If you like to use social media to chat with other drainage contractors, odds are you know Adam Fisher. Fisher, founder and owner of Ditch Doctor in Glenholme, NS, likes to partake in discussions of drainage, conservation, and water management whenever he can in order to learn from others, make connections and advocate for better infrastructure management.
That passion started young for Fisher, whose father was a contractor who worked on drainage and other projects in the ’70s and ’80s. “Working with my father is what instilled the knowledge of the importance of draining the land and how to maintain it efficiently and effectively," says Adam.
While most drainage issues focus on subsurface and tile drainage, Fisher’s specialization is in surface drainage – hence the name Ditch Doctor. He founded the company Ditch Doctor in 2002 when he built his first Ditch Doctor prototype. The product is an excavator attachment used to create, restore and maintain ditches, and is used as an alternative to using a bucket and trucking away spoil.
His work sees him frequently working with landowners, conservationists, engineers, operators, and local government to educate them about drainage, ditches, and ditch maintenance. “Being able to maintain buffer zones and create two-stage ditches is our main mission,” he says. “We want to become a go-to method for maintaining the infrastructure.”
Getting the “good word” about drainage and drainage maintenance out is important to Fisher. He says when you step outside the drainage industry and into the broader infrastructure industry, drainage sometimes seems left out. “It often seems to take a back seat to other issues that come up in agriculture, or even in civil or municipal issues. It’s almost similar to garbage infrastructure – pickup and delivery is a huge industry, but no one wants to talk about it.”
Listen to the full podcast interview, here:
Currently, says Fisher, a number of challenges in the world of drainage mean more landowners are looking not only at surface-level solutions but also at ways to implement those solutions more efficiently.
An increasing number of farmers in Canada and the U.S. have looked to enhancements to subsurface field drainage in an effort to manage the sudden influx of heavy rainfalls and mitigate potential soil erosion. Combination systems including two-stage ditches have been a popular recommendation. A two-stage ditch has a bottom channel for regular flows, bracketed by “grass steps” that extend back to stepped-back upper ditch walls to create a much larger channel for heavy water events. The extra space can help reduce flooding while also reducing nutrient and sediment loss to downstream water bodies by slowing the speed of the draining water. Fisher and his wife Carole have worked with their local agriculture college to support two-stage ditch studies.
Fisher says the environmental and economic factors currently at play are creating a golden opportunity for Ditch Doctor. “With prices of a lot of our goods increasing at unprecedented levels – fuel, oil, et cetera – I think we’re going to see a lot of people looking for different methods of doing a job, whether it’s maintaining infrastructure or putting food on the table. People want to be able to do it cheaper and faster.”
A recent study by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers found that there has been an 11.7 percent year-over-year increase in farm machinery prices, and with 81 percent of ag members reporting growth, demand for equipment is unlikely to slow down.
Fisher doesn’t intend on slowing down either. He is currently planning presentations on two-stage ditch methods with local civil engineering university courses and has plenty of meetings booked with practicing engineers. The last two years of canceled events and virtual meetings have been a “rollercoaster ride” for the extroverted Fisher, but he says there’s an urgency to get out there and discuss important drainage topics.
“You hear a lot of talk about phosphates and nitrates working their way into rivers and waterways around North America. It’s an issue that’s on everybody’s mind. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of traction on how to solve these issues. Implementing mandatory buffer zones on all waterways… it will filter out a lot of phosphates, a lot of nitrates.”