Right to repair front and centre at Canada's largest indoor farm show

Farmers have the right to have equipment fixed quickly, but this can be complicated by technology needs, supply chain hiccups and labour shortages. Solutions include purchasing older equipment at auction or doing preventative maintenance using predictive analytics.

Manitoba Ag Days talks look at farmer equipment needs

People walk through an arena filled with farming equipment.
Guests check out farm equipment on display at Ag Days in the Westoba Place Arena in Brandon on Tuesday. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

When harvest season begins in Manitoba, farmers count on the equipment they use to work so they can get the job done — and if it fails, they need it repaired quickly so they can get back on the field fast.

There has been a growing push across North America for more efficient repair of the tools farmers use. Supply chain woes, labour shortages and increasingly complex technologies all contribute to sometimes frustrating repair timelines for farmers.

Greg Peterson of Machinery Pete, a used farm equipment auction business, says their prices are rising because some people now want to own older equipment with less technology so they can repair it themselves.

"Farmers like being able to work on their own equipment if they can," Peterson said.

Peterson travelled from Rochester, Minn., to speak at Brandon's Ag Days about the trends in used farm equipment values. Manitoba Ag Days is Canada's largest indoor farm show and features agriculture production expertise, technology and equipment on display during a three-day expo.

A man wearing glasses with short white hair looks at the camera.
Manitoba Ag Days speaker Greg Peterson of Machinery Pete says there has been a growing demand for used farm equipment. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Farmers have the right to have equipment fixed quickly and are supported by dealers, but getting repairs done has become increasingly complicated, Peterson said.

While one workaround is buying older equipment, the industry also uses predictive analytics to guide preventative maintenance.

A dealer who sells new equipment can warn farmers if issues are foreseen and then preventative care can be done, Peterson explained.

"They need the machinery to run and do what it's got to do … and dealers are doing some cool things, like predictive analytics," he said.

"You buy a new combine or new tractor, and the dealer can actually sort of warn you ahead of time [that] this engine could have an issue.… [It's a] huge, huge investment in that technology to benefit the grower."

Larry Hertz, vice-president of the North American Equipment Dealers Association, says the right to repair equipment in agriculture is a longstanding issue that regained traction in the United States with the push for the right to fix personal items, such as cellphones.

"Farm equipment is kind of being ... dragged into the conversation," Hertz said after a presentation at Ag Days on Tuesday.

Twenty years ago a "gearhead" could tinker and work on a vehicle, but it's becoming increasingly difficult because of innovations in live yield monitoring, crop sampling, sectional control or guidance and other technology on contemporary farm equipment.

A man wearing a suit stand talking at a podium.
NAEDA vice-president Larry Hertz says manufacturers and dealers are working with farmers to ensure they have the tools to repair all equipment on their operations. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Dealers and manufacturers are committed to working with farmers to ensure equipment can be easily and quickly fixed on the farm or at a shop, Hertz said.

"For the most part … we provide all the diagnostic tools, the manuals that, you know, everything that a farmer needs to do their own repair or have it done at an independent repair shop."

Preventative maintenance is being embraced by the community, agricultural consultant Jean-Claude Saquet said.

"The farm community is used to the option of servicing your own equipment, troubleshooting your own equipment," Saquet said, but this has become harder as technology advances with each new generation of machinery.

"That transition of servicing your own equipment versus a service provider … you may or may not have the abilities to service your own equipment."

Saquet's family farms in Laurier, about 150 kilometres north of Brandon, so when a breakdown happens that requires taking equipment to a shop, that means time lost to travel. 

Time is one of the most critical commodities for farmers, he said.

"I think that's where it's important to really anticipate your preventative maintenance, but I think it's important for every farm to have a choice of different service providers and service levels," Saquet said. 

"You need a quicker ability to troubleshoot or quicker ability to service it."

Two older men sit on the front loader of a tractor.
Dan Neufeld, left, and Barry Sawtzky check out equipment on display at Manitoba Ag Days on Tuesday. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Relationships with dealers, manufacturers and others are critical for getting equipment fixed fast.

"What's more important is the relationship to the right person," he said.

Help networks are expanding outside the farm network with cellphones and the internet.

"Get in touch with that service support person and maybe when the inquiry starts … it needs to get escalated to another level of a person."


Chelsea Kemp

Brandon Reporter

Chelsea Kemp is a multimedia journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is based in CBC's bureau in Brandon, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback with