Contractor at Work
Growing with the market
By Trudy Kelly Forsythe
Increasing demand for subsurface drainage in Western Canada has helped Bo-Russ Contracting expand its business.
By Trudy Kelly Forsythe
When long-time friends Sid Boeve and Tyler Russell started Bo-Russ Contracting in Manitoba in 2007, it was just a matter of time before installing tile drainage became one of their services.
While tile drainage is not new to Western Canada, the demand for it wasn’t there until recently because of lower land prices and the cost of tile drainage.
“As the price of land has increased, farmers have begun to look for tangible ways to improve their existing land and its productivity,” Boeve says. “Farmers have realized that improving their land makes sense financially, and more farmers are aware of the benefits of tile drainage. The technology seems to prove itself.”
Wet seasons help with the proof as well.
“With a year like the one we are having, you can drive around the countryside and easily identify which fields have tile drainage installed and which don’t by looking at the quality,” Boeve says. “It makes it very easy for the farmers, and any neighbouring farmers, to see the benefits of installing tile drainage.”
Boeve and Russell established Bo-Russ Contracting in the fall of 2007 to offer drainage and excavation services to the farmers in the area surrounding Carman, MB. Boeve had spent seven years working for a large-scale tree farm, learning first-hand the importance of drainage and irrigation.
Boeve took care of the installation and operation of the irrigation systems and solving drainage problems, while Russell – who also operated his family’s farm just northeast of Carman, where the business was initially located – helped manage the business and allowed them to stay closely connected to the agricultural foundation of Bo-Russ Contracting.
Together, Boeve and Russell envisioned a company committed to providing excellent customer service and that’s one reason tile drainage didn’t become one of their service offerings until 2011.
“We began with excavating, ditching and surface drainage,” Boeve says. “We always wanted to do tile drainage and we recognized that this was a great opportunity, but we were basically just a small business starting up and trying to get our feet on the ground.”
They passed on an opportunity with investors to enter the tile drainage business earlier, deciding to wait until they could do it on their own.
“We knew there was local demand and that this would be another opportunity to work with our existing customers,” Boeve says. In 2011, when an area tile builder was looking for a local business to become a proper installer, the time was right.Thankfully we were in a position to expand our business when that opportunity arose.”
That spring, they purchased a Wolfe tile plow and began specializing in the installation of complete drainage solutions to help farmers manage excess water and improve their crop yields.
Russell remained with the business until 2014, when he decided to focus his time and energy on the family farm. Today, Boeve operates the business at its new location in Carman with his wife, Caroline, remaining true to his and Russell’s vision of providing excellent customer service.
As well as tile and drainage solutions, Bo-Russ Contracting specializes in GPS topography mapping, excavation and building site preparation. The company uses the newest and most up-to-date technology to provide its clients with high-quality and accurate services.
The business currently focuses on the Manitoba market.
“We have been servicing clients within a three-hour driving radius of Carman and I believe we will continue to focus on our customers in that region for the foreseeable future,” Boeve says. He adds the current high local demand for drainage, as well as for the company’s other services, generate enough work that, for now, Bo-Russ isn’t looking to expand its service area.
“We have built a great customer base and typically end up working on other projects for the same customers in the following year and generally we get the opportunity to work with their neighbors as well,” he adds. “Most of our new work comes to us from satisfied customers who refer others.”
The tile drainage business is not without its challenges. Boeve says the biggest one is the paperwork involved with starting a project.
“Each project requires an application to be submitted to the affected municipality, as well as an application to Manitoba Water Stewardship [the province’s drainage licensing department],” Boeve says. “Most municipalities have their own policies, as well as every area and water stewardship zone. You need to be able to get on-board and understand that you have to be flexible as each municipality governs the idea of tile drainage differently.”
Certain areas also face more water issues, which tends to mean more people are involved, including concerned, neighboring landowners. Boeve says they have seen problems arise because individuals do things that shouldn’t be done despite the fact that policies are in place, causing some to take a negative view of the tile drainage industry.
“I strongly believe that tile drainage can lead to great positive outcomes when it is executed properly, following the policies that are in place. It should never affect anyone in a negative way.”
Boeve sees great potential for growth in the business of subsurface drainage in Western Canada.
“Tile drainage is an ever-growing industry,” he says. “As land prices increase, so does the demand for tile drainage. As it is supplied, more people see the benefits of tile drainage in action and become familiar with the potential that it has.”
He stresses the industry needs to focus on presenting solid solutions that are executed well for clients.
“We are more than happy to talk about tile drainage with anyone who wants to learn more about what it entails and what benefits it has,” Boeve says. “We think we provide great solutions for our clients and love to see the positive outcome that can be achieved with a properly executed tile drainage project. We stand behind our work.”