Not many British farm machinery manufacturers can trace their history back more than 100 years, but David Ritchie Implements is well qualified to join this exclusive group.
The earliest record of the company is in 1870 when David Ritchie started a blacksmith’s business in Forfar, Angus. It was a time when farming depended on horses and David was joined by his two sons as the business expanded.
The next big development came in 1915 when the Ritchies moved from the smithy to bigger premises where they could make and repair implements and equipment, offering products that included fodder wagons, feed and water troughs plus potato baggers.
Demand for farm equipment of all types increased rapidly after the war ended in 1945, and the Ritchie family made good use of the opportunity to expand their business. The product range was extended to cover carts, lime spreaders, oil storage tanks and knife sharpeners. Their first catalogue was printed in 1948 and instead of simply supplying local farmers they appointed dealers to sell their products throughout the UK.
Since then the marketing has become international, with sales throughout Europe and Scandinavia, while New Zealand features as their latest growth market.
The business has also expanded through a policy of diversification prompted during the 1970s by Britain’s Common Market membership. Expertise used for designing and building farm machinery helped them to develop products ranging from shipping containers to materials handling equipment for the motor industry and davits for lifeboats. They are also the UK’s biggest manufacturer of handling and storage racks for industrial gas cylinders.
Bob Ritchie, director in charge of the farm equipment business and a great grandson of the original David Ritchie, says a significant proportion of their total turnover comes from non-farm products, and having such a varied range has made an important contribution to their ability to survive downturns in the farm machinery market.
The main emphasis in the Ritchie range of farm machinery was always equipment for the livestock sector, and this is still the case, with handling, weighing and feeding equipment for cattle and sheep generating the biggest turnover.
Their bale handlers, including the novel Traileyre system, is close behind followed by grass machinery products covering harrows and aerators.
Ritchie influence in the company remains strong. Family members still hold most of the shares and two of the directors are direct descendants of the man who founded the business almost 140 years ago.
Company: David Ritchie Implements
HQ: Suttieside, Forfar, Angus, Scotland.
Owned by: Controlling interest held by the Ritchie family.
Annual turnover: £10m
Principal products: Livestock equipment, bale handlers and grass machinery plus a wide range of products for other industries.