Kirkland UK, which specialises in fruit and vineyard equipment, regularly takes calls from manufacturers who want Kirkland UK to promote, sell and provide reliable after care for their products in the UK.
It is a measure of the family business’s outstanding reputation for product knowledge, customer service and after-sales support that it is already the sole importer for around 25 leading brands, and as the area of UK land under vines continues to grow at a seemingly exponential rate, the Kirkland UK team is starting 2024 with a real spring in its step.
Kirkland UK’s ambition has always been to be able to meet the needs of any UK grower for any piece of equipment he or she may need to fulfil any particular task. As owner Scott Worsley explained, it has reached that position by listening to its customers over the past nearly 20 years.
“Our unbeatable product range is a direct result of stocking what growers have asked us for,” he said. “On some occasions they don’t even know what they want. They just tell us what job they are trying to do and ask us what piece of kit will best help them do it. If we stock something, it’s because somewhere down the line a customer has asked for it.”
It means the growing business can now supply virtually any machine any grower could possibly want, from a specialist tractor to the latest electric machines, drift-free sprayer or fully autonomous vineyard robot.
“With labour availability continuing to be a challenge, growers are increasingly relying on automation, and we are happy to advise them on the best way forward in this developing market,” explained sales manager Ben Devine.
After being successfully demonstrated in the field last harvest, the Gregoire grape harvester has become a firm favourite with vineyards, again reflecting its labour-saving potential.
Available either trailed or self-propelled, there is a harvester to suit every grower, and anyone buying one of the machines is given the opportunity to visit Gregoire’s state-of-the-art operators’ training centre.
“Gregoire is a great company with many years’ experience, which makes it an excellent choice when looking at harvesting machines,” said Ben. Running seamlessly alongside the harvester is the D’Eusanio stainless steel grape trailer range that Kirkland imports from Italy and is available in a range of sizes and options.
With the Gregoire, as with every other piece of equipment sold from Kirkland UK’s well-stocked showroom, the product was thoroughly checked out by the team before being offered for sale. “Customers trust the machinery we recommend because they know we will have already done an extensive amount of homework before agreeing to put our name to it,” explained Scott.
Kirkland UK has always a leading dealer of specialist fruit and vineyard tractors, but a recent reshuffle in the world of Italian manufacturers means the company now has access to a much wider range.
A tie-up between Antonio Carraro and Carraro, which has for many years made specialist tractors for other leading brands, means that, as a long term Antonio Carraro importer, Kirkland UK will have access to the whole range of rebadged fruit and vineyard tractors, with Carraro no longer a separate brand.
“We can now supply everything from a basic spray tractor through to a tracked, CVT-equipped model,” explained Ben Devine. It’s great news for us and for our customers.”
With 2024 looking set to be a busy year for the company, Kirkland UK has expanded its sales team by taking on Tom Wheatley as fruit and vineyard machinery sales manager. Well-known in the industry, Tom has worked for a number of other dealerships and comes from farming stock. He grew up in Elham in east Kent, where father Peter kept sheep and grew fruit.
“I was keen to join Kirkland UK to help deliver great service to a growing market and sell a wider range of machinery,” he said. “These are exciting times for viticulture and I am delighted to be part of an ambitious and customer-focused family firm.”
With many fruit growers now grubbing up at least part of their south-facing orchards to plant vines instead, Kirkland UK’s long-standing links with growers gives them a clear head-start when newcomers to the industry need advice and support.
The company regularly offers not just advice but a ‘starter pack’ of machinery to newcomers to the industry. “We don’t offer a specific ‘bundle’ as we are careful to supply exactly the right equipment to meet individual requirements, but we can put together a competitively priced tractor, mower, sprayer and undervine weeder package to new entrants, along with as much advice as they need,” said Tom.
While selling the right equipment to individual customers is important, after-sales has an equally high priority for the team at Kirkland UK. Issues are rare, but when they occur, Scott makes it his personal responsibility to put things right, going above and beyond to make sure the customer is happy.
“Our business has been built on long-term relationships and we are determined to continue that ethos,” he commented. Two full time members of staff, Ben Short and Andy Huthwaite, run the busy parts department, while Dave Allen heads up the experienced service team.
While based in the centre of prime grape-growing country, Kirkland is a UK operation in more than just name. The number of manufacturers that have appointed the company as sole UK importer is a tribute to its national outlook and its ability to look after customers wherever they are. A recent roadshow saw the team visit Scotland, Hereford, Hampshire, Kent and Suffolk, while tie-ups with local dealerships ensure first class after-sales service can be provided nationwide.
Its favoured brands include Friuli, which makes a range of quality sprayers. “We have worked with Friuli for three years and have been impressed with the product range, backup and support,” commented Ben.
The Friuli company boss lives on site and has his own vineyard, which means the product has been well tested and does the job effectively and efficiently, while its drift recovery feature means no costly wasted chemicals and less impact on the environment. Also popular with growers is a new top fruit sprayer with hydraulically variable tower height.
After a lengthy period of waiting in the wings caused by EU red tape, Corvus’ well-trumpeted fully electric UTV (utility task vehicle) is now available, with a demonstrator ready and waiting to be put through its paces. The zero-emission UTV is ideal for fruit and vine customers, not just because of its environmental credentials but because it lacks the fumes given off by internal combustion engine-powered variants.
Ilmer is another popular brand with Kirkland UK, offering “an extremely good range of well-built, quality mowers” in the words of Tom Wheatley.
The range runs all the way from a basic rotary mower through to models equipped with hydraulic wings and sensors, while available widths can accommodate everything from a table top strawberry set-up to wider orchard alleyways.
Another recently added brand is the Freilauber range from Germany, which includes a compact, very well built compost spreader available from Kirkland’s stock. The recently delivered pre-pruner from this range has also proved to be a great success and is being put to good use in a Midlands vineyard.
“With every product we sell, though, the machine is only as good as the backup on offer, and that’s where Kirkland UK continues to excel,” Scott concluded. “The sale is just the start – it’s the quality of our after-sales service that sets us apart.”