Diversity and geography
By Stefanie Croley
Here in southern Ontario, where Drainage Contractor is based, crop harvest will be complete by the time this issue arrives in your mailbox, and area producers – and drainage contractors – will be reminiscing about what was one of the driest summers on record.
Mother Nature certainly wasn’t friendly to the ag industry in our region this year, but farther north, cash croppers who have the opposite problem are finding the benefits in tile drainage. Timo Brielmann, who, along with his father, owns Brielmann Agriculture Limited in Rainy River, ON, told CBC News his aptly named town suffers wet conditions that make cash cropping nearly impossible without tile drainage. But thanks to a provincial grant program that helps subsidize the cost to farmers installing modern drainage systems in their fields, Brielmann expects to see an increase in tile drainage.
The investment, announced by the Ontario government in August, is intended to expand agriculture in northern Ontario, ultimately growing the economy and creating jobs. Cash cropping has been happening in northern Ontario for many decades but this grant, which can cover half the installation bill, will help farmers diversify their crops to include higher value commodities, such as soybeans.
Like cash cropping, the tile drainage industry dates back decades, and diversity has been the key to continued growth. Contractors have faced many changes since the industry came together, from the switch to high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe from clay tile, to the addition of GPS technology. The challenges contractors face have diversified too: nutrient runoff and environmental concerns have become top-of-mind issues to tile contractors and will continue to be at the fore, meaning the role of the contractor will continue to change as well.
This trend in diversity became an apparent theme as this issue of Drainage Contractor came together. The projects and issues featured in our pages are just a sample of the changes the industry is facing and how contractors across North America are responding.
Northern Ontario isn’t the only region in Canada that’s seen a recent increase in tile drainage. In this issue’s Contractor at Work profile, we meet Sid Boeve, owner of Bo-Russ Contracting in Manitoba. Boeve has watched his business evolve from providing excavation and surface drainage services to installing tile drainage. As Boeve says, the local demand for tile drainage has created lots of work and his story is a true example of recognizing opportunity and diversifying your offerings to incorporate a positive change. Read more about Bo-Russ Contracting on page 32.
Diversity spreads to the future of subsurface drainage too, as mentioned in the latest update on the Transforming Drainage project. As Ben Reinhart, project manager, writes on page 16, the Transforming Drainage committee hopes new research will advance the understanding of controlled drainage, saturated buffers and drainage water recycling – all issues that have recently come to the forefront of the industry and must be talked about.
And in our cover story on page 12, you’ll find new research out of South Dakota, where a team of scientists has examined the impact of tile drainage runoff on wetlands. The topic of runoff has become one of many increasing concerns and it’s important to stay well informed of how your industry affects the environment.
For drainage contractors, the days of strictly laying and maintaining tile are long gone. The industry has diversified, and the contractor must too. We hope you’re inspired with more ways to do so after reading this issue.