Families and other members of the public who are looking for a fruit-growing enterprise to visit during this year’s Open Farm Sunday on 7 June should have no difficulty finding one in the traditional areas of Kent, Herefordshire or Somerset.
But what about Aberdeenshire…?
One of the UK’s most successful fruit producers is to be found at Castleton, close to the town of Fordoun, on the road between Dundee and Aberdeen. Farmed by the Mitchell family since 1992, Castleton Farm once supported a dairy herd, but its 710 acres are now dedicated to arable and fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries, to be specific.
The cool Scottish summers in this northerly location provide the ideal conditions for berry production, with a mid-May to early November growing/picking season. At its peak, up to 350 workers from Eastern Europe are employed, together with seasonal staff who are engaged all year round.
In 2009 Castleton Farm was awarded the accolade of “Soft Fruit Grower of the Year” and in 2010 a purpose-built packhouse and refrigeration unit were constructed to further increase its fruit capacity.
The bulk of the Mitchells’ £5 million-plus annual production goes to Marks & Spencer and Tesco, with local sales – including the modern Castleton Farm shop outlet – accounting for 3 per cent of the total.
All produce bound for the supermarket sector is marketed and sold by Berrygardens, a growers’ co-operative consisting of 63 producers – 10 of which are in Scotland and account for 23 per cent of the group’s total volume. Combined annual turnover is now well in excess of £200m.
Last year, Castleton Farm welcomed visitors from across the region during the Open Farm Sunday initiative. “It went really well,” Ross Mitchell recalls. “We had been encouraged to take part by Marks & Spencer, who are our biggest customers.
“The visitors experienced exactly what goes into growing their soft fruit. I think most of them had never realised just how much work was involved.”
In addition to Open Farm Sunday, Castleton last year acted as a host farm for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists conference, one of the main sponsors of which was Massey Ferguson.
“Apart from running a MF 7620 ourselves as the farm’s main workhorse tractor, Massey Ferguson is lending us another tractor for the purposes of this year’s Open Farm Sunday”, says Ross.
“I think it’s very important that the public – our customers – see that farmers, suppliers and manufacturers work together as one joined-up industry. Open Farm Sunday represents a good opportunity for us to help get that message across.”
Lindsay Haddon, Advertising & Sales Manager at Massey Ferguson, couldn’t agree more. “We’re delighted to be supporting such a great initiative as Open Farm Sunday,” she says.
“Like Ross and his family, we are very keen to encourage the public – our ultimate customers – to find out how their food is produced. As a responsible manufacturer, we will back our farmers in any way we can to get these important messages across.”
Details of farms throughout the UK set to welcome visitors to this year’s Open Farm Sunday event on 7th June can be found at www.farmsunday.org.uk
Agricultural Dealers Carrs Billington, teamed up with Newton Rigg College to host Grassland North for the second occasion on 13th May 2015. An event created three years ago due to demand for a grassland focused exhibition in the North of England, brought together a wide range of suppliers to Sewborwens Farm at Penrith, Cumbria.
Wanting to provide more than just a static display, Grassland North has become an educational and informative day out for farmers in the region. It was also the first time in the UK that bales were wrapped in pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness and Breakthrough Cancer. The pink bale wrap has been produced by Volac and is in high demand thanks to the display on the day.
Support for the event was best demonstrated by the machinery suppliers to Carrs Billington, who had over six million pounds worth of the most advanced equipment functioning. Liz Philip, Executive Principle of Askham Bryan, the group behind Newton Rigg College, said ‘it was a superb demonstration of modern commercial agriculture for both student and industry alike, and it was a pleasure to work with Carrs Billington in putting on such an event’.
Local farmers, contractors and enthusiasts, along with those from as far afield as Nottingham and Scotland, visited on the day to make the most of the May sunshine and were able to enjoy local ice-cream and refreshments, take tours around the state of the art £2.4 million dairy unit, and to see a vast range of machinery from Massey Ferguson and Fendt tractors, Krone and Kuhn grassland equipment, slurry and muck applicators, ATV’s, trailers and so much more. An estimated 3,500 people attended the event. Rae Tomlinson, Managing Director of Carrs Billington said ‘Carrs Billington were delighted to stage this event for the second time, fortunately we were blessed with good weather and the event was clearly an enjoyable, informative success and I would like to thank Newton Rigg and our suppliers, Carrs personnel and most of all our customers without whom it would not have been the success it clearly was.
