When the city of Brampton set out to create a Natural Heritage System, Ecoland Inc. was a natural choice for the project’s earthworks.
The Caledon, Ontario-based company specializes in creating green spaces for wildlife within the Greater Toronto Area’s sprawling urban landscape.
“I love working outdoors and meeting new challenges,” said company President Ismet Mirena. “When we begin a project, there is no green; and when we complete the project, it’s amazing to see the changes in a short amount of time. We take pride in our work.”
Ecoland Inc. was recruited to create Brampton’s Mount Pleasant 51-2 Natural Heritage System (NHS) — a plan to create a “green coast.”
The project spans 36 hectares and consists of five channels. Each channel is designed by a team of landscape architects, ecologists, civil engineers and botanists with the intention of restoring and protecting the diversity and connectivity of natural areas and existing features such as woodlands and wetlands.
As well, each channel corridor is designed to connect fragmented natural features and to improve the existing drainage system.
The newly created channels have been developed to promote aquatic habitat for different fish species and consideration of specialized habitat needs for various animals. The design creates small nooks, spaces and habitats for animals such as frogs, toads and salamanders to nest.
In addition to creating natural features, the NHS consists of a series of trails, bridges and signage for its surrounding neighbourhoods.
All combined, the Mount Pleasant 51-2 NHS includes more than 250 acres of natural heritage systems, new connections between grassland and woodland channels, wetlands, woodland areas, thickets, storm-water management ponds and neighbourhood parks with the goal of creating and rebuilding green spaces throughout suburban Toronto.
Ecoland Inc. was created three years ago when Mirena partnered with Dwyht Cuff, Xeni Islami and Bekim Zuzaku to combined their landscaping experience.
“I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing today,” Mirena said. “But I saw an opportunity and decided to go for it.”
At first, Ecoland used smaller equipment designed for landscaping. However, as the business grew and the projects became larger, Mirena knew he needed bigger equipment.
Agako Nouch, an old business connection from Volvo, introduced Mirena to Daniel Hili at Strongco, a equipment dealership with locations throughout Canada, to discuss getting his first Volvo CE machine — an EC160E excavator.
“He had the background to know exactly what he wanted in terms of production capability,” Hili said. “We worked with him to match the right size machine and range of attachments to meet his exact needs for upcoming projects.”
Strongco made sure the excavator met all of Ecoland’s specifications and came with a hydraulic thumb, hydraulic pin-style coupler and two different buckets.
“We built that machine exactly how he wanted,” Hili said. “The financing structure was just as important as the machine. At that time, Ecoland was still a startup company and needed a financing solution that made sense for their forecasted work and available capital.”
Strongco worked with Volvo Financial Services (VFS) to find a formula that would work for Mirena and his partners. The result was a unique payment plan that involved Ecoland paying a larger amount in his first series of payments to compensate for a lower down payment.
Hili added the new focus is on making sure Ecoland has the right equipment to continue expanding.
“It’s about the relationship,” Hili said. “You listen to your customer, digest that information and provide them with a proposal. As his business grows and changes, then we help support those changes and that growth.”
The EC160E was in fact just the beginning. Ecoland kept growing, securing larger projects and required larger and more versatile equipment. They purchased an EC220E excavator not long after the EC160E, and from there, it was a domino effect — eventually leading to the addition of two Volvo A25G articulated haulers and their most recent purchases: a Volvo EC350E excavator, an L60H wheel loader and an SD75B soil compactor.
“The Volvo EC350E was added as our projects got bigger and we needed to excavate a large quantity of soil and fill. It’s been a vital addition to the fleet, particularly for the recent MP 51-2 NHS project,” Mirena said.
Digging the EC350E
On the MP 51-2 NHS project outside Toronto, the company is using the EC350E excavator, an EC160E excavator and two A25G articulated haulers.
“The 350 excavator is a very powerful machine,” said Mark Arseneau, superintendent for Ecoland. “There’s a feature on the machine that allows you to set the throttle down to F, diverting all the hydraulic power to one pump, which gives it massive digging power. This has been quite useful when dealing with the hard dirt that we come across quite often.”
Volvo offers a unique, integrated work mode system that includes four different modes — I, F, G and H — designed to let the operator choose the best mode for the task at hand.
Ecoland is also taking advantage of Volvo CareTrack, a telematics system that gives owners information on their machines including machine utilization, location and fuel consumption.
“It’s helped us track fuel consumption and idle times, which is really important,” said Adem Kosumi, an operator at Ecoland. “It helps us with both bidding on projects and making sure we have the right machines on the job.”
The information has also helped Ecoland identify areas in which equipment operators could make changes to improve performance and reduce wear and tear.
“For example, our employees weren’t using the engine brake, which helps slow the machine when going down steep slopes when fully loaded,” Arseneau said. “So, we had a meeting and directed our operators to use them, which not only saves on brake pads, service costs and downtime, but improves safety as well.”
“It’s helped us in a lot of different ways, and it’s something we definitely plan to incorporate on our future Volvo purchases,” Mirena added.
Quality of life
Ecoland has completed the Mount Pleasant 51-2 NHS project. The channels continue to establish themselves and are ready to serve as new habitat.
Ecoland expects to continue working on more phases similar to the Mount Pleasant 51-2 NHS project while also increasing their workforce from 30 to 50 people.
“As we continue to grow, we expect to rely heavily on Strongco’s expertise to help build our fleet, as well as use the data and insights we’re getting from CareTrack,” Mirena said.
Equally as important as company growth is the feeling of making a difference in his community’s landscape. For Mirena, that was the driving force behind starting Ecoland.
“We’re improving quality of life,” he said. “We’re rebuilding the environment, promoting clean air and erosion prevention. We’re giving habitat to protected species, and we’re beautifying the community. It’s an honour to do what we’re doing.”