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The Boychuk Brothers

John and Nicholas Boychuk are brothers who applied some down-home ingenuity to develop a grain stooker that was hailed as "one of the greatest labour-saving devices on the farm since the advent of the self-binder."

The brothers were born on the family farm near Shandro, northeast of Edmonton, and started working on their stooking machine in the early 1920s. They were not alone in their quest for an improved grain stooker; a cursory search of the Canadian patent listings for the years after the First World War finds dozens of similar devices created in workshops on many farms.

The Boychuks worked on their stooker in their farm machine shop, and had a working model in the field by 1924. They filed their first patent on the Boychuk stooker in 1925, and demonstrated it for farmers, businessmen, provincial agriculture officials, and machine company representatives on 17 August 1926. The machine’s demonstration impressed onlookers, and the Edmonton Journal reported that "negotiations are underway to have one of the large eastern firms take over the manufacturing and selling rights for the machine."

The Boychuk brothers were certainly excited about the prospects for their machine, their promotional literature noted that it "never loafs on the job or asks for a paycheck."

The market niche for their stooker was ready-made; it automated the stooking process, eliminating the need for a farmer to hire an extra man to do the tedious work of building a stack of sheaves by hand. By the 1920s, the annual western grain harvest required as many as 50,000 seasonal workers, and farm labour shortages often delayed the final harvest into winter or the following spring.

The brothers started looking for the capital to start production of their stooker, and forecast production of some 50,000 units annually. Production costs of $45 per machine were assessed and the retail price was set at $200.

Regardless of their plans, the brothers’ invention became a victim of circumstance; they tried to sell patent rights to an American manufacturer in 1929, but the stock market crash dried up all available capital, and the subsequent invention of the automatic harvester in the late 1930s made stookers obsolete.

The Boychuk brothers later worked in the farm parts business. John Boychuk died in Edmonton in February 1963.

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