MF7615 Series surpasses New Zealand Dairy farmer and contractor’s expectations for hedge mulching business.
Contractor and dairy farmer Robert Klaus has great partnerships.
The first is with his wife Sharon who loves her cows and runs the dairy farm. The second is with Massey Ferguson, and their MF7615 tractor, the backbone of Robert’s hedge-cutting business.
Robert and Sharon bought their first dairy farm near Matamata. They’d been share milking for seven years, working up to managing a 500-cow herd. Now they have their own property where they milk 150 cows on 52 effective hectares.
It’s a small farm and dairy payouts are looking questionable for this coming season, so it is good Robert has his contracting sideline. Besides he loves machinery.
“I’d been working for a mate who owns a contracting business for the last eight years and I wanted to do something myself. Sharon enjoys milking, and I could see a gap in the market mulching barberry hedges.”
Robert looked at second-hand cutters but couldn’t find anything good enough so he had the local engineers design and build one for him. It’s like a giant mower tilted on its side with two big blades, and a shroud around it. It mulches the hedges and leaves everything tidy.
Robert got the Massey Ferguson 7615 in December from Matamata tractors.
“I needed a six-cylinder machine with a long wheel base because the hedge-cutter is mid-mounted. I got the Dyna-VT variable transmission as it goes down to 0.3 kph. I use it in foot mode. I just take my foot off and it stops. I hardly ever use the brake or clutch. It’s like driving a big forklift.”
The hedge cutter runs off the tractor’s hydraulics and all the operations for the rams on the cutter are controlled from the factory joystick in the cab.
“I saved a lot of money, as I didn’t have to fit an after-market joystick,” Robert says.
The joystick also has a forward/reverse button so he doesn’t have to move his hand during operations. He can constantly look at where he’s going and what the mulcher is doing.
The cutter is mounted on the left side of the tractor, and Robert says it is “a piece of cake getting in and out the right door. In some other brands it was just about impossible to get out.”
There are dual wheels on the cutter side to help balance the weight of the machine.
“I’ve got a bigger footprint on the left side, which makes it more stable. Otherwise, if I hit a hole the cutter would drop when I’m trying to keep the hedge straight.”
He doesn’t fit duals on the right side, as it would make the tractor too wide to get through gateways.
The MF 7615 produces 150hp from a Tier 4a AGCO Power SCR engine, which uses AdBlue to minimise toxic emissions.
“It’s no problem. I fill AdBlue every third tank of diesel. It’s got a gauge telling me when its low, and I always keep a bit on hand.”
He says anyone can jump in and drive the tractor. “It’s what I like about them. “They’ve got all the technology but it’s user-friendly. Everything is simply laid out.”
The cab also meets with his approval.
“It’s awesome – comfortable and really quiet. That stood out when I first drove it. People ring me and ask what I’m doing because they can’t even hear the hedge-cutter working.”
Robert says the serviceability is also good. “You don’t have to pop the bonnet to check the oil. And if you need to blow out the radiator, it’s right there and easy to get at.”
The MF 7615 is available in three different specifications: Essential, Efficient and Exclusive. Robert got the Efficient.
He’s had great service from Matamata Tractors.
“When we were building the hedge-cutter they helped the engineer to shift the diesel, hydraulic and AdBlue tanks, and nothing was ever a problem.”
This isn’t Robert and Sharon’s first dealing with Massey Ferguson tractors. They also run a MF5460.
They’ve had the MF 5460 for four years. It’s 120hp with a Dyna-4 transmission.
“I always liked Fergies and Matamata Tractors did a good deal I couldn’t pass up. I just like the tractor. It’s got everything we need but is still basic to operate,” Robert says.
“It’s really reliable and nothing has gone wrong with it. On the big farm it pulled the silage wagon. Now it has an auger bucket for feeding out on a pad. It also does the mowing and all the farm work.
He says both the Fergies are very quiet tractors, with everything well laid out, at your fingertips.
