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Yakta Gears Up Canadian Factory to Supply its First Zero-Turn Mowers to North American Market

It starts with a humble lawn mower. It ends with, one company hopes, upwards of 100 jobs by the year’s end.

Engineers started testing their lawn mowing creations in a space near Hwy 6. The company, Yakta, has since spent $15 million on a Woodlands facility, located  roughly 40 miles northwest of Winnipeg Manitoba

Yakta is shipping its first zero-turn mowers across North America this week.

SUPPLIED Yakta began shipping its zero-turn mowers this week.

“We couldn’t be more excited, to be honest,” said Brodie Milne, chief marketing officer.

The business aims to build up to 4,000 mowers in 2024, its first year of sales. In 2025, Yakta anticipates increasing production to some 8,000 mowers.

It’s building off momentum from its sister company, Arrowquip (another Woodlands business, credited as the biggest employer in the area with upwards of 150 employees).

Arrowquip sells cattle chutes and other farm equipment. It ships across North America and Europe, and it has a second manufacturing plant in Australia.

It’s been a family-run business for 36 years. However, the family’s growing and there are several entrepreneurs, Milne said.

The solution: “Separate and make another business.”

In 2022, Andrew Firth handed off his role as Arrowquip CEO to his brother Mark. Firth, still an Arrowquip shareholder, then considered his next steps.

He went to an October 2022 expo in Kentucky and found a market for zero-turn lawn mowers.

The mowers themselves aren’t a new concept — one of the back tires doesn’t turn unless wanted, allowing for tighter pivots. Steering wheels are swapped for two handlebars that can be pushed in tandem or sent forwards and backwards in opposite directions.

Firth figured he could do it differently — his new company would skip a distributor, selling directly to dealers (who would then sell to end consumers, such as homeowners).

The company has also proposed a bigger warranty on its mowers — five years as opposed to the regular three, excluding coverage on tires, blades and batteries.

SUPPLIED Yakta employee Olena Parneta, builds zero-turn mowers in an RM of Woodlands facility.

“It holds us accountable to make sure that we’re choosing the right partners, that we’re choosing the right specs,” Milne said.

Firth came home and started work on Yakta. He hired a team of engineers to create zero-turn lawn mowers in Arrowquip’s old headquarters.

The new Arrowquip facility, built in 2016, spans 110,000 square feet.

“They felt like it was very achievable,” Milne said.

Yakta built out prototypes, hired more staff, started marketing to the public. Construction on its 65,000-sq.-ft. facility began last spring.

The site, which is a stone’s throw from Arrowquip, now houses Yakta’s manufacturing. Milne expects construction on Yakta’s offices to finish this summer.

Arrowquip’s reputation has paved the way for interest in Yakta, Milne stated. At least 50 dealerships across North America have signed on to carry the lawn mowers.

Yakta hopes to surpass 100 dealership partners by the end of 2024.

G&A Rentals in Stonewal, Manitoba is among the first to sign on.

“We were very interested because it’s the only locally made zero-turn,” said Jen Simons, office manager. “Hopefully, it means (it’s) easier getting the parts that we need in.”

The Interlake company plans to stock nine Yakta mowers beginning in May, before growing season, Simons said. The zero-turn machines have gained popularity over the past years, she added.

Current Yakta mowers cost upwards of $14,840, Milne said. The company plans to make smaller and cheaper models in the near future.

Milne expects American clients to make up the lion’s share of Yakta customers. (It’s the case for Arrowquip, which sells roughly 90 per cent of its products to the U.S.)

Yakta’s arrival is good news for the RM, said Reeve Douglas Oliver. Close to 4,000 people — 3,797 — reside in Woodlands, according to Canada’s 2021 census.

“We’re very happy that they’re investing that much money into our municipality,” Oliver said. “This one’s smaller than the other company they have, but still, it’s going to bring lots more employment.”

Yakta counts 71 staff and expects to exceed 100 by the end of the year. A majority of employees are local; some come from Winnipeg and neighbouring communities.

Already, the company is in talks to build a second manufacturing plant in Tennessee, Milne said.

Yakta is determining a way to get its mowers to Australia. After all, Arrowquip already has operations there.