Industry News
Every year, Agrodrain Systems Ltd. installs hundreds of miles of drainage pipe on thousands of acres of farmland in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. In one pass, Agrodrain’s plow – automatically controlled by a Leica PowerGrade 3D system – cuts a slot and knifes drainage pipe to a precise elevation in the ground. “In some jobs using laser controls, our man would spend a third of his time moving the laser transmitter around,” says John Wielgut, president of Agrodrain. “Now, with our Leica GPS system, the drainage plow can keep moving. This system is far more productive.”The Leica PowerGrade 3D system automatically controls the plow depth, but does not steer the tractor that pulls the plow. A display monitor in the tractor’s cab indicates the unit’s position relative to the designed track line, so the operator steers the machine using that. “We generally can place pipe within one-quarter inch of design grade,” says Wielgut. “We do a lot of our drainage at minimum grades, which for us is one-tenth of one percent, or one foot of drop in 1000 feet. That’s why vertical accuracy is very important.” Wielgut has run the Leica PowerGrade 3D system for Agrodrain since late 2009. “The overriding observation that I have is, it is so darn dependable,” he says. “We had a small issue with one cable one day last spring (2010) that we resolved, and we have not had a minute’s breakdown since then. It is a very, very dependable system and is much more efficient than a laser system.” Wielgut says he finds the GPS system has fewer performance issues than a laser. His laser system was adversely affected by the distance of the machine from the transmitter, by fog, and by the wind, because the transmitter had to be mounted high in the air. Based in Heerbrugg, Switzerland, Leica Geosystems is a global company with tens of thousands of customers supported by more than 3500 employees in 28 countries, and hundreds of partners located throughout more than 120 countries around the world.
Change is in the air for Steenbergen Hollanddrain B.V., a key player in the worldwide drainage machinery industry. The company specializes in design, manufacturing, marketing and sales of a wide range of heavy-duty drainage, de-watering and trenching machines. Plows, gravel trailers and flushing machines, as well as spare parts complete its extensive product range. Even parts of Barth Holland machines, acquired by Hollanddrain in 1986, are still placed in stock. Customers of Hollanddrain have their core business in a variety of industries, including agricultural, irrigation, recreational, utility, construction and adjacent sectors.Now, the anchor man of Holland-drain, Willem de Waard, who worked for more than 45 years for the company, will reluctantly retire, and hand over commercial responsibilities to William Smeekes. Hollanddrain management is grateful for everything de Waard has achieved on behalf of the company. Smeekes, who is the marketing and sales director, has been appointed to lead Hollanddrain to worldwide growth. “We have set clear objectives; not only in the US, but particularly upcoming markets where we see great potential in the near future.” says Smeekes, who will be responsible for managing the global commercial activities of the complete product range in all market segments. “We’ve always paid high attention to customer satisfaction and will continue to do that. In fact, the machine owner has two main questions before he decides to buy,” explains Smeekes. “Will it do the job and will it earn money? Hollanddrain assures a very favorable total cost of ownership due to low operating cost and durable design. A long-term value which belongs to a long-term relationship; that is as essential as having direct customer contact.” Although Hollanddrain will appoint new distributors in target markets, they will continue to support the end users directly. Hollanddrain’s strength is based on the fact that all of the company’s personnel know the marketplace from first-hand experience and expertise, resulting in putting the right machine at the right place, and above all, providing value for the money from the customer’s point of view. “In addition, the aim is to provide a substantial contribution to a wealthy world with respect for the environment, which is unavoidable,” says Smeekes.Service goes beyond the ordinaryHollanddrain has its focus on corporate social responsibility, which is part of its business philosophy. The process from production to delivery will be carried out with the utmost respect for the environment. “Aspects such as engine emissions, fuel consumption, used materials and production methodology have high attention,” assures Smeekes. The machines operate under sometimes extreme circumstances and meet the highest safety requirements for operators, inside and outside the machine. In 2010, Stephan Reedijk was appointed as technical director. All operational and technical activities will be managed by Reedijk and his team of qualified engineers, production workers, after-sales and service people. Reedijk states that the engineers are experts in hydraulics and mechanical engineering, particularly as related to crawler systems and digging-chain drive systems. Hollanddrain machines are designed to be used in extreme subsurface conditions up to eight meters, and possibly more, in different types of soil, and with greater