As the glaciers of the last ice age retreated across Western Canada, they left a varied landscape, which is where our story begins. In the area surrounding the location of the current Town of St. Brieux, Saskatchewan, the glacial till deposited significant amounts of stone and rock. This complicated life for both farmers and equipment dealers in the area, who were constantly plagued with tillage equipment failures. As both a farmer and equipment dealer Frank Bourgault understood these frustrations, and set forth to build a cultivator that would stand up and conquer these harsh conditions. He succeeded. This premise set the stage for all Bourgault equipment that followed and is encompassed in the company’s mission statement “To design, manufacture and distribute the highest quality, most durable and reliable farm equipment in the world, that is affordable and meets or exceeds the expectations of our most demanding customers.”
Frank was born on March 3, 1924, to George and Louise Bourgault. He was raised on a farm four miles east of the Town of St. Brieux. An inventor at heart, at 17 years of age, he built a device used in the family farming operation that made it possible for one man to do the work of two. When he was 21 years of age, he built a very basic snowmobile to help him get around in the winter months. A few years later, he applied for a patent for a root rake to reduce the onerous job of picking roots on freshly broken, wooded land. He and his brothers-in-law built several units and sold them to farmers in the local area. Before starting his company, Frank made his living by combining farming with a farm implement dealership. It is his experience in both these arenas that he gained the knowledge and experience to develop and launch his Dual-Purpose cultivator, which could operate almost trouble free in the rocky soils around St. Brieux, doing in one pass what it would otherwise require a farmer using a chisel plow and then a field cultivator two or three passes over the field to accomplish.
On May 4, 1973, F.P Bourgault Industries Ltd. was incorporated. A very modest facility was erected and began operations in the fall of 1974. Frank recruited local talent to work in the small factory, which manufactured 75 cultivators for use in the spring of 1975. Gerry joined the company full time in May of 1975, just after graduating from the College of Engineering with Great Distinction. Upon completing high school Frank's second son, Joseph Bourgault, began travelling throughout the province as a sales representative, recruiting implement dealers to retail Bourgault’s new Dual-Purpose Cultivator. Claude Bourgault, Frank's third and youngest son, also joined the company. Frank’s example as an inventor and an entrepreneur clearly had a profound effect on his three sons. Gerry continues to preside as president of Bourgault Industries Ltd., Joseph is the president of Bourgault Tillage Tools Ltd. and Claude is the president of DryAir, all of which are manufacturing companies that have head offices in St. Brieux.
In the fall of 1977, Frank agreed to licence an seeder metering patent held by Jerome Bechard, an inventive farmer from near Regina, Saskatchewan. In the fall of 1980, Bourgault Industries Ltd. released the world’s first tow behind, 138 bushel air seeder cart that was mated to its Dual-Purpose line of cultivators. This proved to be a historic development for the company as the air seeding business has been at the core of Bourgault’s business ever since its entry into the market.
Today, with approximately 500,000 square feet of manufacturing and office area, Bourgault is a world class company, marketing its product to all corners of the globe. The company has put forward many firsts along the way. Not only does the company design and manufacture equipment, it operates its own research farm to develop and validate new design concepts that will raise the bar in terms of producing better crops, more efficiently.
Arguably one of most significant equipment developments in Bourgault’s history has been its coulter Mid Row Bander® system. The system, which utilizes a coulter opener between every second seed-row to apply nitrogen fertilizer, allows farmers to apply any form of nitrogen fertilizer, in a one-pass seeding operation, while eliminating the possibility of seed burn while minimizing seedbed disruption. However, by doing its own agronomic research using the Mid Row Bander®, Bourgault’s agronomist were able to determine that splitting the phosphate between the seed row and mid row provided for faster emergence and higher plant stands than placing all of the phosphate with the seed. Most recently, Bourgault has introduced the TriMax™, a triple shooting system that allows seeds to be deposited in a dedicated row so that they can germinate free of any of the toxic effects of fertilizer.
The success of Bourgault Industries Ltd. would not have occurred without the dedication and skill of the talented team of the many men and women who have been the backbone of the company. It is a company that has revolutionized agriculture, and looks forward to meeting the challenges of feeding the world that lie ahead.
The history of Bourgault Industries Ltd. is Also available on The Bourgault Video YouTube Channel.