A couple of years ago, Clean Seed Capital finally introduced the CX6 seed drill that the company had let farmers know was coming down the pike. Now with two years of CX6 production under its belt, Clean Seed is expanding its manufacturing footprint. In July the company announced it had acquired U.S.-based Harvest International, a planter equipment manufacturer based in Iowa.
For the time being, Harvest International will continue to supply other brands with its patented row units and offer planter tool bars directly to farmers. But the two brands will begin sharing technology. Eventually, Clean Seed will offer its own complete planter to the North American market.
“(For Harvest International) It will be business as usual,” said Graeme Lempriere, president and CEO of Clean Seed Capital. “They’ll be supplying existing lines. We didn’t want to upset or create any turbulence with their hard efforts in the market. It will be a gentle transition into OEM products from our own factory. So one of the beautiful parts for us is we now control our own destiny in manufacturing as well, because with the merger-acquisition it (Harvest International) comes with a 75,000 square foot plant and decades of manufacturing expertise with the Friesen family. They’ve been in business for many, many years.
Although Lempriere said he expects to take advantage of some synergies between the two companies when it comes to manufacturing, he expects the CX6 will continue to be built at Western Steel in Steinbach, Manitoba, for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think we’ll move it,” he says. “I’d like to find out how to leverage the assets in the best way possible. Obviously, we have steel concerns. We have tariff considerations, and everything that’s going on with Canada and the U.S. right now. I do believe that could be a temporary thing. So we’d like to see the benefits on both sides. Steinbach and WS were a big part of our success. We hope to continue that way and find the best way to blend the two infrastructures, if you will.”
The blending of Clean Seed’s digital strength, taking the programming it developed for the CX6 drill, with Harvest International’s ability to develop and produce the iron (row units and toolbars) is where Lempriere thinks the biggest boost to the new company will come from.
“They have patented and developed a very sophisticated row unit for the planter market as well as frame designs,” he said. They’ve had some success and traction now in the United States. They were utilizing the precision planting network. And when you look at the technology that we developed in the CX6 Smart Seeder and you look at the technology and benefits they’ve done from the iron side from Harvest, it was a great opportunity for cross pollination of technology They have patented and developed a very sophisticated row unit for the planter market as well as frame designs. They’ve had some success and traction now in the United States. They were utilizing the precision planting network. And when you look at the technology that we developed in the CX6 Smart Seeder and you look at the technology and benefits they’ve done on the iron side from Harvest, it was a great cross pollination of technology opportunities.
“For us, obviously, teaming together with a great group of guys from Clean Seed gives us the ability to get into the marketplace with the technology side,” said Byron Friesen, president of Harvest International. “We specialize in the steel side of things making cutting-edge equipment that is state of the art in our facility in Iowa. Teaming up with Clean Seed is something we’re going to be able to provide our customer a product in the field they can control their planting environment with a good piece of equipment and state-of-the-art technology.”
Friesen says his farm has been looking forward to the opportunity to create its own fully-equipped planter than it can introduce to the market on its own. He sees the new arrangement as something that can meet that management team’s long-term ambitions as well.
“We work with several people in the industry and we’re going to continue to work with other people,” he said. “But it’s something we’ve been aspiring to, to be in control and have a final product that is ready for on-farm use.”
With the new teams from each firm now working together, the plan is to have a working Clean Seed planter on the market within two years. The company showed a prototype model at the Ag in Motion farm show near Langham, Saskatchewan, in July, but there is still R&D work left on the project.
“We’ve done some testing with (canola) and it will be coming,” said Friesen. “We can do it, but it’s not ready for the wide market at this point. We’re going to do some more Beta testing on it. We hope to have it in place and available to the customer by 2020.”
“So it’s a great fit” added Lempriere. “And management fit really well, so we’re really excited.”