Skip to content

Riverbend Co-op brand tied into the fabric of rural Saskatchewan

Deep agriculture roots have made Riverbend Co-op stand out for many years.
Riverbend Co-op's equipment sales manager Tony Britnell says the trust and longevity that the Co-op brand has makes it number one with many ag producers. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

OUTLOOK - Working in the industry for as long as he has, a man like Tony Britnell is a surefire source of information when it comes to learning more about the current state of agriculture in our part of the province.

As the equipment sales manager of Riverbend Co-op's Ag Solutions team, he's seen a lot and perhaps learned even more about the ag world, which serves him well as part of the Co-op Ag team. Having been in ag equipment sales for 20 years, Britnell started with the CRS (Cooperative Retailing System) back in 1987 with the Macrorie District Co-op. Starting with Riverbend in 1999 as the Home & Agro Manager, he entered the ag equipment business in 2004 and continues to serve today, where he's seen a lot of progress and watched the agriculture sector of the province bob and weave as each year progressed.

With his wealth of experience, Tony says it's the people that make his job so enjoyable.

"I've been doing this for 20 years now," he said, sitting down with this reporter. "I'd have to say that my customers and the people are the best part of my job. That's what keeps you going. I've got a lot of great customers out there and it's kind of what keeps you going through the day."

The man in charge of the equipment that Riverbend offers potential customers, Britnell describes some of the things that you'll typically see him do each day.

"I'm responsible for the ag equipment, which for us would be portable grain handling and grain storage," he said. "Bins and augers, conveyors, those sort of things. I do also look after bulk storage tanks for things such as liquid fertilizer, just hauling water. Also, from here, we look after the bulk feed as well for livestock feed."

The Co-op brand name and its longevity that breaks borders outside of Saskatchewan has become so trusted that Britnell says it's a company that many people tie into their everyday way of life. The new products and updated services that are offered to producers have kept Riverbend as a leading name in the ag industry every year.

"It's just part of the fabric of Saskatchewan and Western Canada," said Tony. "We've been around for decades, especially Riverbend Co-op. I think we're just a brand that's trusted and engrained in rural Saskatchewan, and I think people trust that brand and the people that are part of our team."

Producers everywhere around the west central part of the province were affected last summer not only by drought, but by the powerful infestation of grasshoppers. Britnell says that Riverbend Co-op was affected just the same as many in the ag sector, and he remains hopeful for the year ahead.

"We were definitely affected," said Tony. "I think all aspects of Riverbend Co-op were affected to one degree or another. For ag equipment, if there's no grain to store, then people aren't purchasing and if there's no grain to move, they're not going to buy a new auger. We were directly affected by that, and not just equipment, but the agronomy side of things too. The other inputs like fuel, herbicides, etc. Last year was another tough one, and hopefully we can bounce back."

When it comes to mapping out a plan for any sort of comeback against things such as infestations, it's all about looking for solutions and planning ahead well in advance to achieve more success.

"I think you just have to have faith and better planning," said Britnell. "You've got to get out there and talk to your producers and see what their needs are going to be. If they do need something, maybe there's a different way to purchase it. We do offer leasing, for example, for ag equipment, and so it makes things more manageable and it's just another tool in the toolbox. That's one aspect where we can help them, and at least hope for another average crop. If I can get average every year, I'd be happy! It doesn't have to be a bumper crop every year, but if we can get average, that'd be a blessing!"

Irrigation plays such a vital and leading role in agriculture these days, and perhaps there's no area where that's more evident than in Outlook and the surrounding Lake Diefenbaker region. With government announcements of planned expansions in irrigation over the coming years, Britnell believes that Riverbend Co-op's ag sector will play a big role in what lays ahead for the province, expanding and growing their business and take things in newer directions as people begin to see the shape of irrigation start to move here at home. That shift is something that Britnell is already seeing in the ag field, where everything is becoming bigger and faster.

"I definitely think it's going to help us grow here, along with our producers," he said. "From my point of view, I just think that if you can irrigate more land, you're going to grow more, and you're going to need to store more. So, the trend of course is that everything seems to be getting bigger; bigger augers, bigger storage. The 5000-bushel bin used to be king on the prairies out here, and now that seems to be a small bin. Now, you're looking at 25,000-bushel or 50,000-bushel bins, and rows of them instead of just a pair of them. That's something that, from my department's point of view, is changing. As far as the augers go, they're bigger and faster. Time is very important to these producers, and so those are the trends I've seen over the years."

Such moves in our province's key sectors will help advance the local agriculture scene, and Britnell says the Co-op brand will continue to play a vital role in helping to realize the vision that producers have for their lands and operations.

"I think we'll always serve a vital role for the ag industry locally," he said. "Going back decades, petroleum was the big driver to start with and it's just expanded from there to other services, like the agronomy that we do and the equipment. I think that if the rain clouds come, things like great for agriculture. It's the business to be in here in Saskatchewan, as far as I'm concerned. Hopefully, that irrigation comes through and we see growth there too, and I think we're going to see a lot of good things happening in the next 10-15 years."