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This farmer loading his seed drill near Dalroy, AB, was employing near-top-of-the-line equipment in 1911. Did he have any idea what was to come in seeding technology? In this photo taken by W.J. Oliver, the farmer is working the field with a Pioneer tractor pulling three Van Brunt 18-run press drills, which were able to seed a width of six metres with each pass.

The Pioneer Tractor Co. was launched in 1909 in Minneapolis, MN, according to an article in Gas Engine magazine. Although it produced this heavy, well-built and powerful tractor, the manufacturer soon went out of business, as did nearly 900 other tractor makers of the day.

Although the Van Brunt grain drill ceased production about 50 years ago, it was a very popular piece of seeding equipment developed in the late 1800s by Wisconsin brothers George and William Van Brunt. According to Farm Collector magazine, George Van Brunt carved the first model of the drill by hand out of a turnip.

The Van Brunts found a great deal of success with their farm machinery business and were offered multiple buyouts by other companies, but it wasn’t until John Deere made them an irresistible offer in 1911 that the two companies consolidated. The seed drills carried the combined name of John Deere Van Brunt until the Van Brunt name was dropped in the 1960s.

For this farmer, filling the grain box of a machine that could drill seed into the ground represented a huge technological leap forward. However, he surely couldn’t have imagined that one day these same fields would be planted using air-conditioned four-wheel-drive tractors outfitted with auto-steer GPS guidance and onboard computers. Nor that they would pull air-drill seeding equipment utilizing multiple tanks for seed and fertilizer, and be outfitted with winged drill sections 30 metres wide. Even less so that seeding equipment might one day be carried out by fully automated, driverless equipment.


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