PhiBer Manufacturing’s new Triple Cutter Tool Bar isn’t available yet, but already the phone has been ringing off the hook with enquiries about this innovative new product. The new cutter, a prototype of which was recently unveiled at Ag Days in Brandon, Man., in January, will be launched in the fall and is getting a look from hay producers because of the savings it offers in terms of labour and fuel cost efficiencies.
The Triple Cutter Tool Bar pulls two mower conditioners connected to the rear linkages of a tractor. A third mower mounts on the front of the tractor. The result is that one tractor can operate three mowers. Triple Cutter is made to work with North-American-made mower conditioner heads of either 16 or 18 feet in width, giving a total cut width of either 48 or 54 feet. The system folds up, for transport, into a compact 17.5-foot-wide unit. It requires one tractor with a minimum 180 horsepower (perhaps a little more if the land is very hilly), and one operator to do three cuts per pass. A GPS unit to keep the heads aligned and reduce the need for sharp turns is optional.
PhiBer tested the cutter on co-owner Phil Friesen’s 2,000-acre farm last summer, and the savings, just in terms of fuel costs, were remarkable. The fuel cost per acre dropped by half, saving them $10,000.
“I think now in North America, farmers are really starting to factor fuel into their costs,” says Derek Friesen, vice president of marketing and product development for PhiBer. “The summer before last, when diesel costs were high, caused a shift in the mentality, similar to what Europe has had for years already, where fuel prices are outrageous compared to ours.”
PhiBer is getting increased interest in its products from Europe. Derek was recently at Agritechnica in Hannover, Germany and the company plans to expand its sales, which are already growing in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
Labour costs are another saving with this cutter design, as one operator does the job of three. With skilled agricultural workers become harder and harder to find, this is another strong selling feature.
“Finding skilled workers, and also those who have familiarity with our North American type of agricultural equipment, is becoming a real issue,” says Derek. “And especially in the U. S. Southwest, where most of our business is at the moment.”
MONEY FOR EXPANSION
PhiBer Manufacturing has always been about efficiency, starting with the first product they developed, a bale grab, says director of sales, Rick Lussier. “The bale grabs were designed to pick up one to four bales at the same time. Then we developed a bale accumulator, which was designed to package bales in nice convenient packages, so the farmer didn’t have to drive all over the field picking bales one at a time. These products cut down on time and labour, and also they are not trampling all over the yield potential of the next cut.”
Its reputation for innovation is one of the reasons that PhiBer received a $441,000 repayable loan from the Federal Government through its Community Adjustment Fund, part of the Economic Action Plan designed to invest in areas that are largely dependent on single industries like forestry or agriculture.
Conservative MP for Portage Lisgar, Candice Hoeppner, was at PhiBer’s manufacturing facility on January 26 to announce the funding, which will be used for a 6,300-square-foot expansion to the building and some new equipment. She praised PhiBer for being an economic driver in the community.
“We have been able to identify a company, PhiBer in this case, that is really moving ahead and really taking a leadership role, but is committed to their community and committed to creating sustainable jobs in this area,” said Hoeppner. “And, as a Federal Government, if we can invest funds in industries like this, as part of our EAF, we’ll help not only create jobs, but grow communities and grow the industry. This is a great partnership and a great investment.”
Derek Friesen says with the loan, “We will have more in house control of manufacturing the components, so will be able to control the quality and improve our response time for new product development.”
Angeala Lovell is a freelance writer based in Manitou, Man.