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Ag Growth CEO Rob Stenson, 44

Rob Stenson, who gathered a clutch of Prairie manufacturers into a “single-stop supplier” for grain handling equipment internationally, died Friday morning of complications from cancer.

The founder of Winnipeg’s Ag Growth International had publicly announced just six weeks earlier that he had cancer and would be undergoing treatments but would continue in his roles and responsibilities.

“Rob’s accomplishment in growing AGI from very modest beginnings is a great Canadian success story,” company chairman Bill Lambert said in a release Friday.

“Rob is irreplaceable both as friend and business colleague, but he leaves AGI with a clear strategic direction and a deep and capable management team led by his co-founder Gary Anderson.”

Anderson, the company’s president and chief operating officer, has been named Ag Growth’s interim CEO effective immediately, the company said.

The company’s businesses include portable and stationary grain handling, storage and conditioning equipment such as augers, belt conveyors, grain storage bins, grain handling accessories and grain aeration equipment, distributed in nine provinces, 48 U.S. states and overseas.

Its holdings on the Canadian Prairies include grain auger makers Westfield and Wheatheart; conveyor maker Batco; grain bin manufacturer Twister Pipe; and the Edwards Group, a grain dryer company.

Stenson was part of the group that saw Batco, a Swift Current, Sask. maker of belt conveyor equipment to handle more fragile specialty crops, through its startup in the mid-1990s. Ag Growth was formed and engineered a reverse takeover of Batco in 1996.

By 2004 Ag Growth had gone public on the TSX as an income trust and set up its headquarters in Winnipeg.

Following the federal government’s decision to tax income trusts starting in 2007, Ag Growth incorporated last year, renaming itself Ag Growth International and trading on the TSX under the symbol AFN.

The company now operates 10 manufacturing divisions in Canada, the U.S. and Finland. Its most recent acquisition, late last month, was Winnipeg custom parts maker Franklin Enterprises.

Details of a memorial for Stenson weren’t available Friday afternoon. The Canadian Press news agency on Friday reported he was 44 at the time of his death.

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