23 August 2002

Big investments are still worthwhile

By Chris Horn

DESPITE British agricultures downward spiral farmers weeklys Midlands barometer farmers, Richard and William Hemus, still believe the industry is worth investing in.

The 385ha (950-acre) all-arable farm at Wheatcroft Farm near Nuneaton, Warks, is investing in a new 1200t dual-purpose grain and potato store to ease storage of both crops and, hopefully, boost market values.

New machinery has also been bought with a view to cutting combinable crop costs and reducing passes during establishment.

Alongside peas, wheat, rape, and grass seed 20ha (50 acres) of Maris Piper potatoes are grown for processing for the frozen chip market. Quality must be 20%DM, 60 tubers/10kg, and a sugar content to suit fry colour.

"Quality is not normally a problem to achieve in the field, but losses have been incurred during storage, prompting the investment," says Richard.

Potatoes had been stored in an old cattle shed insulated with straw, but this resulted in poor fry colour. "The enzymes would mobilise starch into sugar caramelising the potato on frying."

With limited drying and storing facilities for grain, the decision was made to have a store built to handle wheat as well as potatoes.

"The shed has under-floor drying so we can dry the wheat when it comes in to the store, and we can ventilate the potatoes after the wheat has gone," he says.

The 1200t, £200,000 store is now being put up on a recently acquired farm, which had few useable buildings.

The building is fully insulated, so temperature can be regulated within the shed, and together with fans and louvres the air can be circulated without the influx of cold, or damp outside air.

To cope with the power requirements of the fans within the shed, the output of the mains transformer had to be increased, adding a further £8500 to the cost of the store.

With the Hemuss both confident in the stability of the frozen chip market, they are willing to invest in the future of their farm.

"We know that frozen chips are a staple part of the human diet in this day and age. There will always be a market there to sell to. It may not be the most lucrative potato market, but it is consistent."

The only concern is the threat European imported potatoes, whether fresh or frozen, could pose to British prices.

The Hemuss have also bitten the bullet and invested in a new Vaderstad drill, and Rexius Carrier. "We used to run several power harrows, discs, ploughs, and a drill, all depending on the crop, and the cost was just too high, especially with the diesel-guzzling power harrows."

"We know we are spending a lot, but we are in this for the long haul, we intend to make farming pay, and you can only do that if you do it properly." &#42

Investing in farmings future are William (left) and Richard Hemus, who are looking forward to exploiting this new £200,000, 1200t dual-purpose grain and potato store on their Warks farm.