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Conestogo Agri Systems Inc.: Helping Ontario’s Farms Grow
Conestogo Agri Systems Inc. (CAS) has gone though a winding path of name changes and mergers to become the successful multi-million dollar company it is today, but at the center there is and always has been one person: Rick Struyk. Along with his wife Leanna and their four children, Struyk has turned this company from a small farm equipment distributor with four employees to a company that boasts around 32 devoted employees performing a diverse range of services that includes everything from the distribution of farm and dairy equipment to integrated barn design.
The company originally started as Rick Struyk Farm Equipment in 1994 and was based out of rural Palmerston, Ontario. The company was the dealer of Canarm, Patz and WIC equipment to the surrounding area, and also installed and repaired other products. In 1997 Struyk acquired Conestogo Dairy Supply, a local Surge Dairy Farm Equipment dealer, and the two operated separately for three years. In 2000, Struyk bought McLaren Dairy Systems from Elora, a company that was the local dealer of Houle, Valmetal and WestfaliaSurge (a merger of Westfalia and Surge). It was the combination of Rick Struyk Farm Equipment, Conestogo Dairy Supply and McLaren Dairy Systems that formed Conestogo Agri Systems Inc (CAS).
Over the next three years, Struyk would acquire two more companies: Don Ricker Dairy Systems from Dunnville, and McLaren Equipment of Barrie. Seventeen years and five companies later, Struyk has become a group generating $12 million annual revenue as the premiere dairy equipment and farmstead divisions within a two-hour radius of Alma, Ontario.
One-stop Shop for All Farmstead & Dairy Needs
CAS has come a long way from its inception, and can offer more products and services, start-to-finish, than nearly any competitor. “If you were going to build a barn, I would come up with a concept for a barn that you like on paper. From there it would go out to builders for pricing, and then I would price all the interior parts,” explains Struyk. “We don’t do the building or the electrical, but us plus those other pieces put together make a barn.”
The company is divided into two different sections: farmstead and dairy equipment. The dairy equipment division is further broken down into four parts: equipment sales, hygiene sales, installation and service. CAS offers a range of products to improve both animal and facility hygiene. Paying attention to such an issue allows for a facility to attain maximum efficiency and for cows to remain healthier longer. In addition, CAS offers milking equipment for dairies of all sizes and management styles, software solutions to help manage a farm’s herd and parlor, as well as milk cooling equipment to properly refrigerate the final product.
The other half of the company is CAS’s farmstead division. CAS offers barn cleaners, feed processing and distributing equipment, livestock stabling and equipment, stable flooring, water fountains, as well as mixers and feeders. “We sell different brands than our competitors,” according to Struyk. “We sell a very strong brand, and we’re very loyal to them.” CAS offers the best brands in the world for farm equipment, including GEA Farm Technologies WestfaliaSurge & Houle, Valmetal Inc., Rovibec high-tech feeding, Canarm Agricultural Products/BSM Agri, Rissler, Ritchie Industries, Legend Rubber Inc. and Galaxy Farm Equipment (Robotics).
A Stable Industry
By providing some of the best brands in the world, with quality construction and design services, CAS has been able to do work for some of the most prominent farms in the area. In 2010 these included Ontowa Farms, Webnook Holsteins, Koehlerview Farms, Maychris Holsteins and Nith Crest Farms. The company’s recent work for Ontowa included changing its entire operation from a tie stall to a free stall, where cows have unconstricted movement and are not confined to single cells, and CAS helmed even more extensive development for Koehlerview Farms.
“Koehlerview was actually the victim of a barn fire, and they had to start all over with a brand new facility,” says Struyk. “Between myself, the builder, the farmer and a few more heads we came up with a new design for the barn.” In addition to helping design the structure, CAS installed all the milking equipment. Meanwhile, CAS did all the interior work for Webnook, including animal housing and milking equipment, and with Maychris the firm converted the farm from a tie stall barn into a free stall facility. “We’ve been pretty busy recently,” adds Struyk with a chuckle.
Struyk credits the company’s long-term success to the quality service CAS provides, and the people it employs. Having long-term employees is fundamental not just to the level of consistency and quality from project to project, but also to retaining customers. Maintaining repeat business is key for CAS to be successful according to Struyk. “Our biggest obstacle is that there are less and less dairy farms, so you really have to pay attention to the ones that are staying in business, and make sure to keep them as customers,” he says.
While there are less dairy farms being built, Struyk says that the recession has not impacted his business because the industry is generally a stable one. An eternal optimist, he says it’s “full-steam ahead” for Conestogo Agri Systems Inc. And, with dynamite products implemented by loyal, extensively trained employees, there’s no reason for Struyk to plan otherwise.