Made to measure
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.”
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.
Is your sprayer really suited to your site?
The wet start to the 2020 growing season has left many farmers and growers battling challenging ground conditions.
Based at Rumwood Green Farm in Langley, Kent, Charltons is a fourth-generation family fruit business growing apples, strawberries and cherries on approximately 445 hectares, across 11 sites, all located within a 5-mile radius.
This year, the relentless rain meant that Charltons particularly struggled with one of its steepest sloping sites; finding it impossible to drive their trailed sprayer on the persistently wet ground.
Following a conversation with Nick, we were able to deliver a mounted OCLL CarraroSpray APUS5 within a matter of days – helping them to get back on track with their early season spray programme.
This air blast sprayer, which has a small tower for spraying horizontally or vertically, is specifically designed for use in compact spaces and on sloping ground where there is minimal room for manoeuvre.
Particularly in Kent, we find that a lot of our fruit customers have orchards planted on sites with steep gradients and heavy soils. Having a mounted sprayer alongside a trailed option is the only way to guarantee that sprayer-operators can get out in the spring, when the orchard floor is exceptionally slippery and problematic.
As machinery technology changes year-on-year, you may be surprised at how many sprayer options are now available. Orchards too are forever evolving and so, even if you haven’t experienced any ground related issues this season, it is always worth assessing whether your sprayer is best suited to your orchard system.
Opening up the canopy
We’re currently seeing an increased demand for mechanical deleafers as vineyard managers look for more cost effective ways to open up the canopy, increasing sunlight exposure and air circulation.
Unlike other defoliators which use what’s known as an air blast system, the ERO leaf stripper, which Sam uses for his vineyard management contract work, has two rotating rollers and a fan which effectively plucks leaves from the vines.
While air blast systems are limited for use between flowering and berry formation, and then right before harvest, the ERO’s ‘suck and pluck’ can be used at any time from flowering right through to harvest.
We’ve found that this gives vineyard managers a bit more freedom and flexibility when it comes to planning leaf stripping into the schedule. Also, by taking away the jets of air, leaves and debris are not blown into the canopy, which avoids any risk of disease.
On average it costs £350 per acre for a team of labourers to leaf strip one side of the vines by hand. In comparison, the ERO can be configured in a single- or double-sided set up, which is then capable of doing 0.5ha or 1ha per hour respectively. The single-sided option can also rotate so that it is possible to just defoliate the east-facing side of the vines. Just looking at the figures alone it’s not difficult to see why they’re becoming increasingly popular.
If you want to chat through the various options and what would be most suitable for your site, please do just give me a call on 01580 712200.
Tom Wheatley, sales at NP Seymour