This month we are shining a ‘Seymour’s spotlight’ on our bespoke range of table-top strawberry sprayers.
Did you know that Nick built his first made-to-measure table-top sprayer in 2005?
From his strong engineering background Nick has always been keen to ensure customers get exactly what they need. After he was approached by Gaskains, who were looking for a strawberry sprayer which could operate in the narrow-width alleys, he started designing and fabricating a bespoke air assisted sprayer.
NP Seymour’s table-top strawberry sprayers remain in high demand and are still produced by the team at our Avon Work’s site. We caught up with Carl Eatwell, spray operations manager at Hall Hunter, to get the ins and outs of why the soft fruit sector in the UK relies on these bespoke sprayers.
Having worked at Hall Hunter for 27 years, Carl Eatwell has seen the family farming business evolve from a vegetable and root crop grower, with a small strawberry PYO, into a commercial multi-site operation, which exclusively grows soft fruit for the UK’s major supermarkets.
Today Hall Hunter’s soft fruit plantations extend to 700-acres, spilt across Berkshire and Surrey with Heathlands Farm, the original farm, located in Wokingham; Sheeplands Farm in Warbury, near Henley, and Tuesley Farm, just outside Godalming.
“While we focus on strawberries and blueberries, we do also grow raspberries and blackberries,” said Carl, who is based at Heathlands Farm. “Over the years, our growing methods have changed drastically. Around 17 years ago we moved from having the plants in the ground to table-top systems. Then, in the last five years we have adapted again and today all our strawberries are on a six-line system which is much easier for harvesting and also gives us a much better class of fruit from the crop.”
While it is vital to embrace improved growing techniques, it does sometimes seem that what is considered ‘best practice’ in the UK fruit industry is forever changing at the drop of a hat. And for the fruit sector, drastic adaptations often result in new pieces of equipment being required.
“Big changes can happen in the fruit sector often within a short space of time, and I have known very different growing systems to be implemented within the space of a few years,” said Carl. “This means that we need our machinery and equipment, especially our sprayers, to be able to evolve and remain suitable, efficient and fit for purpose.”
On top of this, over the years, the varieties have changed too. Hall Hunter now grow Dute blueberries, Diamond Jubilee raspberries and June- and ever-bearing strawberries, such as Malling™ Centenary and Sweet Eve.
“With Malling™ Centenary, for instance, because it is a slightly earlier variety, we can crop twice, but this makes it even more important to ensure that we are looking after the plants, using the right products, spraying at the right times, with the best applications possible,” said Carl.
Like many growers striving to be more accurate with spray coverage, when Carl started looking for a suitable system which would effectively target the underside of the leaf, he approached specialist fruit machinery dealership, NP Seymour.
“When buying a sprayer off the shelf, you are very limited, so we have been working very closely with Nick and his team for nearly two decades to get the best application methods for our crops,” said Carl. “Our first sprayers from NP Seymour were from Berthoud, but Nick customised the equipment to fit our needs with new arms and a different nozzle system. Then, around 10 years ago, NP Seymour designed and made our first custom sprayer to fit our eight line system and finally as we moved to the latest six line system, they helped us to redevelop our sprayers again.”
The bespoke table-top strawberry sprayers from NP Seymour are all air assisted, providing growers with the ability to spray the crops with more accuracy, better coverage and efficacy.
“All of our sprayers come with a sophisticated computer system which will constantly show the calibration and we are able to calculate, even within a few metres, where our spray products will run out. With this, our costs have been reduced greatly because there is no need to over mix products and there is no wastage,” said Carl. “Our sprayers also have in built wash tanks, which saves us a lot of time and there are also induction hoppers fitted so we can mix the products more safely and you are less likely to get blockages in the system when using certain products.”
As well as having its sprayers refurbished, with new arms and a new nozzle design, which the team at NP Seymour created, Hall Hunter also had a new custom-built sprayer delivered recently and those who follow NP Seymour on social media will also have seen that some of the table-top sprayers have been shipped to customers as far away as Sweden.
“By working with ourselves and other growers, Nick has come up with a robust design which better covers the crop by bringing the spray in sideways through the canopy,” said Carl. “All the sprayers are ‘overly engineered’ and the build quality is exceptional. Everything is galvanised and we have never had a mechanical fault and have only ever had to do routine maintenance.
“I have been lucky enough to go down to the workshop at Avon Works several times now to follow the progress of the sprayers being built. Nick is an absolutely fantastic guy to work with and the whole team has always been very accommodating and if we wanted something tweaked, they have been very happy to make changes.
“We were also invited to visit before the sprayers were delivered, so we could make sure that everything was how we wanted it. And when they delivered, someone was onsite to run through the machine and made sure that it was set up exactly, making adjustments here and there to suit the individual farm’s needs. We really couldn’t ask for much more in the way of service, it is just fantastic.”
Hall Hunter also has an air assisted tower sprayer for the cane and bush fruit which was carefully modified by NP Seymour. The farm had very specific requirements and the sprayer needed to be as narrow as possible, so Nick visited the site to measure the tunnel system before building something made to measure. Years later, as the crop developed and plants became much larger, the sprayer was sent back to NP Seymour’s Avon Works to be refurbished again.
“It is always great to see Nick in person, not just because it’s nice to be able to speak to the company owner, but because you get to see the gentleman who is still very much hands on in regards to the engineering,” said Carl. “You simply can’t beat the level of service NP Seymour provides. It is easy to talk to some over the phone, but to see them in person, to do rough sketches with them and see them turn those drawings into a machine is very good. I have enjoyed being able to see the sprayers being developed; watching them go from parts and bare metal to being welded together, the tank being put on, and finally the end installation. The team are very happy for you to go and see where they are up to and the fact that they are so hands on with growers means that we as a customer get exactly what we need.”
If you want more information, please do give the sales team a call on 01580 712200.