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Wednesday, 07 December 2016 14:24

TMD looking to harvest success after year of hard work

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No resting on one’s laurels, especially when just starting out in business.


For Tanner Petersen, Matthew Wass and Dylan Spetz, co-owners and operators of TMD Seeds and 2016 graduates of the Medicine Hat College Environmental Reclamation Technician Program, the trio make a well-balanced team.
The owners of the Medicine Hat-based company which specializes in native seed collecting, custom/contract harvesting and native grass seed sales has numerous professional and personal ties to southeast Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan.
After all, the trio were one of four of the college’s Entrepreneur Development Centre’s (EDC) prestigious Summer Company program’s winning entries where each chosen presentation for a new start-up businesses idea received $10,000. These grants were provided by EDC’s Summer Company program which has been funded by JMH&CO.
Each has experience in different related fields. Wass has worked as an oilfield swamper on vacuum and pumper trucks. Spetz has experience in farming in southwest Saskatchewan, networks with those in the agriculture field and also worked at the federal agricultural research station in Swift Current.
Peterson has a lot of experience in the municipal government field having worked with Cypress County’s agricultural department working with landowners in those areas identifying native/invasive species while also working with legal land locations.
While relatively young, it’s a well-balanced and experienced mix who received some help from college instructors who lent a hand and offered advice as the business got off the ground in dealing with business licences and other legalities.
“This year was about reclamation of the seed, finding the range out there,” explains Wass. “We were harvesting from Dylan’s family’s land (near Admiral Sask.) to get started ... Now we are trying to get access to as much land as we can.”
Wass explains they are trying to garner access to private land and they are doing that by offering seed in return, cash or percentage of the return of the seed they sell to landowners or oilfield reclamation projects. With rangeland owners with agricultural operations such as beef which need to replenish areas or to those trying to fix areas which have been altered by oilfield — which seems to be coming back in southeast Alberta and in the Kindersley, Sask. areas —business potential is looking good.
Wass says the trio learned a lot in the first year of operation. A lot of that learning was marketing, trying to get their name out there, networking and scouting for new areas to harvest and just see what types of native grasses were available.
Initially, their target was the harvest of three types of native grasses including the needle and thread variety (Stipa comata); Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and Western Porcupine Grass (Stipa curtiseta), but Wass says they are not limited to those three varieties.
“One thing we need to do is broaden the range of seed on types of grasses, plus also focusing on other plants and maybe expand to trees and shrubs,” he explains.
He noted the money they earned from the $10,000 JMH scholarship went to purchasing access to harvesting equipment as well as a quad.
They had to overcome mechanical and technical issues, but once they got it going it went smooth.
Wass says another plus this year was the connections they made. With those potential partners with businesses and individuals in the oilfield and agricultural sectors, being young business owners, they were well accepted. Wass says they were recently in Calgary for a conference and seminar and many there were happy to see some young blood coming into the industry.
As young businesses go, there were also learning curves and discovering things that weren’t in their control can sometimes be a detriment. For example, mechanical issues and getting used to their equipment was an adjustment, avoiding large rocks, but they were also hampered by poor weather. Because their field of harvest is limited, as they need to pick up the forage which is going to seed at a very specific point, harvesting time is limited. They have to wait until the grasses seed out and then to ripen at which time then the harvest can take place. Such is life for any crop farmer, when it’s time to harvest, there’s no delay.
“We harvest our seed near Admiral and it looked like we had an early harvest, but unfortunately we got delayed by bad weather in the third week in July,” explains Wass who says the area had high winds and there were reports of tornadoes. “Winds were crazy and it stopped the harvest for a time.”
While they cannot avoid or control bad weather Wass is confident they have learned from this year to make the business and workflow more streamlined.
“This year was just learning about just starting up the business and all the business licences and such. We had to figure that out,” explains Wass, who adds they also want to work with landscaping companies and nurseries. “Now we will have more time out in the field.”
Wass was excited as they were getting seed cleaned at a facility in Dinsmore Sask. — also partly paid for by the scholarship — and he expects business will now grow from there.
With the groundwork laid, they are highly optimistic for a successful 2017 as they scout and search for more land to work with and to make more connections and partnerships with landowners in both southeast Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan.
There are different ways to contact the trio. Telephone: 1-403-878-9541; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website at www.tmdseeds.com.

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Ryan Dahlman

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