The dust is at last settling after a period of change and consolidation. That was the view of the majority of specialist potato machinery exhibitors on their industry, at the inaugural Potato X Event at East Kirkby in Lincolnshire, explains Louise Impey.
In the last six years, well-known brand names have disappeared and reappeared in different guises, European manufacturers have decided to move in to fill the vacancies left and many companies have changed ownership or linked up with their competitors.
“Just like growers, the machinery industry has been looking to cut costs and move production forwards,” says Steve Thorley of Reekie Potato Equipment.
His company was exhibiting the new RFT380 folding bed tiller at the event. “It’s an evolution of the 3.8m fixed bed tiller, which we introduced last year,” he reports. “Some of our customers didn’t want a fixed machine, finding it too clumsy, so we responded to their requests by making a folding version.”
Mr Thorley also plans to reintroduce the Dominant range of potato harvesters later this year. “The outlook is better and the feel good factor is back. We are getting the well-established Reekie name back into the market and building confidence in the brand.”
New environmental standards were being displayed in the Nissan DX series of forklifts, which are designed so that up to 98% of the vehicle can be recycled. They also have the ability to remove 99% of the harmful emissions found in exhaust gases, thanks to the inclusion of a three-way closed loop catalytic converter.
Being exhibited at the event by national dealer Apollo, the forklifts were of particular interest to potato store managers, due to their carbon dioxide level advantage. Their fuel economy was seen as another bonus, also setting new heights for forklifts.
Nicholson Engineering was promoting its all season multi-ridger, which gives growers the means to control weeds, re-form ridges and maximise the effect of irrigation.
“We’ve changed the weeder tines for this year,” reveals Shaun Nicholson. “They’re now stronger and can go down the side of the rows. In the next month or so, we’ll be bringing out an adaptation kit.”
The Underhaug range of potato harvesters and planters, originally from Norway, is now being sold in the UK by CTM Harpley Engineering of King’s Lynn.
Great deal of interest
Sales director Nigel Mountain points out that Underhaug is now part of the Kverneland family, putting a solid name and identity behind it. “They work very well in UK conditions, so we’re expecting a great deal of interest.”
The Underhaug kit joins CTM’s portfolio of root crops products, which includes the Dutch Zibo range of toppers and bed tillers, as well as the German Ropa sugar beet harvesters and cleaner loaders.
A rear-mounted cultivator and planter combination was attracting plenty of admirers on the AVR stand. New to the UK, the machine offers fuel and labour savings, according to Tom Lootens of AVR.
“In demonstrations, it has managed to cultivate and plant 1 ha/hour,” he reveals. “It’s a step on from our multipurpose cultivator, the Multivator, as it combines the planting operation with the cultivations. That saves a pass.”
Herbert Engineering was promoting its twin bag tipper, which has a 30t/hour tipping capacity. Offering a quick, gentle method of emptying tonne bags, its two-stage tipping process gives a controlled discharge of product from the bag.
A Spanish packer has taken delivery of four units, reports Andy Hubble, Herbert’s sales manager. “It has a manual start sequence and is protected by a category 4 light beam safety system. As well as potatoes, it can handle beetroot, carrots, cabbage, onion and parsnip.”
Potato X was organised by Derek Scott and his team at Scotts Potato Machinery, with the aim of providing a national showcase for potato machinery.
“All shows are a cost for exhibitors,” he acknowledges. “But we felt it was important to have a specialist event right in the heart of potato production in the UK. We know local growers value the chance to assess their machinery needs and see the latest innovations.”
He hopes that the show will become an annual event. “We have had plenty of support from machinery manufacturers and dealers and we know that there have been a number of new products launched since the last BPC event.”