By Rafael Antonio Costa
For the first time in 22 editions, Agrishow – one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive agricultural technology trade shows – saw a decline in total sales volume over the previous year (1.8 billion in business). According to show organizers, high interest rates and political/economic uncertainty were responsible for the loss of business. Yet despite the downturn, the show was still exciting for AGCO customers, with two AGCO brands (Massey Ferguson and Valtra) bringing new launches to the show:
- Sugar Cane Harvester (BE1035e)
- New rotary combine class 6 (BC6800)
- New rotary combine class 6 (BC6800)
- Planter Fertilizer (MF 700 CS)
Technology played an important role at both stands, especially at Valtra for the new sugar cane harvester launch, including:
- Automatic guidance through Auto-GuideTM 3000 – critical to a sugar cane harvesting operation, and comes standard.
- AgCommand® – also comes standard, and enables dealers to monitor the sugar cane harvesters for their customers (with their permission).
The new harvesting machines will have a tracking service included as part of the AgCommand technology, which will allow the AGCO Ribeirão factory to better support the first machines in the field and ensure our customers have the machines working at the maximum efficiency possible – a key component of the Fuse strategy.
A “war room” was assembled at the factory site to support the 35 machines forecasted to be produced this year. In the war room, specialists track the status of the sugar cane harvesters sold with AgCommand® installed. The room counts on a 42’’ TV and a workbench with the Auto-GuideTM 3000 system installed, to speed and facilitate technical support.
To see photos from Agrishow 2015, visit our Facebook album.
To learn more about Fuse, visit http://www.agcotechnologies.com/.
Rafael Antonio Costa is a Product Marketing Manager for AGCO’s Advanced Technology Solutions group in South America. He is based in Mogi das Cruzes, Sao Paulo.
We have a vision to change the future of farming. In 2013, we planted the seed for a Future Farm and training center to empower the world’s farmers with education, training and technology. This month, the first AGCO Future Farm officially opens in Zambia. The state-of-the-art facility includes a mechanized solutions center, a grain and poultry learning center, and training programs focused on products, machines, business management and farming best practices.
AGCO has a strong commitment to agriculture in Africa. The Republic of Zambia is landlocked, bordered by eight neighboring countries. Its central location coupled with an economic focus on farming (agriculture accounts for 21.5 percent of the nation’s GDP) makes Zambia an ideal place for AGCO’s Future Farm prototype.
The Future Farm concept will develop a sustainable food production system that is able to increase farm output by utilizing Africa’s agricultural resources more efficiently. The Zambia center will facilitate agricultural support services to enable knowledge and increase food production on other area farms.
And Future Farm Zambia is more than just a training facility—it’s also a working farm. In 2015, 70.22 hectares were planted with maize, soybeans, sunflowers, sun hemp and other crops. The farm’s expected yields this year include 7.5 tonnes/hectare of maize and 1.4 tonnes/hectare of soybeans.
In addition to area farmers, local organizations will benefit from the Future Farm as well. AGCO Zambia has supported the Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project in Lusaka, which provides free education for children, adult training and community building programs. The Future Farm donates soybeans and maize to help the project’s feeding program and kitchen enterprise.
In addition, AGCO Zambia supports the Chalimbana Youth project in partnership with the Africa 4H Council and Future Farm Partners. As part of this project, younger children learn agricultural practices and grow food for their families through an Enterprise Garden, and older participants learn to start and sustain small agro-enterprises through an entrepreneurship group.
The AGCO Future Farm project has the potential to have a significant impact through a range of agricultural solutions, such as crop protection, precision farming, seeding and fertilizing, and strong partnerships will be key to its success. Additional Future Farms partners include AquaCheck, Bayer Crop Science, Harper Adams University, Musika, GCS Water Management, Seedco, University of Zambia, Valley and Yara.
“I believe we have a unique opportunity to develop a new vision for how small, medium, and large-scale farmers can develop not just in Zambia, but throughout the region,” said Mark Briggs, director of Precision Decisions Zambia Limited and also Co-Chair for the Future Farm Partners Steering Committee. “The idea of having a group of experts, not just from the manufacturing sector but also service sectors, engaged in developing products and services, offering training to farm workers, managers and, indeed, individuals working in the broader agricultural arena, is very exciting.”
What does the future hold for the Future Farm? Stay tuned to our blog or follow @AGCOcorp on Twitter for updates from Zambia and other AGCO initiatives around the world.