ease.Operators come to rely on the equipment they are using. “With ours, they can,” says Reedijk. Recent market research indicates that in the past 60 years Hollanddrain machines have become known for having key features rated by operators as most important. Quality, reliability, efficiency, noise level and ease of operation are the qualities most often mentioned. “Of course we are proud of that,” says Reedijk. Thanks to these qualifications, Hollanddrain is in many countries the leader in providing the right solution for the work to be done in a quick and reliable way, using advanced design and manufacturing technologies.” Continuous improvement of efficiency, just-in-time supply of A-branded components and Hollanddrain’s accurate quality control provide competitive benefits. “Hollanddrain does not produce a machine: we specifically build one.”Within its product range philosophy, Hollanddrain has a two-directional focus: producing standard machines but also continuing to build to a customer’s specific needs. “Every situation is different, so we always listen to customers’ preferences and fulfil their demand,” assures Reedijk. The Hollanddrain line of products is  sold globally, thanks to the worldwide network of a dedicated and experienced sales force and dealers. As with any expanding enterprise, Hollanddrain is always looking for capable distributors. If you are interested in representing Hollanddrain, you can request a dealer inquiry form through e-mail, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For more information about the company and products, visit the website
For the family, customers and employees who participated in the barbecue fundraiser held by RWF BRON and Paul Pullins Enterprises, nothing stood out quite like the large, 550 BRON Drainage Plow sitting at the center of the festivities. The event took place Saturday, April 30, 2011, at BRON’s plant in Woodstock, Ontario, and featured the company’s newest machine. However, it was not the 550 horsepower that caught everyone’s attention; it was the color. When the Pullins family ordered its newest BRON Drainage Plow, they added one request: paint it pink.For Paul Pullins and his family, installing agricultural drainage tile is their business and they rely on these massive machines to get the job done. However, Paul’s work, in particular, was never far from his family life either. So when a family friend of Pullins’ was diagnosed with breast cancer, the fight against the disease became personal. The new pink BRON 550 Drainage Plow is one way that the Pullins family believed they could bring awareness to the challenges of battling breast cancer. And it already has. Paul Pullins Enterprises is based in Quincy, Ohio where the new pink plow will be working regularly. However before shipping it out, RWF BRON wanted to support their customer’s breast cancer awareness campaign by first canvassing their employees and family members, and then holding a fundraising barbecue. More than 250 attended the festive event, enjoying grilled hamburgers and hotdogs and taking their best shot at soaking dunk tank participants.Deemed a great success, the event raised more than $ 6000, with additional donations still to come. Proceeds were evenly split between the Breast Cancer Society of Canada and the Stephanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research based at the Ohio State University.After discovering a lemon-sized lump during a breast self-exam, Stephanie Spielman was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30. She and her husband, Chris, a former NFL player, began to speak publicly about the disease. In November 2009, after 10 years of battling cancer, Stephanie finished fighting but left a legacy that has inspired thousands to continue on.Since 1999, more than $8.5 million has been raised on Stephanie’s behalf for breast cancer patients and research at the Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.Together, RWF BRON and the Pullins family were proud to support the fight against breast cancer. For Paul and his family, they hope their new pink 550 BRON drainage plow serves as a giant reminder that everyone can be part of the cure for breast cancer.A special thank-you goes out to all drainage contractors that attended and donated to a great cause. The fundraiser promoted awareness of breast cancer as well as farm drainage.For more information on the Stephanie Spielman Fund, please visit more information on the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, please visit
Three years can seem like a long time, or it can seem as though it is speeding past in a heartbeat. In 2007, David Lapen and Mark Sunohara began monitoring the effects of controlled-tile drainage along a set of tributaries of the South Nation River in Ontario’s Ottawa Valley. Lapen, the scientific lead, and Sunohara, the project manager for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s South Nation Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices (WEBs), were setting out to study agricultural best management practices (BMPs) and their effectiveness in improving surface water quality at watershed scales. Although quick to point out that the concept behind such research has been studied extensively in the US and Canada, Sunohara notes that few have taken such a project to a considerably larger watershed scale, or roughly 1000 acres.Lapen and Sunohara’s