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Norfolk machinery firm’s double success

PUBLISHED: 16:07 28 June 2013 | UPDATED: 16:07 28 June 2013

Judge, David Mountain (L to R) George and Lesley Pratt designer of the prizewinning Tillerstar and Fred Milk of Normac at the Royal Norfolk Show. Photograph Simon Parker

Judge, David Mountain (L to R) George and Lesley Pratt designer of the prizewinning Tillerstar and Fred Milk of Normac at the Royal Norfolk Show. Photograph Simon Parker

Archant

A specialist Norfolk agricultural engineer has announced plans to double its workforce as it has announced a first export order to the southern hemisphere.

George Moate, based at North Walsham, wants to recruit six more staff to meet demand for the range of Tillerstar bed formers.

And firm’s two-bed version, which was part of the It’s a Spud’s Life display staged by the Norfolk Farm Machinery Club at the Royal Norfolk Show, has been attracting huge interest from potato growers around the country. The Tillerstar won the RNAA’s best commercial new machinery award.

Norfolk farmer Tim Briscoe, of the Buxton Potato Company, who is one of the potato industry’s ambassadors, used the Tillerstar to prepare 40 acres ahead of planting earlier this spring.

A single bed model of the one-pass implement for specialist root growers has been shipped from North Walsham to New Zealand. One of the firm’s directors, Lesley Pratt, was delighted to secure the first export order from a farmer, who grows for McCains. A dealer has just been appointed and Mrs Pratt said that another five or six models might follow soon.

The New Zealand buyer, who had not seen the machine working in the field, spoke to a leading East Anglian grower, Frederick Hiam in Suffolk. “We had three or four conversations and he bought and paid for it within 10 days. I wish every customer was the same,” said Mrs Pratt, who said that the single bed model was due to arrive early next month.

There was keen demand for the Tillerstar. “We were selling them as quickly as we could make them,” she added.

The Tillerstar bed maker and stone/clod separator prepares the land for planting, ending the need for de-stoning and often using two or three operations to prepare the ground for planting. The single bed needs a tractor with between 110 and 110hp for up to 100 acres of potatoes, with the two-bed model requiring at least 200hp to cope with up to 500 acres.

“This one-pass approach not only saves a grower thousands of pounds in capital and running costs but also reduces the carbon footprint by making significant savings in fuel,” said managing director, Richard Pratt.

It has been used by some growers to work down stubbles without previous cultivation, said Mrs Pratt. Powered by PTO-driven horizontal rotor, the soil is cultivated and then thrown on to four star rollers, which retain any sizeable stone or soil clods as the loose soil falls through.

It helped with maintaining better soil structure and preventing slumping of beds, especially where de-stoning had been carried out. One Suffolk grower had made labour and fuel savings because it did not need eight de-stoners.

Stones and clods are moved forward by the rollers, which are then covered by sieved soil. This creates a 14-inch deep (35cm) bed for planting and typical work rates about 10 acres per day, per bed.

George Moate was bought by Mr and Mrs Pratt in January last year to run alongside their automotive engineering business PSS Steering & Hydraulics, which employs about 80 staff.

The subsidiary also makes field equipment for growing potatoes.


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