Best of British: Simba International

A 20-year farming career in Africa may not be the obvious qualification for designing implements for British farms, but that was Keith Burton’s background when he started the Simba company in 1976.

Some of the first Simba cultivators were designed for African conditions, but the focus quickly changed to the UK and Europe and the only obvious African connection now is in the name – Simba is the Swahili word for lion.

Simba is Britain’s biggest tillage machinery manufacturer, after expanding rapidly when other implement companies were disappearing from the market. This level of success at a time of intense competition requires a clear understanding of what customers need, and at Simba this is achieved through close contact with farmers.

“It is a deliberate policy for everyone in a position to guide the company,” says sales director Guy Leversha. “We make a point of going out of our way to talk to farmers because if we understand the problems they face with their soil and how they would like to improve their crop establishment, it puts us in a far better position to produce the machines that meet their needs.”

An early example was Simba’s response to the straw burning ban, he says. Many cereal growers were concerned about coping with straw and how it would affect their soil and, as well as developing machines that achieved better incorporation, Simba also produced a technical booklet about straw incorporation.

Because of its success, the booklet was followed by others, all based on practical experience plus information from academic and research specialists, with soil management the most recent subject.

The policy of monitoring farmers’ crop establishment needs still brings results. It lead Simba to become the importer for Horsch equipment for the UK and Eire, which contributed 25% of Simba’s total turnover last year and includes Britain’s most extensive drill range.

It has also brought successful tillage innovations including the Simba DD ring and, more recently the Aqueel 2 roller. Their newest product, the DTX300 tine and disc cultivator, fills a gap in their range and features adjustable disc angling plus a rear roller that consolidates with less tail-end weight to reduce the load on the tractor hydraulics.

Weight and power requirement are important, says Mr Leversha, because more than 60% of implements produced by Simba are for tractors below 200hp. More than 80% of the 1143 machines built last year were SL cultivators plus the Xpress, Cultipress and Unipress ranges, and less than 2% were the disc harrows that once dominated Simba sales.

Company: Simba International

HQ: Sleaford, Lincolnshire

Owned by: Priviately owned

Employees: 83

Annual turnover (2008): £28.3m

Principal products: Cultivation and seeding equipment. Simba also imports Horsch seed drills

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