12 December 1998

GOT a problem? A repetitive farm task? Or an irritating hold-up in a particular arable operation? Ask an engineer and nine times out of 10 a solution will be found in double quick time.

The fruits of the engineers efforts are showcased every year at the likes of the Royal Smithfield, Sprays and Sprayers or Cereals Events. And, now in the Crops/ Novartis Seeds Machines for the Millennium contest which produced two worthy winners from a wide-ranging entry.

Both our winners were young farmers and demonstrates that ingenuity is far from smothered by the ever-increasing demands of business management now being placed on growers shoulders. While using their prizes of £1,200 in travel vouchers each, theres every chance neither winner will be relaxing entirely but instead using time away from the farm solving other engineering problems.

John Culleys electronic controller certainly drew the judges attention because of its environmentally-friendly application possibilities. A graduate in aerospace engineering, 25-year-old John is developing the box to give sprayer operators full in-cab stop-start control of spray booms when dealing with irregular headlands or bounding footpaths where the angle of approach is other than 90 degrees.

He plans to trial it next spring on the 200ha (500 acres) family farm at Hall Farm, Lillingston Lovell, near Buckingham, and hopes to find a manufacturer to put it into production.

Keith Harris is already using his automatic grain sampler on a loader bucket at Manor Farm, Silton, Gillingham, Dorset, where he grows first and second wheats and break crops on 324 arable hectares (800 acres). A simple pendulum scoop picks up and retains a sample with each fill of the bucket, allowing the operator to make up a representative load sample.

"The idea came to me while sitting on the forklift," he says. "The grain spear is always a bit hit and miss."

With the advent of the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme, ideas such as his are making compliance easier for growers. Other farmers, hearing about the sampler, are already asking if it will be taken into production.