Farmers Weekly Awards 2018: Contractor of the Year

Sinclair Contractors is the Farmers Weekly 2018 Contractor of the Year.

Magnus Sinclair has gradually developed his business from modest-scale agricultural contracting to a diverse outfit catering for waste haulage, Christmas tree harvesting and everything in between.

He now operates across large swathes of northern Scotland, delivering a quality service to his arable, dairy and AD plant customers.

See also: Meet the 2018 Contractor of the Year finalists

Magnus Sinclair

Sinclair Contractors, Kinknockie Farm, Udny, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

Magnus Sinclair

Farm facts

  • Offers agricultural contracting, waste haulage and renewable energy services across northern Scotland
  • Main customer base is arable, dairy and AD plants
  • Diverse range of work includes forage harvesting, mowing, baling, muck/slurry/digestate spreading

Constantly adding to a varied list of services has helped Magnus Sinclair’s Aberdeen-based contracting business overcome the challenge of rising machinery costs and competition from one-man bands.

As well as starting one of the first AD plants in the area, he runs a waste haulage operation – a gang of eight wagons deal with the permits, stockpiling and spreading of 190,000t of liquid waste ar year – Christmas tree harvesting and farm machinery sales alongside the mainstream agricultural contracting outfit.

This helps spread the risk, but also keeps his machinery and team of 27 full-time staff – and up to 40 during peak periods – busy year-round.


Magnus has built a reputation for providing a quality service and sets himself apart from others by offering specialised knowledge and technology to provide the best service for specific jobs. He develops this by regularly visiting other businesses, speaking to customers and hosting events that tour his yard and AD unit.

At the heart of his business is John Deere’s MyJobs documentation system, which helps track the exact cost of each job completed, including fuel used, time, tonnage or bale count. Employing such a system means every job can be costed accurately and information can be recorded quickly and easily in the office and sent to customers.

It also ensures that staff members make notes about a job’s key details, which speeds up the process – from assigning the work to sending out the invoice. Coupled to JD Link, it allows Magnus to monitor different jobs on his iPad, such as up-to-date yield maps, engine speeds and data from the manure-sensing system fitted to the tankers.


Prior to 2004, Sinclair Contracting ran a mixed-brand fleet. However, the switch to a John Deere-only outfit has brought stacks of benefits, making life easier for operators that need only to be familiar with a single system, speeding up servicing and workshop jobs, simplifying spare parts storage and building a very close relationship with the local dealer.

The other big perk is that staff only have to be trained once on the various Deere computer systems, which is a major time saver for Magnus. The local dealer provides training on the use of guidance, as well as Deere’s other software programmes, including Harvest Lab, Manure Sensing and the MyJobs documentation system.

The close relationship with JD naturally delivers reliable back-up, but Magnus also gets involved in trialling new equipment prior to its global releases.

Unusually, the business runs its tractors to well beyond 15,000 hours before trading them in, despite only taking a one-year warranty. The secret to their longevity is monthly health checks and in-house servicing.

It also helps manage the rising capital costs of machinery faced by contractors across the country. By buying new, maintaining tractors well, keeping them for longer and putting more hours on them, their costs are reduced and the business can stay profitable.

Winning ways

  • Takes an interest in the contracting sector and open to new business opportunities to spread risk
  • Keeps close eye on costs and excellent record management
  • Long machinery replacement policy and monthly servicing
  • Embraces new technology to improve the quality of work
  • Involved with the local YFC and invites schools to visit

A word from our independent judge

“A diverse range of services is central to the success of Sinclair Contractors and Magnus’s willingness to embrace new technology and explore new opportunities sets him above many of his rivals.”

Jill Hewitt

The Farmers Weekly 2018 Contractor of the Year is sponsored by Fendt

The other finalists were

  • Robert Chapman, Westover Farm Contractors, Westover Farm, Calbourne, Isle of Wight
  • Carl and Natalie Martins, Mornios Contract Herdcare, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

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