5 January 2001

POTATOHARVESTINGPIONEER AREGULAR

WITH spring work just around the corner and little to do back home, timing of the LAMMA event is just right for potato machinery specialist Richard Pearson.

As a result, the long-time exhibitor (albeit under the TRP division banner most years) tends to highlight soil preparation equipment on its stand, such as powered and mouldboard bed formers and the familiar Megastar stone/clod separator.

"We always get a good response at LAMMA," says sales director Dave Woods. "Mostly from local growers but I have noticed more people coming from further afield in the past couple of years. It is always cold but if you have plenty of useful people to talk to, you dont mind so much!"

The Pearson name is synonymous with potatoes, more recently as a manufacturer in its own right. The company has helped pioneer many new ideas in potato harvesting and, more especially, stone and clod separation.

It was development of the unique flexible star for the Megastar separator that really hit the headlines, though. Representing radical new thinking in the way that soil could be sifted, it has gone on to be successfully employed for cleaning and separation systems on harvesters and grading lines.

Richard Pearsons emergence as a fully fledged manufacturer came with the unveiling at the Royal Smithfield Show in 1994 of the prototype Enterprise 2000 harvester in the companys powder blue livery.

"That machine has helped us forge a reputation for product design innovation and reliability," says Dave Woods. "Characteristics that have since been embodied in smaller models like the Quality Master."

With the greater part of production being sold to growers in Britain, exports currently account for a small proportion of overall business. But progress on the overseas sales front is being made and is something that Phillip Bosworth, export sales director, is determined to progress.

Establishing a new name and a new product range is hard enough on the home market. But while the export efforts of all UK companies have been hit by the strength of Sterling in recent years, Mr Bosworth predicts modest improvements with time. He is encouraged by sales in mainland Europe, including markets in the east, as well as the recent introduction of the Pearson range into Australia, New Zealand and Japan, as pointers for potential growth.

As far as the UK market is concerned, demand remains volatile, says Dave Woods, driven as it is by the price of potatoes and, to some extent, weather conditions from year to year. That makes predicting sales an especially difficult task, not to mention building the machines themselves – all the more so when bespoke specifications are often the order of the day.

After a brief period using contract manufacture, Richard Pearson has brought Enterprise harvester production back to Freiston, the better to exploit the companys 40 year experience handling what is today a complex and sophisticated piece of equipment.

In the longer term, recent re-financing of the business is designed to ensure it has the resources and stability to maintain product development and exploit new markets. Lincolnshire businessman Robert Fleet is executive chairman, while company founder Dick Pearson has assumed the title of president.

Perhaps that reflects the involvement of US company Double L Manufacturing in the business. This Idaho-based company is the biggest producer of potato equipment in the States. And, while US and European potato harvesting and handling systems are poles apart in method and machinery, both parties are already helping each other in the competitive world marketplace.

New products too

Richard Pearson will have a raft of new products on show at LAMMA in addition to old favourites. The 12t capacity Caremaster trailer, for example, combines the gentle conveyor unloading characteristics of a road going bulker with the hydraulic slide-down side of a field trailer. Both elements are designed to minimise tuber damage from impacts and scuffing, while axle suspension is designed to give potatoes a gentle ride in transit.

The companys flagship harvester becomes the Enterprise Star-Flow now that this previously optional star roller adjunct to the second web is being fitted as standard, while the Megastar Actiflow will feature Pearsons 10-finger Duropol star, arranged in a unique double-helix configuration on the roller shaft.

Increased cleaning capacity from the Star-Flow pre-cleaner has boosted daily output by 30 to 100% this past autumn, says Richard Pearson. &#42

The Pearson "Quality Master" two-row harvester is aimed at smaller growers and export markets – but builds on experience gained with the larger and more sophisticated Enterprise machine.

New addition to the range is the 12t Caremaster trailer – a field-going bulker with conveyor unloading and slide-down side to minimise tuber bruising and scuffing damage.