Charlie Paul Balmer

Charlie Balmer was an inventor and visionary whose work benefited agriculture enormously, not only in Canada but also in many agricultural regions of the world. Born in Bussy Sur Moudon, Switzerland, he was a farm boy with a special talent for machinery. Massey-Ferguson chose him to train in Canada at its Winnipeg dealership. After completion he traveled for a brief period of time and then settled in the predominately French communities of St. Eustache, and later Elie, Manitoba.

An early admirer of aviation, Charlie took to the air, literally, and became a pioneer of aerial application in Manitoba. His particular obsession became uniform and consistent application, especially of granular material. He found aerial application less than satisfactory for that purpose so he turned to improving ground application with the invention of the Valmar Airflo. In 1980, he invented the Air Spreader and later the AirMax, each major breakthrough technologies, both of which are still in production in 2007. He was granted a patent on the technology in 1984.

At that same time, he recognized the need for a high clearance self-propelled sprayer which was safe, quick and easily serviced. The result was the AirRide SP sprayer, produced by Willmar Manufacturing in Minnesota. This piece of equipment found application in a very wide range of crop types. The Valmar line of granular spreaders, custom application rigs and high clearance sprayers have made application of fertilizer and crop protection easier, more efficient, economical and safer for the operator and the environment. His work has provided some key pieces toward the development of agricultural advancements such as variable rate technology and in-crop application to herbicide tolerant crops.

Charlie’s contribution to agriculture did not stop there. As an expert and creative mechanic, many manufacturers of various kinds of equipment sought out his advice and development work. He accumulated 24 International, US and Canadian patents. He traveled abroad to support dealers and others in setting up maintenance programs and instruction. Not having been formally trained as an engineer Charlie looked for design ideas outside his agricultural world and applied them to the needs of the farm environment.

Charles Balmer has been recognized by numerous trade organizations and publications as a major contributor to the advancement of the industry. In 2004, he was inducted into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Nominated By:
  • Valmar Airflo Inc.
  • Mercedes Caron