Braving the weather
April 7th 2016 - By Scott Garvey
Weather wasn’t ideal for the launch ceremony, but it was well attended.
As I continue to log hours of travel time on the road and in the air attending machinery-related events across Canada, the U.S. and on other continents, I’ve come to the conclusion that Murphy got it right when the famous “Murphy’s Law” was discovered. On the off chance you don’t know what that refers to, here is the official definition: whatever can go wrong will at the worst possible moment.
That is something farmers are well acquainted with, particularly when it comes to machinery breakdowns in the field during seeding and harvest.
But for someone like me who travels a lot, it means your flight will likely be delayed because of a storm on the east coast of the U.S. which has impacted air travel everywhere from Vancouver to Dallas, even though you are looking out the airport window at a bright sunny day. Or it will be something like the last leg of a trip gets delayed because the pilot had to abort the takeoff at the last second and return us to the terminal. That happened last summer in Australia. But kudos to Quantas Airlines for getting us back on another plane and in the air in record time.
Two generations of the Lempriere family are behind the CX6 drill development. Noel (left) Noel Sr. (centre), Graeme (right)
One of my first trips to Iowa landed me there just a few hours ahead of a tornado. The hotel staff called all the guests in their rooms and instructed them to come to a “safe” area near the lobby to wait out the blow.
Then there are road trips. This week after unseasonably mild weather all through March, an April snow and ice storm made highway travel a little dicy on the trip to Steinbach, Manitoba, for the production launch of Clean Seed Capital Group’s CX6 drill.
The launch event was planned to be primarily an outdoor event in front of the WS Steel manufacturing plant where the CX6s are being built. Only an hour or so before the proceedings were set to begin, the snow started falling and the temperature was sinking like a rock. Fortunately, the speeches were planned to take place inside a large, heated tent.
Despite the rough conditions, turnout was high. It seems there is a lot of interest from farmers in the kind of technology the CX6 brings to the market. For those that saw the prototype machine at any of several farm shows over the past couple of years, the production model will look a little different. But according to Clean Seed’s Noel Lempriere, the technology inside remains essentially unchanged.
The row unit mounting on the production models is a little different that what was originally shown on the first prototype.
One major difference is how the row openers mount on the toolbar. The prototype had row units designed very much like a planter, where a small hopper was mounted on the opener and followed it over the field countours. The new design doesn’t have the hopper mounted directly on the row unit, so it won’t get bounced around, which should improve durability according to Lemprierre.
The first production CX6 displayed at the event was the culimantion of the work of two generations of the Lempriere family, and according to 94-year-old Noel Sr.—who is the engineer behind the original concept—it was a very long time in development. So the launch was understandably a bit emotional for the family.
The first models built this year will be bought by the Rocky Mountain dealership group, who are the exclusive retailer. They have a number of field trials planned across the prairie this summer to show farmers what the CX6 is capable of. One of those trials will be held at the Ag in Motion farm show near Saskatoon in July.
MSRP for the CX6 hasn’t been exactly set yet, but according to Jim Wood, VP of agriculture at Rocky, it will be somewhere north of $600,000 for a 60-foot model. Both Rocky and Clean Seed management are confident that when farmers see what this drill offers, such as the ability to deliver up to six products individually controlled to each opener, there will be ample demand for it.
And Noel Sr. told me that he has just applied for additional patents for new features future models of the drill will eventually get. What they are, exactly, is still a secret, he said.
Click here for link
Clean Seed Rolls Out First Production Model CX-6 Smart Seeder
Clean Seed Capital Group is celebrating the completion of its first production model CX-6 SMART Seeder in Steinbach, Manitoba.
Company executives and dignitaries were on hand for a commercial launch ceremony on Tuesday at WS Steel Manufacturing, the company hired to build 100 units over the next three years.
For distribution, Clean Seed signed a deal with Rocky Mountain Equipment covering all of Alberta, Manitoba and parts of Saskatchewan last year. Plans are to have RME retail locations in Western Canada sell the CX-6 SMART Seeder starting in 2017. A separate distribution deal for north-central Saskatchewan has also been signed with Cervus Equipment.
Learn More: TechTour: CX-6 Smart Seeder Brings New Level of Precision to Seeding
photos courtesy Korey Peters)
Click here for link
Canadian-listed firms sowing the seeds of next agri-tech revolution (DVR, CSX, BEE)
Feeding the world is the most basic enterprise in which every single country is engaged. As world population grows, and arable land incrementally disappears under developers’ backhoes, technology is incrementally introduced to ensure the yield curve per acre continues to rise.
