The history of agricultural innovation in Western Canada is replete with inventions that came from the mind of a farmer and were built, initially, in his back shop.
Some of those inventions are now in use on farms across the Prairies and beyond. And some of them were launched in Brandon at the Inventor’s Showcase, one of the most visited areas at Ag Days.
This year, the Inventor’s Showcase will feature upwards of 15 unique inventions from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“It’s a very popular part of Ag Days,” says Ag Days manager, Owen Beever. “Because the entrants are often an innovator or a farmer who has done something interesting, people are always keen to see that.”
To be eligible for the Inventor’s Showcase, the invention cannot have been marketed in Manitoba in any form for more than two years prior to the show. Priority is given to those being displayed by the inventor or manufacturer rather than a dealer or retailer. Among the judging criteria are practicality, ease of use, usefulness to the general farm population, whether the product satisfies an important need and adherence to safety guidelines. The first- and second-place inventions both receive a cash prize, free advertising in the Manitoba Co-operator and the distinction of being Manitoba Ag Days Inventor’s Showcase winner and runner-up.
It’s a distinction not without value. “Certainly it is where some inventors started and they have gone to market and eventually become successful with their products,” says Beever.
Kevin Lisafeld first introduced his Airseeder Hopper in 1998 at the Inventor’s Showcase and says it offered a great starting point for his product.
“It was extremely valuable,” he says. “It gave me a lot of instant exposure because everybody is always anxious to see what is new out there and tend to head for the Inventor’s Showcase.” Kevin made many contacts at the show, which eventually led to sales for the product, but a major value for him was assessing how marketable his product would be.
“Within one or two years after the show I knew that my product was marketable because of the quick exposure it got at Ag Days,” he says.
Technotill of Wetaskiwin, Alberta entered the Inventor’s Showcase in 1997 with an invention built by owner, Walter Schoenhofer that was then only at the concept stage. Walter placed second that year for his Technotill Seeding System, but more importantly, the Inventor’s Showcase provided him with the encouragement to continue perfecting the product and take it to market.
“It was a milestone for our company,” says Betty Schoenhofer. “At that stage of development, it wasn’t valuable so much in terms of sales, but in getting the concept presented to a wider audience, and receiving recognition that people in the industry thought the concept had merit.”
Technotill still exhibits at Ag Days and its seeding system is now used on farms across the Prairies and in some northern U.S. states.
The Inventor’s Showcase carries on the tradition of bringing new ideas, solutions and technology to help western Canadian farmers get the most from their farm operations.
“When I talk to people from other countries they feel that Western Canada really has a critical mass of creative, innovative thinking in the agricultural sector,” says Betty. “And programs like the Inventor’s Showcase help to promote that.”