By Tim Kalinowski, Ag-Matters staff writer
With crop prices beginning to edge up again, there are heightened concerns about the potential for theft. Given that most farmers live out in the country and keep bins in isolated areas, there is always a danger of someone coming along with ill intent to take what does not belong to them. Various things have been tried to keep stored crops safe, and there are many surveillance and lock options out there. However, one innovative security idea that emerged about 30 years ago is so called “grainfetti” or “cropfetti.” Cropgard is Canada’s biggest producer of grainfetti, and was the first commercially viable product introduced in western Canada.
As Ron Kroeker, manager/ designer with Country Graphics & Printing Ltd. which produces Cropgard, explains the idea was born in small town Canada.
“We are based in Rosenort, Manitoba about one hour south of Winnipeg. It was back probably in the early 1980s. There were some crop thefts happening here in our region. We are a design and printing shop. A couple of farmers came in here one day and they had heard of somebody in the U.S. that had started putting coloured strips of paper into their grain to identify it, and whether we couldn’t do something like that for them. That’s kind of how it all started.”
It occurred to Kroeker and his staff they could take the product one step further by actually adding customer specific serial numbers to the tiny paper pieces to make it easier to identify where the stolen grain came from when it entered the system.
“We actually use newsprint,” explains Kroeker. “It’s not bleached or anything; it’s just plain, old newsprint. Every farmer that decides to use this product has their own exclusive number. What that does is identify the grain as being his grain. What we have done is try to educate most of the grain handlers in Canada to let them know they are going to be seeing grain with this product in it, letting them know what it is all about. And giving them our phone number if there should be a a question or suspicion about the grain that’s being delivered.”
While Cropgard has never been a huge seller for his company, Kroeker says in some years it can be a lucrative side business for his print shop.
“The success we’ve had with it we can’t brag very much about,” says Kroeker with a laugh. “It’s not like we sell tons of the product every year. But it’s always nice to find something new, and something not too many others have given a try. Demand comes and goes. It is very dependent on the grain prices, and whether there has been a recent theft or not. When farmers hear about a serious theft somewhere they decide to protect their grain, but thieves generally don’t bother stealing grain unless they feel the prices are worth the risk.”
Kroeker believes his product makes for a simple, but very effective, crop theft deterrent. Farmers who buy the grainfetti generally also purchase decals warning potential thieves their bins are protected by Cropgard.
“You can put big locks on the doors of your granary, but people can always break those. Farmers have tried various things, but it is amazing what thieves will do when the price is high. They’ll do crazy things. I heard of one instance where they drove up alongside a big bin and punched a hole in it and let it run into their truck. We’ve been selling this for nearly 30 years. We have only ever heard of one verified report where someone stole grain protected with Cropgard,” says Kroeker.