Automation in farming has been part of the Canadian corporate landscape since the world’s first mechanical threshers were built by Daniel Massey in Newcastle, Ont., in 1847. Now, a new crop of technologies is adding efficiencies to the food production equation in more subtle, but no less important, ways.
Take Deveron Resources (CVE:DVR) Unmanned Aerial Systems, for example. Deveron flies drones equipped with sensors over fields, and is able to map terrain characteristics and differentiation by square centimeters, as opposed to by acres. Farmers can then make adjustments to the soil additive mix as seeding occurs that results in more efficient use of resources, better yields, and cheaper operating costs.
Deveron’s systems facilitate technologies as diverse as thermal imaging and elevation mapping to deliver actionable data to farmers before they plant.
“Deveron UAVs is really a service based business,” says VP David Macmillan, “so what we’re doing is creating a network of UAVs and pilots that are situated across the province and then across Canada, that will be collecting aerial imagery for farmland operators.”
But how does the farmer make adjustments to the soil additive mix at the seed stage?
That’s where Clean Seed Capital Group Ltd. (CVE:CSX) comes in. Clean Seed’s CX-6 Smart Seeder combines software with precision seed technology to enable farmers to custom mix soil additives during seeding that can incorporate the intelligence gleaned from aerial surveillance to maximize yields and costs.
“Clean Seed has developed the world’s first smart seeder, and what that is, is we bought the latest technology to bear on seeding equipment for the large-scale prairie market,” said CEO Graeme Lampriere during an interview. “We’ve been able to develop a system for complete variable rate across the drill, from one end of the drill to the other directly over each opener.”
The business of farming is more than just planting, plowing and harvesting though.
Bee Vectoring Technologies Inc. (CVE:BEE) has developed a way to utilize bumblebees to deliver powdered agents to crops comprised of organic compounds that inhibit or eliminate common crop diseases, while at the same time stimulating and enhancing the same crops.
The company recently announced a trial of its technology to control the disease Sclerotinia on sunflowers. The demonstration is scheduled to take place in July and August 2016 at the Langdon Research Extension Centre of North Dakota State University.
A bumblebee will typically make up to 1,000 trips in a day, and 200-300 bees for every single hive,” said CEO Michael Collinson in a recent Midas Letter interivew. “So they come in and out each time, and as they leave each time, they walk through our little tray and they pick up a little bit of powder and they take it to the crops as they go and pollinate. And of course they pollinate all around it at the same time.”
But its not just private companies making technological inroads into agriculture.
Truleaf Smart Plant Systems is developing multi-tier indoor farming technology that focuses on creating growing conditions indoors that are characterized by efficiently controlled environments that can be significant agricultural operations in area like dense urban environments, or in harsh climates where outdoor agronomy is just not possible.
The idea is to produce predictable yields of staple crops like leafy greens like spinach, lettuce and kale in Canada 365 days of the year, and with minimal use of pesticides and herbicides in a cost-efficient manner. Currently producing in Truro, N.S., under its wholly owned subsidiary Goodleaf Farms, the company is raising venture capital to continue the buildout of its systems.
But the places where technology and agriculture cross paths are not limited to human food production either.
Tree Global is a provider of “high performance” cutting edge nursery infrastructure that produces trees on a massive scale, and with a much higher survival rate that industry average, which in the U.S. is 15 to 20 per cent. Tree Global delivered ten individual species of trees to Boroo Gold in Mongolia, and the survival rate was above 90 per cent.
The species of trees grown by Tree Global cover the full gamut of types, from commodity crop trees such as cocoa and rubber, to species more suited to functions such as erosion control. The company was founded in 2011, and has seen its business accelerate recently to the point where it is now seeking capital to fund expansion.
Canada’s contribution to agricultural technology continues to be a significant source of innovation and financial enrichment.
James West is an investor and the author of the Midas Letter, an investing research report focused on small cap companies. The views expressed here are his own and are presented for general informational purposes only — they should not be construed as advice to invest in any securities mentioned.
James West and/or associated funds do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. For the full Midas Letter disclosure policy, click here. Postmedia and Midas Letter have a revenue sharing arrangement.