Spotlight on Saskatchewan

By Prairie Manufacturer Staff

Rob Tebb – Xtended Hydraulics & Machine, Emerald Park 

Since 2013, Emerald Park, Saskatchewan-based Xtended Hydraulics & Machine has been manufacturing, repairing, and custom machining hydraulic cylinders for customers across Canada and beyond. 

 Xtended is a Certified Aboriginal Business with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and has been 100 per cent Indigenous and privately owned since its start. About half of the company’s staff are of Indigenous descent, and the owners employ a 50:50 management staff policy of women and men. 

 Xtended is run by partners Katherine and Rob Tebb. The company is deeply rooted in Saskatchewan, said Robb, and not just because his family goes back 10-plus generations in the province. 

 Tebb says that Saskatchewan just makes sense for his manufacturing company and their future. 

 “We have access to a tremendous workforce here in the province and there’s so much skill and talent that is essentially untapped,” says Tebb. “We started the company as a way to give back to our community, so we’re big into apprenticeship and trades training, which is giving us one of the most hard-working and dedicated workforces out there.” 

 “Being in Saskatchewan means we get to work with the great folks at Sask Trade and Export Partnership (STEP),” says Tebb. “They are so well connected around the world, and they take the time to understand our business and what we can offer. They can make the introductions to the decision-makers in our target markets.” 

 As you might expect with being located in Saskatchewan, Xtended has strong ties to the province’s potash mining industry, but that doesn’t mean Tebb and his team are resting on their laurels. 

 “We hired a sales manager out of the oil and gas industry, so I asked him what the needs of that industry might be,” says Tebb. “He said for the last twenty years that he’d been getting asked for a retractable quill for pipeline chemical injection, and there just wasn’t one on the market.” 

 “My first reaction was ‘what the heck is a quill?!” Tebb says. 

 A quill is a needle-like piece of equipment that hangs down into a pipeline to allow for the injection of chemicals like drag reducers or diluents, or to allow for off-gassing of the pipe. Regular quills are fixed in place through an access port, and they create an obstacle to pipeline maintenance equipment like pigs. 

 “Making the quill retractable is a game changer,” says Tebb. “A company can save tremendous amounts of time, money, and GHG emissions when they don’t have to send a crew out to extract and reinstall the quills. They can save even more if the quills are automated and controlled remotely, which our hydraulics systems allow.” 

 Tebb said there were two factors behind the development of his company’s new technology. First, he credits his staff for being able to bring the idea to life. “The teamwork that went into bringing this design to reality is nothing short of incredible,” said Tebb. 

 “The other factor was working with great Saskatchewan partners like the Saskatchewan Research Council. From our initial contact to the finishing product we could not have asked for a better experience,” said Tebb. 

 “It’s world-leading knowledge and expertise right in our own backyard,” he continued, “and we’re fortunate to be able to tap into it.”

Dan McCann – Precision AI, Regina 

Precision AI is a Regina-based ag-tech start-up aiming to support sustainable farming practices with computer vision technology. 

 Dan McCann with Precision AI explains that the company’s technology enables the application of herbicide to individual weeds in row crop farming situations – particularly when using the company’s newest drone-based systems. 

 “Using traditional high-clearance sprayers, producers would be spraying herbicides on potentially the whole crop,” says McCann. “More than 80 per cent of the chemical would be wasted because it wasn’t ending up on the weeds.” 

 “In an industry where margins can be razor tight and your product is at the mercy of Mother Nature, wasting 80 per cent of an input during any application just doesn’t make sense – financially or environmentally,” McCann says. “Our technology can reduce the amount of chemical used by up to
95 per cent.” 

 “There are more than 570 million farms around the world,” says McCann, “and 560 million of them are micro- to small farming operations. Most of them will never have a large piece of equipment touch their fields, but drone technology reduces the capital outlay needed and can service even the smallest of operations.” 

 “Even in larger farming operations, drone technology makes sense,” McCann explains. “There’s often some part of the field that’s a challenge to reach with traditional large implements due to topography or geography, so taking to the air expands the farmer’s reach.” 

 Asked why Precision AI chose Saskatchewan as its home base, McCann offers a quote from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s long-time business partner: fish where the fish are. 

 “Saskatchewan is at the heart of crop production in Canada, and there’s a tremendous amount of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit present in this region,” says McCann. 

 “We’ve got the key elements here for a precision agriculture corridor between Regina and Saskatoon. Companies here – manufacturing, technology, and ag – and the people here are just great at creating and collaborating,” McCann says. 

 McCann also gives credit to the support offered by the Saskatchewan government through the STEP program for helping Precision AI grow and take on the global market from the heart of the Canadian breadbasket. 

 “STEP, the research council, and the Global Trade Hub… it all combines to make Saskatchewan the perfect spot for our business.” 

Saskatchewan SpotlightAdvanced Manufacturing and Ag Tech 

– Saskatchewan companies design and produce world class advanced manufacturing solutions, providing high-tech equipment that boosts productivity in traditional resource based economic sectors 

– Recent innovations include monitoring and auto-steering systems for the agriculture industry and unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturing to be used in control and monitoring systems for agricultural purposes.

– Saskatchewan is the second-largest exporter of agri-food products in Canada, with sales reaching $16.9 billion in 2020. 

– Along with resources like agriculture crops, potash, uranium, oil & gas, and rare earth minerals like helium and lithium, Saskatchewan has advanced research centres to support development and processing in those areas.