Tim Penner likes a challenge.
As a teen, he used wire and plastic to build intricate models of farm equipment — a heavy harrow, a seeder.
In his 20s, along with business partner Henry Elias, he built Soaring Eagle Grain Equipment and its Ultimate Swinging Drive Over conveyor from prototype to business.
Two years in, the interest in his product has surprised him, Tim said. Soaring Eagle conveyors have made it to Ontario, Alberta, Montana, and the farmyard of a country music act.
An eye for design
Tim grew up on a farm near Manitou and worked on the farm until around the time he married wife Lena, after which he worked in manufacturing. For a while he worked for Elias Reliabelt, which was where he met Henry Elias.
Henry, local pastor and farmer, is a “very innovative guy,” said Tim. After Elias Reliabelt was sold to manufacturing conglomerate Meridian, Henry was looking for something new. He began tinkering with the idea of a swinging, drive-over conveyor.
In 2016, Henry called Tim and asked him to make his idea into a prototype. Tim had the manufacturing know-how, and skills with design software.
The prototype could be swung from hopper to hopper beneath the grain truck. It was also much thinner than models on the market, and made to flex and fit the ground, rather than to be strong enough to hold the weight of the truck.
With the conveyor in tow, Tim hit the road.
“We did demos like crazy,” Tim said. “As much as we could. We put like probably a million and a half bushels through that.”
The fledgling company built a shop on the outskirts of Winkler and began production in 2017. The office, Tim said, pretty much became his home.
In January of 2018, Soaring Eagle took first place in the Inventors’ Showcase at Manitoba Ag Days.
The newspapers went crazy, Tim said, and sales took off.
These days, Soaring Eagle has nearly outgrown its location. This year they made around 60 conveyors, and not one is sitting on the lot outside.
One particular sale is a feather in Tim’s cap. He showed a picture of a conveyor sitting in a large machine shop, and behind the unit sits a tour bus belonging to country music act the Hunter Brothers.
Salesman Dennis Fot recalled driving to Ag in Motion, where the Hunter Brothers would be performing. The Hunters own a farm near Shaunavon, Saskatchewan.
“If we can make a deal with someone, let’s make a deal with them,” Tim told Dennis.
At his booth, Dennis saw a well-dressed man approaching. As they chatted, the man mentioned where he farmed and Dennis put things together.
“Are you a singer?” he asked.
After a selfie, he got a phone number from the country singer. This led to a sale.
“We almost have them convinced to do a music video on our machine,” Dennis said.