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2013 Banff Pork Seminar

Innovators showcased at Banff Pork Seminar with Aherne awards

Winners of the annual F.X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production include Sylven Blouin and Mathieu Couture of Agri-Marche Inc. St-Isidore Que.; Serge Labrecque and Robert Germain of Conception Ro-Main Inc., St-Bernard, Que.; and Joel and Ron Wurz of Bench Colony, near Shaunavon, Sask.

"Each of the winners have provided unique and valuable contributions to improve pork production, " says Dr. Michael Dyck of the University of Alberta, chair of the F.X. Aherne prize committee. "They capture the spirit of innovation essential to moving the industry forward. All are deserving winners."

The F.X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production is an opportunity for the industry to recognize those individuals who have developed either original solutions to pork production challenges or creative uses of known technology. They are named after the late Dr. Frank Aherne, a professor of swine nutrition and production at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and a major force for science-based progress in the western Canadian pork industry.

The Agri-Marche Inc. team was recognized for its development of a temperature controlled semen conservation unit for delivery vehicles. This allows temperature stabilization of the semen en route to the destination breeding operation, saving time and protecting semen quality. This supports greater overall planning and efficiency, to strengthen the performance of artificial insemination.

Semen quality during insemination is an important issue addressed by this innovation, which represents a major improvement over existing options such as Styrofoam box transport or temperature controlled coolers that have issues with fragility, space requirements and inconsistent results. Among a range of benefits, the Agri-Marche unit is reliable, practical, reusable and inexpensive. It's touted as a game changer for the task of delivering semen from the boar centre to the breeders.

Conception Ro-Main earned its award for the creation of an 'intelligent' heat lamp controller and piglet creep system. The Intelligence Surveillance System (ISS) is a cutting edge concept that monitors and regulates the temperature of each individual creep in a farrowing room. The result is optimized conditions for piglet health that supports the productivity and profitability of sow production operations.

One example of numerous ISS features is an optional birth-alert function so that timely assistance can be brought to the sow and piglets. The technology has made major inroads since its introduction to the market, with some 6,000 units sold to Canadian swine breeders.

Like so many past Aherne award winners, Joel and Ron Wurz developed their innovation as a response to a practical production problem they encountered on their own operation. Bench Colony had problems with some pit plugs popping out. They came up with a simple yet remarkably effective device to hold the pit plugs in place so the water would not drain off.

The Plug Holder device is adjustable, made of all stainless steel and also serves as a plug puller. It prevents a range of issues including water inefficiency and the potential for gasses and solids to back up in the barn.

Held since 1972 in Banff, Alberta, the Banff Pork Seminar is coordinated by the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, in cooperation with Alberta Pork, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and other pork industry representatives from across Canada. Program and additional information on the Banff Pork Seminar is available on the Seminar Web site, www.banffpork.ca.

A Special Report on the Seminar, featuring a range of stories and photos, including photos of the award-winning innovators, is available through a link on the site.

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