work first attracted the attention of Drainage Contractor, among others, in 2007, with an introduction to the WEBs project. At that point, they had engaged growers along two parallel municipal drains, both within the South Nation River watershed. Originally, they were looking for land bases with similar soil-type and cross-cutting land use (most were dairy farms, with crop rotations of corn, soybeans and forage). “We took one of the drains and installed control structures on all of the tile outlets where we obtained landowner co-operation,” explains Sunohara. That process of finding co-operators, and planning and installing the control structures took the better part of three years. “It took us a few years because we picked these spots based on their suitability for controlled-tile drainage; very flat, decent soils, tile drained, and we had to demonstrate to the growers the value and utility of controlled-tile drainage.”Thus producer co-operation and practice adoption was a gradual process.Three years later in 2010, their efforts of monitoring the watershed are beginning to show some effects. “We’ve been seeing some benefits, both environmentally and economically. Economically, we’ve seen some moderate increases in yields in crops, so the farmers are benefiting from the controlled-tile drainage that way, increasing yields with the same amount of inputs,” says Sunohara. “Environmentally speaking, we’ve seen at least 50 percent nutrient load reductions, and looking at nitrogen, the total mass load of nitrogen being exported from the field, we’ve seen reductions of at least 50 percent, compared to uncontrolled drainage.”Sunohara also notes that the research team is finding that if controlled-tile drainage is exercised broadly in the South Nation River basin, significant net reductions in nutrients are predicted to occur where the South Nation River empties into the Ottawa River.Going forwardIn spite of the benefits of tile drainage and controlled-tile drainage, and with the gathering of data to substantiate those stated benefits at watershed scales, the job is to the contractor to convince a farmer or a landowner of the value of such an investment. That is why Sunohara is pleased to see that the kind of BMP work that they are doing is yielding some welcome validation and support from government sources. “In part, because of this project and the work we’ve been doing, controlled-tile drainage is now included in the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP) and South Nation Conservation Clean Water Program,” says Sunohara, adding that the COFSP program provides a cost-share format worth 30 percent, up to $15,000 for a control structure installation. This is a new and important addition that has come in the past two years, part of a lobbying effort of WEBs, to evaluate and promote BMPs. “What we’ve come up with is that this is a pretty decent type of BMP; it’s low-cost, flexible regarding management of water table, retrofit, easy-to-install, and on a new installation, it’s easy to design into it. The province of Ontario and the federal government have taken that and included it (in their stewardship program).”On a more local level, the research that Sunohara has conducted and the data he has gathered thus far, have helped convince the South Nation Conservation Authority (a partner in the project) to include it in its Clean Water program, including a cost-share component to provide 50 percent up to $1000 for control structure installation.Just as important, Sunohara reports that many contractors are doing their part in spreading the message about controlled-tile drainage, acting as advocates in dealings with farmers and landowners, based in part on his research findings to date. “They’re informing the farmers or advising them on the utility of controlled-tile drainage, telling them ‘it’s only a small additional cost to the installation,’” details Sunohara. “Five years ago, adding controlled drainage and controlling the water leaving the field at a critical time wouldn’t be something on their minds.”And further into the futureThe next phase for Sunohara includes continued monitoring and an expansion of the data that can or could be retrieved from this project. “Because it’s on such a large watershed scale, and because of weather variability, we can’t really come up with concrete answers in a short amount of time. So long-term monitoring and benchmarking are the keys to be able to provide definitive answers” says Sunohara, adding that the effects of this practice at watershed scales will differ from those at plot scales. “We are also looking at bacteria and other agricultural drainage constituents, so we’ve been working with dairy farmers in our watershed, where they apply manure in spring and fall, comparing controlled and uncontrolled field situations.”Another interesting expansion of this research that Lapen and Sunohara would like to see, is moving this work to regions where topography has a greater influence on installing tile and controlled-tile drainage. Sunohara concedes that their work has been done on relatively flat land, where controlled-tile drainage will work effectively on the whole field. “On a sloping field, you’d have to install tiers of control structures in your drainage system to manage the whole field effectively. So let’s evaluate controlled-tile drainage on less appropriate areas, or areas that