Until last year, Kyle Folk never could have imagined an idea he’d been tossing around for years could become the next big thing in Saskatchewan farming.
“A few years back, my dad lost some grain to spoilage. He had gone to do a routine check on one of his bins in a remote location, and noticed the bin was heating,” Folk said.
“Everyone was in such a panic, I asked my dad how he couldn’t have seen this coming.”
Folk spent his childhood on a farm, but became an electrician as an adult and opened his own business. It seemed to him that the situation his father had experienced should be preventable. As he quickly learned, that wasn’t always the case.
“My dad told me that there are monitors out there to tell you the temperature in your bin, but you have to physically be there to get a reading,” Folk said.
When a grain bin is in a remote location, similar to the bin on Folk’s father’s farm, monitoring temperatures is more of a challenge.
That’s when the idea for what would become Bin-Sense 1.0, a wireless grain storage monitoring system, was first born. But for two years, it would remain nothing more than an idea.
“I was literally seconds away from not doing anything about it. Then I saw reporters talking about this competition for entrepreneurs on the news, and I wrote the information down,” Folk said.
He describes it as a flicker across on the television screen. It was just a few lines read on the evening news about the Progress2Capital business planning competition that got Folk’s wheels turning.
Folk entered his idea, and he has never looked back.
“It was this competition that really helped me move forward. It really fast tracked my idea into a business,” Folk said.
In its seventh year, the P2C competition is open for anyone wanting to startup or diversify a Saskatchewan-based business. P2C was originally started by the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission (RROC) and targeted primarily to the Regina region. In 2012, RROC joined forces with the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority to take the competition province-wide and brought Enterprise Saskatchewan, the province’s economic development agency, on board as the presenting sponsor.
Competitors are paired with mentors, and are walked through what it takes to turn an idea into a business. Like Folk, most of the competitors finish the competition with a solid business in place.
Today, Folk is the president of IntraGrain Technologies Inc., with his Bin-Sense 1.0 grain storage monitoring system ready to hit the market this summer.
Unlike some of the other bin monitoring technology available that relies on cable sensors and an external power source to function, Folk’s system is both battery-powered and wireless.
“There are other systems out there, computer based systems, but they would require the computer to be on site, and you would have to physically go back to that computer for the information,” Folk said.
Folk’s Bin-Sense 1.0 is unique in that it wirelessly transmits information to the Internet using cell phone towers. This means farmers can see the information from anywhere.
“We have eliminated the human element from this process. We have a machine in the field sending a message to cell phone towers. This machine-to-machine technology is really just being introduced in Saskatchewan,” Folk said.
The technology can alert farmers via text message if there is a drastic change in bin temperature.
“I am trying to offer a technologically advanced product that is simplistic and user friendly to any size farmer,” Folk said.
Though he did not win last year’s competition, Folk said he’s received plenty of investor interest in his product. Based on his predictions, Folk said he is a year ahead of schedule.
“My involvement in the competition, and the help I got from SpringBoard West, are probably the biggest reason I am heading in a successful direction,” Folk said.
Folk’s mentor was Joe Toth from SpringBoard West Innovations Inc., a Saskatchewan-based organization that helps bring innovative ideas to the commercial marketplace. They are also partners in the P2C competition.
“The mentor I have is a highly experienced guy, who has been very successful himself,” Folk said.
Now, with a healthy business in place and the Bin-Sense 1.0 ready to launch, Folk is looking forward to what the next year holds.
“Ultimately, I just want my business to be successful,” he said.
For more information on IntraGrain Technologies Inc. and Bin-Sense 1.0, please visit their website or contact:
President, IntraGrain Technologies Inc.
Telephone: (306) 570-7979