By: Pat Rediger

The Duck Foot slip-over paddle tines keep the crop moving and the cutter bar clean, reducing header loss. It also allows for more even feeding and better threshing, which improves overall yields.

Govan area farmer Steve Kastning was tired of watching his lentils sit and shake on his combine’s cutter bar and fall on the ground. He tried belting and duct tape to minimize his losses, but they didn’t give him the results he was looking for.

So he headed into his shop and came out with a part that looks like a duck foot that fits over the regular tines on a combine to increase the amount of pick up that regular tines miss. Today Duck Foot is an award-winning company that ships its products to farmers in Canada, the United States and Australia.

“Steve has been involved in farming all of his life, either working for others, farming on his own or a combination of both. He has seen and tried a number of ways to help crops clear the cutter bar, but he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted a solution that would be reusable and fast and easy to install, or remove if needed,” said his wife Chrisa, who co-owns the company and drives its marketing efforts.

The Duck Foot clears the cutter bar, so that the crop is not sitting there, falling off or feeding unevenly. It is designed for use on soybeans, pulses, cereals and straight-cut canola. The slip-over paddle tines keep the crop moving and the cutter bar clean, reducing header loss. It also allows for more even feeding and better threshing, which improves overall yields. One of the most significant features is that it quickly and easily slides over the existing tine and attaches to the reel pipe, with no tools required.

The process to create this new invention didn’t come easily. Steve started with PVC pipe then found an engineer to create the CAD drawings for the 3D prints. It took three 3D prototypes before arriving at his final design. Initial testing was done by Steve on his own farm, as well as by some friends and neighbors who provided feedback. Although the Duck Foot was invented for his own farming operation, the couple always intended on turning it into a commercial business.

“Being a farmer-invented product meant this began as a side project while we were still farming ourselves,” explained Chrisa. “It involved a lot of Google searches and inquiries. The most difficult part was finding the right companies to work with to bring the idea to a finished product. This involved completing CAD drawings, 3D printing, building the molds and then producing the injection-molded parts.”

The Kastnings embarked upon this venture in 2015, and by June 2018, they were ready to officially launch at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina. They were pleasantly surprised to be named the recipient of a Sterling Innovation Award for their invention, and the response they received convinced them to continue to develop the business. Soon afterwards, they launched their website and developed a marketing plan that included advertising and attending trade shows.

The initial marketing push has been on the prairies, but they are now reaching across Canada and the United States by meeting with farmers and farm parts dealers at various trade shows. The company is looking forward to exhibiting at their first trade show in Ontario this year. Duck Foot has also proven to be popular in Australia because of a Twitter post.

Duck Foot received a Sterling Innovation Award at th 2018 Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina, SK, and it now ships its products to farmers in Canada, the United States and Australia.

“In 2017 a friend shared Steve’s video of the Duck Foot on his Twitter page, and an Australian farmer, who also has a farm supply business, saw the benefit of the Duck Foot and began ordering and selling them there,” said Chrisa. “This is one of our most exciting connections so far, and we decided to attend a field day (trade show) in Australia. In March 2019, with the assistance of our Australian dealer, we exhibited at Wimmera Field Days near Horsham, Victoria, site-sharing with Emmetts and MacDon Australia. This led to a distribution deal with MacDon Australia. We are glad we made that first connection with Brooker Farm Supply and highly value the relationships we’ve made in Australia.”

The Kastnings have also been making inroads into the United States. Last November Steve traveled to Carrington, North Dakota to demo the Duck Foot on the GTS header of Brazil following interest by another US company that imports and sells this model of header. In 2019 they exhibited at two trade shows in the United States, including one of the largest, the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2020 they’ve already exhibited at four US trade shows in January and February.

“The most challenging part of international sales is getting our brand and product known and managing the logistics of crossing international borders, such as customs, brokerage and shipping,” said Chrisa.

To boost its international efforts, Duck Foot joined STEP in October 2019, and Chrisa said “It’s a relief to be connected to an organization that offers its members so many benefits. With STEP connections, information and support, we feel better prepared to continue to grow our business.”

Duck Foot has participated in several STEP events and has learned from other members at networking opportunities. Through STEP, the company now has an agreement with Reile’s Transfer and Delivery, so that they can store and ship from Reile’s warehouse in Fargo, North Dakota.

Chrisa said the company looks forward to working with STEP in the future and to continue its international business expansion.

When the couple first created the invention, they started with a mold that would fit the header of a MacDon combine, which was the brand they were using at the time. They have now finished a mold for a new clip system that further secures the paddle tine in place.

They have also almost completed the mold to fit the Hart Carter header model that is used by five different brands (John Deere, Agco, Case, Massey Ferguson and New Holland), and they are designing an additional model that will fit another five headers.

“It has been a challenge because of the significant differences in some header brands,” explained Chrisa. “With our second model, we essentially had to start from the beginning with measurements and CAD drawings leading into building the molds, testing and then modifying it.”

As part of that process, Steve went back to Australia in November 2019 to demo the company’s newest model that fits Hart Carter reels. With the help of Emmetts, he travelled to several farms to test this model as well as the new clip system.

Today, Duck Foot works with two contract manufacturers. One is situated in Alberta, which fabricates the molds, and the other is in Saskatchewan. The company employs two full-time employees and one part-time employee.

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Original article viewable at Global Ventures Magazine Summer Edition 2020