A Vario transmission and the potential for all tractors to be connected via the latest telematics technology are just two of the reasons that one of the largest wine producers in the UK has equipped its machinery fleet with eight Fendt 200 series tractors.
Organic vine growing requires reliable machinery capable of dealing with tasks that would normally be handled via a chemical spray. Silverhand Estate’s machinery manager, Bruce Osborne, recently invested in four new Fendt 200 series tractors to carry out tasks such as mechanical weeding, inter-vining and mowing.
The farm runs eight Fendt 200 series tractors – four 209V, two 210V and two 210F – that complete a minimum of 1,500 hours per year at the Kent vineyard. Part of the reason for reinvestment in Fendt was down to the reliability he experienced with the four 209 Vario tractors that were traded in for the new 210 models. The increase in operator functionality with the upgrade to Fendt One was also a significant reason for purchase.
It is one of the largest vineyards in the UK, with 230ha of vines in the ground, and plans for more in the future. The estate has run Fendt 200 series tractors for around four years, and Bruce says there is nothing else on the market at this size that can offer the smoothness of drive compared to a Vario transmission.
“Our vines are planted on some steep hills, which makes some of the tractor work quite awkward and requires experienced operators and smooth movements to prevent accidents. I’m a firm believer that if we had a jerky drive engagement from changing gear via a clutch, our operators wouldn’t feel comfortable turning on the steep headlands as they do with the Vario transmission.”
The quartet of newer 210V and F tractors arrived this year and were purchased through N P Seymour in Kent, who supply back-up to the farm when required.
The smooth operation also extends to having greater control when going up and down the slopes with implements on the front and rear of the tractor. One of the benefits of the Vario transmission is that Bruce can set the forward speed independent of the PTO rpm via the TMS, which allows tasks to be completed at a comfortable speed and reduces fuel use.
“With the TMS, the tractors will have the power required while reducing engine revs to keep fuel use to a minimum. This is noticeable as the 200 series tractors are compact, so the fuel tanks aren’t huge. Every extra saving we can make helps us go a little further.”
All the tractors are Profi spec, with the four 210 models benefiting from additional front axle suspension and the Fendt One user interface that has been progressively rolled out across the range of tractors offered by the brand.
The modern workstation has won a lot of praise from operators at Silverhand Estate, who say that they would struggle to go back to the old tractors, and Bruce says the new interface has made his life easier when setting up machines for operators with limited experience.
“We have a variety of operators, from those with decades of experience driving tractors to some that have only driven them a handful of times. The Fendt One system allows me to easily set up an implement on a tractor, so it only requires two buttons to start and stop the operation.
“This has reduced the time it takes me to train operators to do the job, and, running a fleet that is the same, means the controls in each tractor are familiar to them.”
Row widths of the vines alter between 1.6m and 2.1m, which is why Bruce has opted for two 210F models to allow a wider cab offering the operator extra comfort in the wider rows. He also says the newer models are easier to maintain as the relocation of ancillary parts has improved access.
“The newer models are better laid out, with easier access to regular maintenance points. Fendt has thought about it from an operator’s point of view – the air conditioning unit has been relocated to the engine bay for easy servicing.”
Due to the continual planting of new vines, the workload for the tractors on an organic vineyard of this scale is growing considerably and there are plans to implement a smart vineyard.
The four older 209V tractors that are still in the fleet are due for replacement soon, and they are likely to have the Profi Plus spec and carry a front linkage to carry out two jobs at once.
“When we are mowing and inter-row weeding, these jobs can be done in one pass with a front linkage to maximise efficiencies and cut down on the number of passes we make. We also want to introduce GPS guidance for increased accuracy, as negotiating tight rows for over 12 hours a day requires a lot of operator concentration.
“To be a fully connected farm, the data from each machine will feedback into a central platform via Fendt One’s off board technology, which is why we are looking at Profi Plus. I will also be able to send jobs directly to operators in the field and recording completed works will be much easier.”
Silverhand Estate is also looking at replacing its two larger machines that take care of the hedge cutting and mowing work around the edges of the vine fields, alongside preparation of land for new plantations. Currently, the farm runs a pair of Valtras, but Bruce has already demoed a Fendt 700 series as a replacement.
“By running the same tractor brand, every operator is familiar with the controls regardless of whether it is a 100hp or 300hp tractor. From a connected machine perspective, the Fendt One system logs every hour the tractor completes and gives us accountability for each job and some clear data on how we can achieve more with the machines we run.”
Bruce believes that Fendt tractors offer him the best blend of reliability and increased functionality across a varied and growing workload, and helps his operators feel comfortable, no matter their experience.
For more information on the Fendt 200 series tractors, as well as the other vineyard machinery and equipment NP Seymour offers, please phone the office on 01580 712200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.