A long-time major employer has fallen into receivership and has a skeleton crew at its Cochrane headquarters wrapping up what may its last project while inventory is being finalized.

Hunterwood Technologies, which designs and manufactures equipment for the hay compression industry, was placed in receivership on a Feb. 9 application by HSBC, who is owed approximately $8.7 million.

On Feb. 12, the majority of its employees were laid off.

"So basically, we had gotten an e-mail saying they were under new receivership, not to come into work until I think it was 8:00 on Monday (Feb. 12)," says Tyler, a welder who worked for the company for about a year. "People showed up 8 a.m. on Monday and basically started just loading up their stuff because there was nobody there to tell them what to do. And then at 9:30, an hour and a half later, after not telling anybody what was going on, the new receivers came down and started handing out envelopes."

"Basically, they just told us that they were no longer going to continue business and therefore Hunterwood would no longer be a company, so they let everybody go."

"There were some pretty upset people. There were some pretty nasty glares sent towards the guy running the show there."

Tyler had gone to HR the Thursday before because pay stubs hadn't been issued. 

"There were some rumors floating around that our investors were going to bail us out on this paycheck, but the next one was no guarantee. And then the next Monday, we all got let go."

'They're in a pretty dry market right now for hay presses. Nobody's exporting out of the United States, so they're not really selling to their main customer base. They had no work lined up beyond May of this year, so people kind of knew that this was kind of like something was up, but I don't think they really knew the full extent of what was really going on."

Tyler moved to Cochrane from the States with his wife, who has family here.

"We moved here to start our family, because Cochrane is such an awesome place. There's a lot of younger families like ourselves, and it's the shop I wanted to work in. It took 2 1/2 years before they finally hired me, and then I only lasted there a year before they closed it down."

He estimates there are currently five people on the floor wrapping up work and three office staff.

The closure follows a major layoff that took place last May, which reduced the staff to about 50 people. It's employed up to 100 people over the years.

Attempts to contact Hunterwood officials were unsuccessful. The company has also shut down its website.

equipmentA Hunterwood Technologies CVS-8200 and Chinook Hay Systems Bale Dryers demonstration during a December open house at NY Hay Sales in Earlville, NY. (photo/Hunterwood Technologies Facebook)

According to an affidavit of Brenda Chow, of HSBC, Hunterwood’s business had been deteriorating due to a poor 2023 farming season output as a result of regional drought, an increase in the cost of supplies and a reduced demand from buyers reverting to more cost-effective substitute products.

Historically, the company has sold larger press machines, which are well suited for the global market in addition to exporting baled hay products. Hunterwood began offering scaled down press machines but faced significant challenges with the engineering, design and manufacturing of this new product, which led the build process to take much longer than anticipated while significantly eroding margins.

Her affidavit states in December 2023, Hunterwood CFO Ryan Crutchfield resigned and Kerri Riddle, was appointed interim CFO in early January 2024. HSBC received a call from Hunterwood shareholder, Roynat, and were advised that Riddle discovered material inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the company's financial records. It then sought a plan of action and on Feb. 2, were advised the shareholders could not see a path forward, that the directors would be resigning effective February 6, 2024, and that operations would cease.

EY Parthenon was appointed receiver. Cour documents indicate total assets were estimated to be $9,673,239 with an estimated $12,368,541 in secured and unsecured creditors.

For nearly 30 years, Hunterwood Technologies has been providing agricultural markets with forage processing equipment, from hay compression units to automated material handling solutions.

Hunterwood has clients on five different continents, and their machines process over 3.5 million tons of forage annually.