Technology makes farm safer, more productive

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From the windows of his house in Brookfield, 87-year-old Gerald Dykerman can look out over the farm he built two generations ago.

Now bustling under the watch of his grandson Matt Dykerman, Red Soil Organics grows, packs, and ships organic produce, including carrots, parsnips, and cabbage, throughout Atlantic and Eastern Canada. In a big red building at the back of the property, technicians are installing a new faster, safer carrot processing line, coincidentally just in time for Farm Safety Week.

“As a third-generation vegetable farm, it’s important to us that everyone stays safe. We want to maintain the legacy that our family has built here,” Matt Dykerman says, washing a handful of carrots.

“When we were designing this line we put a lot of thought into where people would be working and what safety features we could put in place to make a safer work environment.”

The state-of-the-art equipment can handle 10 tons of carrots an hour, and has superior worker safety features built in.

Dykerman switched all the farm’s conveyors into direct-drive motors that reduce the chance of employees getting fingers caught in a belt, a chain or a sprocket. There are now more emergency buttons along the line – 11 in total – so if anyone presses a stop button, the entire line shuts down.

The farm employs local staff, migrant workers and new immigrants, between 13 to 30 people from across the globe depending on the time of year. Dykerman has seen some minor accidents, fingers cut on production lines for example, but he wants to make sure nobody is seriously injured on the job.

“When someone is injured, it really does weigh heavily on us as employers,” he said. “We believe it's our  responsibility to keep our employees safe.”

For more information on farm safety week visit www.agsafetyweek.ca

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