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Northern Alberta Forestry Show
Official Show Guide
"Our Forest Our Future"

Equipment PIONEER

Equipment PIONEER Grande Prairie's Dave Fenton continues to pioneer logging equipment innovations. 

By Tony Kryzanowski

"Coming up with better ways to do things has always been fun. I still find this business an awful lot of fun ."


At times, the 30 years Dave Fenton of Grande Prairie has spent serving the Canadian forest industry has felt like a wild roller coaster ride. However, this former owner of the company that manufactured the Ultimate line of fixed mount, harvester/processor heads is still having fun and facing new challenges. "In the machine shop business, usually your customers are in trouble," says Fenton. "You get a lot of satisfaction from getting them going. 

Also, coming up with better ways to do things has always been fun. I still find this business an awful lot of fun." A machinist by trade, Fenton opened his first machine shop in 1972. Clients included Canadian Forest Products (Canfor), Procter and Gamble, and a number of area loggers. Today, he continues to own and operate a number of successful businesses, including a machine shop in partnership with his daughter Janet and a brush cutter and feller buncher manufacturing business with his son Barry. 

Barda Equipment is the retail arm of his business interests, which include selling the Minnesota based Positrack line of equipment. A unique feature to Positrack carriers is their rubber track system. Fenton's company, DAVCO Manufacturing, has just constructed a 6,000squarefoot manufacturing facility that produces brush cutters for distribution through Positrack dealers worldwide. 

A new processor head designed by Dave Fenton is being used on a Positrack carrier in the US Pacific Northwest.

True to his desire to "come up with better ways to do things", Fenton has designed and manufactured a hot saw attachment that mounts on to the Positrack carrier. He says initial testing shows that it has a lot of potential as a lower cost niche product, working in thinning applications, particularly in sensitive ground conditions. An Oregon logger says he is harvesting about 70 trees per hour in a thinning environment. It can harvest trees up to 14 inches in diameter. "The rubber tracks on the carrier don't damage the root structure of the trees that you leave," says Fenton. "It only puts down a ground pressure of three pounds per square inch. 

So it will handle soft ground pretty well. It's also a very versatile tool. You can put a sixway dozer on it, a loader and other implements ." Right now, DAVCO Manufacturing has designed a backhoe attachment for one of Positrack's smaller carriers. Fenton has also designed a new harvester/processor head called the TP 1000 that is being used by another logger working in the American Pacific Northwest. He says it works well, but has very limited application potential at the present time. 

While Fenton and his family continue to enjoy considerable success because of their strong reputation for support to the forest industry-and ability to develop innovative tools and equipment- he will long be remembered for his involvement with the development of the Ultimate harvester/processor head. As a fixed mount product, the Ultimate was considered a technological wonder for its time when the first prototype was developed in 1988. 

The brainchild of Ultimate co owner Lester Oilund, Fenton provided the manufacturing know-how to bring the product to market. "We didn't even know about Scandinavian processors at that time," says Fenton. "There were just one or two Lako heads around. Lester had this idea of a fixed mount head that would limb the tree and cut it to length. I had the facility to build it, being in the machine shop business ." At its peak, Ultimate's manufacturing operations in Grande Prairie had 47 employees.

 However, according to Fenton, it fell victim to a forestry sector downturn. "It got too big, too fast with not enough available capital," says Fenton. "Granted, we had measuring problems with the machines back then, but there are customers out there who swear by them. It's a good machine, but in 1996, there was a severe downturn in the industry. The logging industry slowed up, and it was just one of those business deals that really hurt ." Quadco Equipment recognized the potential of the Ultimate harvester/ processor head, resolved the head's measuring problems, and now manufactures and markets the product. 

Fenton and Oilund still own a patent on the saw assembly of the Ultimate head, and receive a royalty from Quadco. Like any successful businessman, Fenton prefers to look forward. At 61 years old, he is prepared to hand over more day-to-day business dealings to his son and daughter. With his own patent for a snowmobile deck for pickup trucks under his belt, it seems that son Barry has inherited his father's inventive nature and that the tradition of applying innovative ideas at DAVCO Manufacturing will continue.

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