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First Seeders

Seeders are used to put the plant seed into the soil. Before seed drills were invented, farmers had to use a plow to create furrows (and would have to spread the seed across the furrows). This did not allow for seeds to be at the right depth in the soil or have the right amount of distance from other seeds. It also left some seeds exposed, where birds or natural elements could remove the spread seed.

A farmer is riding on drills being pulled by two horses.

This was one of the oldest styles of crop seeders.

A man rides on drills being pulled by two horses.

Photo Credit: Western Development Museum

This farmer is riding on a steel seeder that is being pulled by horses.

Seed Drills

The first version of a seeder was invented in 1701 by Jethro Tull. They were called seed drills or press drills and were small enough that they could be pulled by one horse. These had a feed box on top that would drop seed, with help from gravity, would fall into a furrow dug by runners. On the back side of the seed drill were presses, metal disks that would cut down the sides of the furrows and cover the seeds.

A farmer is riding on drills being pulled by two horses.


This farmer uses drills to seed his crop.

Seed drills got bigger and were soon pulled by tractors. These types of drills allowed farmers to adjust the number of seeds and the depth they placed the seed. However, it still was not as efficient as farmers wanted it to be.

Using seed drills required a lot of work to prepare the land prior to seeding, and tilling the soil could cause soil erosion or moisture loss.

A farmer is riding on drills being pulled by two horses.

Seed drills were a major innovation, but required a lot of work to prepare the land for seeding so that it was smooth.

Air Seeder

Air seeders were a major invention that helped farmers be more sustainable. An air seeder eliminates the need to till the soil before seeding. An air seeder has fans that blow air into the main tubes. Seed and fertilizer are measured out and dropped into the airflow. The airflow brings the seeds to the opener blade that makes a trench in the soil so the seed and fertilizer can be placed in the soil. There is a gauge wheel that measures how deep the seed is being put into the soil. There is a pressing wheel that pushes the seeds into the soil to ensure they are packed enough to grow.

An illustrated tractor pulls an air seeder through a farm field.

This tractor is seeding a field with an air seeder.

Take a look at how air seeders work!

Air seeding technology gradually started to develop in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A Saskatchewan farmer named Jerome Bechard is known as the father of air seeders. With some help from European designs, Jerome put his disker boxes on top of his cultivator. The goal was to help dry up the land and seed at the same time. Jerome tested his own designs for a few years before another Saskatchewan farmer, Frank Bourgault, began working with them.

Frank Bourgault was given the rights to manufacture Bourgault’s first air seeder. After two years of development and design work, Bourgault released 7 air seeders in 1980. The Model 138 was the first air seeder to be towed behind the cultivator. Through the years Bourgault has developed many other versions of air seeder, with their newest and largest, as of 2021, being Model 71300 (seven thirteen-hundred).

A large air seeder is shown with the words ‘71300 Bourgault’ on the side of it.

Bourgault’s newest and largest air seeder is Model 71300.

Take a look at the world’s first air seeder!

Bourgault is a company that was created and continues to run in a rural Saskatchewan community called St. Brieux. They are the world leader in air seeder technology. Other agriculture companies have produced their own air seeders as well.

An illustrated tractor pulls an air seeder in a field with a farm yard in the background. There is a family standing in the farm field together.

Air seeders are the most efficient way of seeding crops for farmers around the world.