need a bit more of a design factor involved,” explains Sunohara. “I know that Agri Drain (manufacturers of control structures) have been working on this tiered system and it’s totally subterranean, so that farmers don’t have to worry about control structures in the middle of their field. We hope to explore these systems in the context of the WEBs project.”Most of all, Sunohara wants contractors to understand that their project is continuing, that more data is being farmed from the yields, and the testing parameters (namely, the export of nutrient resources from the fields) are being expanded to bring greater value from controlled-tile drainage. For further reading and reference:South Nation Conservation’s Clean Water Program: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada WEBs project Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP) (Controlled Tile Drainage is Practice Code 1804)
Let me ask you something: Can a person be an advocate for an industry, yet remain impartial and balanced? There are those who contend that a person can be one or the other, but not both. As a farm writer, I have been told that I’m “too close” to agriculture to offer up a balanced viewpoint of the agri-food industry. My counter to that is that sports writers and entertainment reporters can be knowledgeable advocates of their chosen realm yet capable of presenting the relevant facts of a story, usually over and above their personal beliefs on a topic. That is why I believe an advocate can provide balance and impartiality; it is what I have worked for throughout my career. And I frequently speak out on behalf of farmers and agriculture. Do I stand behind those who secretively apply herbicides in organic farming or dump livestock waste in the darkness of night? No, and I never will. Advocacy in this instance is a strength, not a weakness, and it is a reflection of the vast majority of those involved who conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and accountability.Like you.Struck by a chordThis line of thinking came to mind a few weeks ago, after reading a story from a US-based clipping service. It points to tile drainage as the most significant contributor to nitrate loss along the Mississippi River and cites it as the largest contributor to an annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, one that covered an area of more than 7000 square miles in 2010.I shared that story with two people, one of whom replied that agronomic practices in the US differ sufficiently from those in Canada that such an occurrence is unlikely. However, Sid Vander Veen of Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs was also quick to pick up on one recommendation in the story –that it might be best to “encourag[e] farmers to apply the right amount of N in the spring rather than the fall . . .”In my books, that line contradicts another from the University of Illinois researcher who conducted the study and stated that “farmers are not to blame” for this nitrate loss. Instead, it is tile drainage, along with intensive corn and soybean rotations, a lack of topography and ineffective timing of fertilizer applications that combine to share most of the blame.I am the first to admit that I don’t understand all there is to know about drainage; in this industry, I am what some people are likely to call “a work in progress.” However, citing tile drainage as the primary culprit in nitrate loss along the Mississippi is akin to blaming pavers for a new stretch of highway that becomes slippery when wet. Don’t drivers bear any responsibility for easing up on the gas pedal during those rainy times? By the same token, don’t farmers bear some responsibility for using too much fertilizer, or perhaps at the wrong time of year? I do know enough about drainage to say it increases land values and, when used properly, does not contribute to pollution anymore than properly applied manure.If we don’t do it, who will?It is fair to say that most of us are so busy dealing with the here and now, that we have little time for hearsay and “Now thens!” Yet each person in this industry has a stake in it, and should be willing to take a stand when confronted with an issue that may only tell part of a story, effectively omitting key pieces that provide “the whole picture.” This is what it is to be an advocate: someone who is passionate about a subject, willing to learn more to support its industry, yet unwilling to let that passion cloud any accurate reflection. And I am not saying that the research or the person performing it in this case is flawed in any way (as I said before, I’m still a novice in this industry). But as is the case in agriculture, where only dribs and drabs of information make it through the filter of the media and consumer misinformation, people are ill informed when it comes to finding accuracy and accountability where drainage is concerned. Yes, it takes time and effort to undo the damage done by those who provide only part of the story. Yet we can’t be afraid to light a candle and shed some much-needed illumination on these kinds of situations. And see me if you need some matches; I’ll always keep the fire burning.
Page 40 of 40

Subscription Centre

New Subscription
Already a Subscriber
Customer Service
View Digital Magazine Renew

Most Popular

We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. To find out more, read our Privacy Policy.