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Improving fertiliser application accuracy across different row widths is improving productivity on a Cambridgeshire organic farm. Fertiliser applicator ticks boxes for organic farm

Improving fertiliser application accuracy across different row widths is improving productivity on a Cambridgeshire organic farm.

Based just outside March, fifth generation Bedlam Farms Organic has supplied niche vegetables – including asparagus, broccoli, fennel and artichokes – to the UK’s major supermarket chains since 2006.

The company invested in a new Placement Pro Air applicator from Cambridgeshire-based Techneat Engineering last autumn to reduce wastage and eliminate the need for additional inter-row weed control, explains company director Tobias Martin. 

“As it has for many UK businesses, Brexit has admittedly had an impact, particularly on staff retention – but I think we’ve shown great resilience and the future for the organic business looks very strong.”

Flexible requirement

Before the purchase of the Placement Pro Air last year, Bedlam Farms used a traditional broadcast spreader. It worked well for conventional crops – but didn’t offer the flexibility needed for organic crops, many of which are grown on different row widths.

“Without the placement accuracy we needed, a follow-on problem was that fertiliser was often placed in the spaces between crop rows leading to product wastage and an eventual build up of weeds requiring more time spent on additional weed control.”

Mr Martin approached Techneat Engineering following a recommendation from the farm’s fertiliser supplier. The need for a new fertiliser applicator was discussed and Techneat agreed to design and build one.

Bigger hopper

The new Placement Pro Air applicator is a larger than standard 1500L hopper – saving time spent on re-filling. More importantly, it has a fully adjustable set of repositionable outlets across the width of the boom to cover all different row widths we needed.

By November, Techneat had delivered the new machine with managing director Tom Neat personally supervising the calibrating and testing together with some staff training to help us reduce set up time.

“Like most of the Techneat range, the machine is simple to operate, quick to set up and easy to calibrate,” says Mr Martin. “Overall build quality is excellent with stainless steel components to ensure accurate, corrosion free operation.”

Electronic system

Front mounted on a John Deere 6150R tractor, granular fertiliser is metered into an airstream via a powerful hydraulic fan. It is then distributed to a number of outlets flexibly positioned along the full width of the boom to conform with any row width required.

The Placement Pro Air has its own electronic control system to control forward speed and application rates that can run independently or be linked to the John Deere’s own GreenStar guidance system if desired.

The simple and robust design means there have been no maintenance issues since purchase. Nozzle spacing alterations take around 30-40 minutes to re-set the machine for different crops so there is very little ‘stop-start’ either. 

“Going forward we have an option to mount a cultivator on the tractor to work in tandem with the new applicator when applying starter fertiliser. This would further reduce crop passes helping to protect our soil as well as reducing fuel costs.”