Growing up, Adam Fisher was no stranger to digging ditches. His father operated a dragline business, and Adam would accompany his dad to various jobsites.
Although young, Adam recalls questioning the method used for remediation, which involves using an excavator to clean out the ditch, then a truck to haul away the material.
The technique cleans the land of vegetation, requiring reseeding of the soil to prevent erosion.
When a ditch is ready for another round of remediation, the same tactic is employed.
“It never seemed right to me that it would just be done the same way. There should be a better way of doing it, rather than going through the evasive process again,” he said.
Adam would eventually start his own dredging business in Glenholme, Nova Scotia. The job, naturally, involved clearing out ditches.
He decided to develop an easier way of completing the task, leading to the creation of the Ditch Doctor.
“Over the years, I saw the need for such a thing. I got doing some of my own jobs and started picking away at developing the unit,” Adam said.
Throughout the last 17 years, Adam has built, tested and rebuilt the Ditch Doctor prototype numerous times.
“Each night he’d be out in his shop trying to make it more efficient,” said Carole Fisher, his wife and business partner. “He would use it. Then work away at it, then refabricate it or make changes to it.”
Throughout the early 2000s the Ditch Doctor was field tested through jobs at the Fisher’s business.
“I saw how well it was working and how long it lasted. I figured I was onto something,” Adam said.
In 2010, they decided they might have a product, others in the business may be able to benefit from.
“It wasn’t really a funded thing to source it. Since the beginning, it was just out of pocket. It’s been a labour of love for 17 years,” Adam said. “I guess that’s why it’s taken so long. It’s not our forte. We don’t have a manufacturing company.”
To build the product, the Fishers found a nearby manufacturer in Nova Scotia. After completing a second prototype, and patenting the attachment in North America and Europe, they were ready to take the Ditch Doctor to market.
They sold their first unit to a company in Ontario this fall.
“The new prototype is more professional looking than our backyard build,” Carole said. “But we still use that original prototype on one of our own machines.”
How it works
The Ditch Doctor, which attaches to a 13 to 20-ton hydraulic excavator, uses a rotary wheel to grind silt or plant material that’s settled in the ditch. As the attachment grinds, it also ejects the material onto either side of the ditch. In turn, the attachment immediately creates a viable ditch. The Ditch Doctor attachment is also capable of creating a two-stage ditch and work in up to three feet of water. “It’s twice as fast as the conventional method,” Adam said.
As the ditch doctor shoots the obstructing material onto the ditch embankment, the spoil is self-levelling, eliminating the need to truck the material to another location.
“You have the other aspect of not having to deal with the ditch spoil, truck the material away or have a dozer come in and relevel it,” Adam said.
“Anytime you handle something, it increases the cost.”
The method also avoids destroying vegetation on the ditch slope, which helps prevent erosion.
Carole explained ditch-side vegetation generally grows back within two to three weeks.
“If you’re using it on agriculture land, it puts the nutrients and things that are usually being stripped away by digging out the ditch and hauling it away,” Carole said.
“It’s more environmentally friendly because you’re not creating as heavy a carbon foot print as the bucket method.”
The Ditch Doctor has been used to assist at railways, on golf courses and along roadsides.
In Masstown, Nova Scotia, the attachment was used on a job at a large, highway adjacent store, where massive amounts of water would pool, thanks to a backed up existing ditch.
With large amounts of traffic, and the area a popular rest stop for travellers, the work had to be completed quickly.
Using the Ditch Doctor, the excavator accessed the clogged ditch by the roadside and threw the spoil into the opposite field. The job was completed in a single pass of the excavator helping to limit traffic disruption to the area.
The project was completed on time and on budget, and the land remains free of standing water.
The Ditch Doctor requires similar hydraulic power as a flail forestry mower. Adam uses his prototype in a Kobelco ED150 Bladerunner.
“We have a mower and we mulch down the trees, then put the Ditch Doctor down and clean out the ditches,” Carole said. “It provides an additional revenue line for excavator contractors.”
New model in development
While the Ditch Doctor is currently available for 13 to 20-ton excavators, the Fishers are now working on a lighter model that will suit a 5-ton excavator. The current attachment weighs about 995 kg.
“It’s the weight we must conquer, and get it down to 600 or 700 pounds,” Adam said. “We’re hoping to have four models with two different sizes, and a light duty and heavy-duty version of each.”