Manitoba Ag Days makes 2020 the year of innovation

Technology and new ideas were front and centre on the stage and in the exhibition halls

It’s about 10 minutes after Steve Rogoschewsky found out his invention had taken first prize in its Innovation Showcase category, and the shock hasn’t quite worn off.

He can’t stop moving. He appears a little shaken.

“We’re passionate about this business,” he tells the Manitoba Co-operator. “We’ve helped a lot of people.”

The Saskatchewan-based inventor, and owner of Adaptive Agriculture, says he just began messing around with technology that could regulate and adapt a construction heater to dry grain in the bin and be controlled from a smartphone.

He’s not sure where he got the idea — intuition maybe. Where he’s from, they’d never really needed grain dryers.

Then it began to rain.

Steve Rogoschewsky (centre) accepts his first-place award in the Ag Tech category of the Innovation Showcase from Glacier FarmMedia vice-president of sales Cory Bourdeaud’hui (l) and vice-president of listings Nathan Mitchell (r).
photo: Geralyn Wichers

The heater adaptors units, which Rogoschewsky says sell for a few thousand dollars, were suddenly badly needed to dry wet grain. Rogoschewsky and staff have been working seven days a week ever since, he says. They had to mount a light bar on their forklift so they could load units at midnight.

“We helped as much as we could until we couldn’t help anymore,” said Rogoschewsky.

Two booths over, Wyatt Van Damme has his winner’s banner hanging over his invention — the “Manitoba Gate,” a pitless Texas Gate.

“It feels very good. It’s nice to be recognized,” he says.

Van Damme, a welder from Belmont, Manitoba, says he got the idea from a neighbour. Farmers often come to him with ideas.

The portable gate hangs on springs from a metal frame. When a truck or tractor’s wheels hit it, it stretches down and allows the vehicle over. Van Damme jumps on it to demonstrate.

Wyatt Van Damme (centre) received his first-place award in the Farm Build Solutions category of the Innovation Showcase.
photo: Geralyn Wichers

He started by building a few and sold them locally so he could perfect his design. He’s got one in his own pasture.

“The cows have never crossed it,” he said.

The young inventor planned to use his winnings to begin advertising.

“Hopefully it takes off,” he said, adding he hopes he can make a living selling the gates.

Showcasing innovation

The two inventors were part of the first Manitoba Ag Days Innovation Showcase, which replaced the Inventors’ Showcase of past years.

Ag Days revamped the program to include more exhibitors, said general manager Kristen Phillips. The showcase included six categories: agronomics, farm safety, agricultural equipment, animal and livestock, ag tech, and farm-built solutions.

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The revamp came as Ag Days took a focus on technology and innovation — an idea inspired by the turning of the decade.

“Manitoba is definitely progressive,” Phillips said. “I don’t think there’s a booth here that isn’t progressive or innovative.”

The forward focus also carried over to the seminar theatres, said Phillips.

Farm Femmes co-founder Teresa Vallotton opened Tuesday’s lectures with a talk on artificial intelligence in ag. She demonstrated how AI can help make farm decisions and made a case for using technology to bridge the gap with the upcoming generation.

Vallotton also hosted two “AI in a Day” coding camps where she taught kids about facial recognition, facial analysis, and text to speech.

Two students and a teacher take selfies during the AI in a Day coding camp on Jan. 21.
photo: Geralyn Wichers

The two camps saw around 45 kids attend.

Glacier FarmMedia machinery reporter Spencer Myers presented on machinery innovation — past, present and future. He touched on current forays into autonomous and robotic equipment, and spoke on up-and-coming alternative fuel sources like electricity, methane and ammonia.

Three Manitoba 4-H members presented on their experience at the National Future Farmers of America convention — an event that included speakers from the NASA agricultural space research team.

Autonomous equipment maker DOT also made an appearance among the exhibitors.

Ag Days a fresh start

A rough 2019 and a “harvest from hell” seemed to not dampen the mood of the Ag Days crowd.

“There’s no other industry that’s so resilient,” said Ag Days general manager Kristen Phillips. “We always think of Ag Days as the fresh start.”

Phillips said as she’d wandered the halls, the mood was upbeat and exhibitors were happy.

Kids explore the machinery at the Versatile display.
photo: Geralyn Wichers

Tuesday got off to a strong start, said Phillips. Crowds were comparable to the average Wednesday — the usual high-point for attendance. She said they also had a slight growth in exhibitors, with 29 booths new to the show.

Exhibitor Wyatt Van Damme said he’d seen an uptick in interest in his “Manitoba Gate” this year, which he attributed to greater familiarity with his product.

He estimated that after a difficult 2019, “Producers are pretty shy to be spending money.” However, he figured people would still be on the lookout for items to make life easier.

Exhibitor Steve Rogoschewsky said people seemed positive but thought they’d be reluctant to make big equipment purchases.

Other exhibitors concurred that the traffic was good, though they weren’t sure this was translating to sales.

One suggested that mild weather — temperatures only a few degrees below freezing — was encouraging people to venture out.

Innovation Showcase Winners

Thirty-two exhibitors competed in the Innovation Showcase.

“The judging process was extremely difficult this year,” said Brad Crammond, board co-chair for Ag Days, in a news release. “All participants should be recognized for their contributions to our industry.”

AGRONOMICS
1st Place – NutriScan by ATP Nutrition
2nd Place – Crystal Green by Taurus Ag Marketing

FARM SAFETY
1st Place – The Tiregrabber by The Tiregrabber
2nd Place – Bin Safe System by c/o: Setter Manufacturing Ltd.

AGRIBUSINESS SERVICES
1st Place – Combyne by Farmlead.com

AGRICULTURE EQUIPMENT
1st Place – Terraformer by Ag Shield
2nd Place – Meterveyor by Riddell Seed (Craig and Colleen Riddell)

ANIMAL AND LIVESTOCK
1st Place – MBS Energizers by Gallagher
2nd Place – AgriRepel by Protexia Plastics co: Thunderstruck Sales and Marketing

AG TECH
1st Place – BinAdapt + Advanced Thermostat by Adaptive Agriculture Solutions Inc.
2nd Place – Recon Spreadsense by Intelligent Ag

FARM-BUILT SOLUTIONS
1st Place – Manitoba Gate by Triple Pass Welding 2nd Place – Sabre Clamp by: Airguard Incorporated

Mazergroup / New Holland won Best in Show for booth design and exhibitor excellence.

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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