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Monday, September 16, 2019

Pumped over innovative idea

Jake Kraayenbrink’s a busy guy, to say the least. When he’s not working full time on his hog farm in Moorefield, he’s jetting off to Denmark or Wisconsin informing farmers about his innovative farm technology.

Moorefield-area farmer Jake Kraayenbrink shows off his brainchild, a device that deflates and inflates farm machinery tires in less than 30 seconds to reduce soil compaction and fuel consumption.[Submitted]
Moorefield-area farmer Jake Kraayenbrink shows off his brainchild, a device that deflates and inflates farm machinery tires in less than 30 seconds to reduce soil compaction and fuel consumption. [Submitted]
“I look for people to make it happen,” Kraayenbrink said. “I didn’t engineer it. We want something that’s never going to leave us stranded in the field, we want something simple. We could have a hired man operate it and not have to train him.”

The automatic inflation deflation system allows farm vehicles to deflate their tires in 25 seconds, which leaves the soil loose rather than hard when heavy farm machinery drives over it, compacting it into tough ground. The less-inflated tires mean water is able to drain properly to plant roots, essential for crop nutrition.

And years after coming up with the idea, he’s finally ready to take it global.

“It was all developed and made just north of Drayton,” Kraayenbrink said. “We are advancing it now. It’s going to enhance the opportunity to get in Europe. The real hurdle is to be able to inflate, deflate in a simple way and that’s what we had done. Of course you’re always trying to improve things. The system we have is working well.”

The AgriBrink technology provides a control box in the tractor cab to deflate the tires when going into a field and inflate them when driving on a road. Most other systems on the market take several minutes to deflate.

The benefits aren’t just the speed though. Kraayenbrink says deflating tires lowers fuel consumption, improves crop yields through less compacted soil, and increases tire lifespan.

“By deflating tires and inflating tires you can save 15 per cent on your fuel. A tire is anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 on these bigger pieces of farm equipment,” Kraayenbrink said.

He received the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence in 2011 for his work. He was helped by truck mechanic Steve Bailey of Teviotdale and engineer Maurice Veldhuis of Drayton to create AgriBrink. They recently sold one of their units in Denmark, which is encouraging. He says other farmers are interested in it because of the design and it’s much faster than what else is out there on the market.

The idea is new to North America, so it’s taking awhile to catch on. He said many people don’t understand how it works, or why it’s a big deal. But he said the agricultural extension group is extremely supportive, asking for him to give presentations everywhere from London to New Brunswick. Just last week he had a call from a fertilizer supplier in the Niagara region, who said their customers are asking for Kraayenbrink’s system.

“We’ve sold a few more units this year,” Kraayenbrink said. “There are definitely people watching. They’re seeing that we’ve been here a number of years. We’re serious about what we’re doing.”

For those of us who aren’t farmers, he explains how deflating the tires can make a world of difference to the quality of soil.

“You take a two-year-old child, get them to stand on your foot, you can withstand that pressure,” Kraayenbrink explained. “Now get them to put on skates.”

It’s easy enough to understand. When weight is distributed over a larger area it isn’t as harsh on the ground. He said the soil is delicate and hard tires cut into it. Soft tires are gentle on the soil and allow it to keep the air in it so water gets though.

The idea sparked for Kraayenbrink when he learned about a 2008 study by Ed and Jamie Michel and Greg Stewart which showed a manure tanker’s tire pressure changes the level of soil compaction. Changing tire pressure depending on the weight of a load has been common practice for trucking, but never for farm machinery. From there he visited farmers and universities in Europe to learn how he could apply this technology to agricultural practices in Canada.

“Compaction is a concern to soil health and that’s probably a big driver to why we started this,” Kraayenbrink said. “It’s been in Europe for 30 or so years, it’s just never been used here in Ontario, in North America really.”

Whitney Neilson
Whitney Neilsonhttp://www.observerxtra.com
Whitney Neilson is a photo journalist for The Observer.

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