Six top tech innovations from the Lamma 2018 farm machinery show
PUBLISHED: 18:02 19 January 2018 | UPDATED: 17:11 23 January 2018
The gale-struck 2018 Lamma farm machinery show was cut short by safety fears – but before the closure, East Anglian manufacturers showed the innovations aiming to help farmers ride out any economic storms ahead. CHRIS HILL reports.
The gales which brought the UK’s biggest farm machinery show to a premature end were a perfect illustration of an industry always at the mercy of unpredictable forces.
But beyond the constant vagaries of the weather, Brexit has also brought political and economic headwinds which may mean farm businesses need to become more efficient and environmentally conscious to stay afloat.
So on the first day of Lamma 2018 in Peterborough – before the destructive intervention of the wind – East Anglia’s machine suppliers showed thousands of farmers the myriad of innovations and updates which could reduce their costs and boost productivity in an uncertain world.
• NUTRIENT MEASUREMENT
Among the exhibitors was Ben Turner, managing director of Norwich-based John Deere dealer Ben Burgess. “We are seeing a lot more than tweaks to machinery,” he said. “The changes are major. We have got to become more cost-effective and use equipment that can deliver the right information.
“We are using telematics and satellite navigation to make sure we are recording and utilising everything the machine does, and maximising its output. If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.”
Mr Turner said a good example on display at the show was a new slurry measurer which monitors the strength of the nutrients in the fertiliser and governs the tractor speed to ensure it is spread evenly and not over-applied.
“The crop will grow more evenly, we’re reducing pollution, and it saves a very valuable fertiliser,” he said. “It is one of a myriad of little improvements that are being made.”
• MECHANICAL WEED CONTROL
Claydon Drills, based at Wickhambrook, near Newmarket, used the show to launch its new TerraBlade Inter-Row Hoe, a mechanical method of removing weeds such as black-grass from the unseeded strips between the rows of band-sown crops.
Managing director Jeff Claydon, who designed it, said the machine offered an additional weapon in the agricultural industry’s weed control armoury at a time when the efficacy of some herbicides is decreasing, and the cost is increasing.
And it is another tool in the firm’s “opti-till system” which aims to minimise fuel wastage, chemical use and soil disturbance – ecological goals which are becoming increasingly important as the government moves away from land-based subsidies towards a system of farm payments which reward wildlife-friendly methods.
“It is crucial that we keep finding these improvements,” he said. “As farmers, we want to grow as many tonnes per hectare at the lowest cost, with the lowest environmental impact. That is fundamental to everything we do.
“The consumers are analysing us like never before, so we have got to be more environmentally-conscious then we ever have before.”
• CROP CLEANING
Environmental improvement is also a major driver for innovation at PMC Harvesters, which makes pea and bean harvesters from its base in Fakenham.
Area sales manager Tony Hewitt said the firm was continually striving to reduce engine emissions and lower axle weights to avoid soil damage – with a particular focus on cleaning the crop lifted from the field.
“We’re now using agitating aprons which flick the belt and gets rid of dirt and waste from the product,” he said. “The cleaner the product leaves the field, it means less cleaning in the factory and less waste. They measure the waste as damage to the product, so we have to look at ways to reduce that because we have got 10-13pc at the moment, which does not sound much, but it builds up quite a lot over the course of a day.”
• AIR-DRIVEN SPRAYING
Sprayer manufacturer Landquip, based at Fressingfield, near Diss, demonstrated its new Premiair system, a £20,000 attachment which uses a fan to blow air downwards to direct chemicals more efficiently onto the crop.
“It means we can reduce the volumes of chemical inputs, and it allows you to spray in more windy conditions because it is being blown down on to the crop and not allowed to drift away,” he said. “It can even get under the leaf.
“We are getting a lot of interest from Holland for their tulips. One has gone to a nursery in Harleston who are huge rose growers, and it is very good for vegetables and potatoes too.
“Efficiency always equates to return, but you have to invest in it. The addition of this air system to a sprayer is about £20,000, so with something like potatoes you’d need to be growing a certain acreage to justify it.”
• ONE-PASS POTATO PLANTER
Edward Gilbert, sales director at Standen Engineering, based in Ely, said reducing costs and limiting ecological damage were equally important to an increasingly discerning farm buyer.
As well as exhibiting the firm’s East Anglian-made machines, the company debuted a £40,000 single-pass potato planter and cultivator, imported from the Netherlands, designed to minimise vehicle movements, save fuel wastage and minimise soil damage – ecological goals which are increasingly important as the government moves away from land-based subsidies towards a system of farm payments which reward wildlife-friendly methods.
“Our customers always want to reduce costs, the same as any other business,” said Mr Gilbert. “In the future there will be environmental pressures regarding the single farm payment, or whatever that is going to become, and farmers will have to go through some hoops to prove that they are putting something back into the environment, otherwise they are not going to get their funding. If we can assist them with that then we are ticking a box.”
• HIGH CAPACITY GRAIN DRIERS
Garry Ingram is managing director of Master Farm Services in Bures near the Essex-Suffolk border. As someone supplying grain driers he aims to sell certainty to farmers, offering equipment which could safeguard cash-flow by improving the quality of cereal crops in a wet year.
The firm imports equipment from Italy, with the most popular models having a capacity of between 20 and 30 tonnes, and costing £40,000-£60,000.
“A lot of farmers will say it is a big outlay for something that I won’t need if it is a dry year,” said Mr Ingram. “But I think because there has been so much uncertainty around in the last 18 months and the crop prices have not been brilliant, they are looking now and maybe thinking: ‘I need to take charge and put some certainty into it, so rather than sitting on the fence a decision needs to be made now – I will take it into my own hands to make that investment, and it will be there when I need it.
“Farmers are happy to take a gamble, because they know farming is a gamble anyway. But what we are seeing is that they want to invest in their crop.”