to seven directors, the board has a regional mix of directors between Saskatchewan and Manitoba with a variety of skill sets.

“The (Saskatchewan agriculture) minister has expanded the board, so it’s up to seven now and it brings some really great industry experience,” said Leah Olson, president and chief executive officer.

Olson is also relatively new on the job, having started last April.

Engineers Murray Kosokowsky and Justin Gerspacher select an engine for a machinery project. | PAMI photo

With more than 15 years of senior management experience in the agriculture, manufacturing and transportation industries, Olson said PAMI is well situated to expand and strengthen product development in those industries.

New board members include:

  • Carmen Sterling, owner of Shady Lane Farms Inc. (chair)
  • Gunter Jochum, president of Blue Diamond Farms Ltd. (vice-chair)
  • Grant Adolph, chief operating officer of Buhler Industries
  • Gene Fraser, vice-president of business development, MacDon Industries
  • Jonathan Gruel, executive director of policy with the Government of Saskatchewan
  • Kendra Mueller, senior relationship manager at Farm Credit Canada
  • Jared Nelson, general manager of Nelsons Roxboro Farm

Also new is the completion and acquisition of Westest assets and liabilities, which PAMI has been providing managerial and technical services to since 1991.

The long-standing partnership with two different boards of directors was originally set up to access federal funds for infrastructure and capital assets.

Lorne Grieger, a business development representative, processes combine loss samples. | PAMI photo

“From a client’s perspective Westest served more mining and transportation, whereas PAMI, especially with agriculture in our name, has always been very much focused on agriculture,” said Olson.

In November, the Westest board dissolved to enable PAMI to grow and better serve clients, particularly those in mining and transportation.

“I knew that we (PAMI) had the good core to be able to continue operating, but when I came on and COVID exasperated the financial situation, it just forced us to make some hard decisions than we would have otherwise,” she said.

Tests Technologist Darryl Perlett prepares to perform a CMVSS roof crush test on an RV. | PAMI photo

“When I talked with the Westest board about the future of that organization and the PAMI board, there was an agreement that because Westest had no employees, that the team we have at PAMI is exceptional, so to continue providing meaningful work to employees and to serving the clients, specifically in agriculture, mining and transportation, it was agreed by the boards that we would make PAMI stronger.”

PAMI has offered science and engineering testing for agricultural production at its two locations since 1975.

About 15 percent of its operating budget is provincially funded by Saskatchewan and Manitoba with the balance generated from industry projects.

Engineer Charley Sprenger takes field notes during a corn forage project. | PAMI photo

However, the organization has been running on deficits for several years, recently compounded by COVID-19.

“There’s some areas that I think the organization was challenged in how it was operating…what I could see is that we were struggling a little bit in terms of some of the projects. The timelines weren’t always being met. We were seeing some slippage, which is the difference between what we charge a client and then what we are putting in to deliver for their needs,” she said.

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