Specialist machinery dealer, Kirkland UK, hosted its annual open day on Tuesday 10 December, at Griffins Farm, Sutton Valance, Kent.
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The popular end of year event attracted over 70 fruit growers and vineyard managers, with some having travelled from Surrey and Essex. The gathering provided the perfect opportunity to catch up and celebrate the end of a successful season with fellow growers and the Kirkland team, who had laid on a generous spread of English wines, locally produced mulled ciders and a hog roast.
“Our open day is not only a chance to say thank you, but also to showcase our very specialist machinery range and any new product developments,” said Scott Worsley, managing director of the family-run dealership, Kirkland. “Alongside the latest machinery and equipment, for one day only, we are also able to offer reduced prices and exclusive discounts. This year we were able to do several deals for growers on used machinery, part exchange and we also sold three Antonio Carraro tractors.”
Best tractors on the market
Up until 2012, Kirkland was originally a brand name under the Worsley’s family business Agricare, a horticultural supplies firm which is today managed by Scott’s brothers. Having supported fruit growers for many decades, Agricare started to import BAB manufactured products in 2005 which were badged up as ‘Kirkland’ to offer something authentic and original.
With the growing success of this specialist machinery branch, it was decided in 2011 that Kirkland should become an established company in its own right. Today the firm continues to import BAB products, which are still sold under the successful, premium Kirkland label, and in 2015 another own-label, Orvin, was also launched to effectively cater for smaller growers’ needs and the increasing number of vineyards popping up in the UK.
To complement these carefully chosen ranges of mounted implements, Scott wanted to ensure that his customers would have access to the very best tractors on the market and Kirkland is now the sole importer of the Italian Antonio Carraro range.
“Antonio Carraro has been building tractors exclusively for the fruit and viticulture market for 110 years, so you know each machine has been designed with the job in mind,” said Scott. “The tractors all benefit from a low centre of gravity, weight distribution is kept even, which significantly helps to reduced ground compaction, and many come with reverse drive functionality which makes working with rear mounted implements so much easier.”
At the annual open day, the tractor manufacturers’ export area manager, Federico Bartolucci, was on hand to discuss the vast array of models, specifications and configuration options available in the specialist tractor range, as well as a number of exciting new developments which will soon be released to the UK market.
“Every year we develop new models to fill the gaps in our range,” said Federico Bartolucci from Antonio Carraro. “This year we launched the TRX 5800, a 50-hp reversible drive ultra-compact tractor. It is the first 50-hp model in the range to have a cab and it is also the first time since the 1970s that reversible drive has been available on a lower power range tractor. Kirkland will have a demonstration machine available soon and in 2020 we will be launching an articulated version of that model.”
A new top-class tractor specifically for vineyards, the TONY V, is also due to be launched in 2020. Unveiled at the Sitevi exhibition in late-November, with its classic chassis, the 75hp TONY V is set to see the Italian manufacturer break into the world of specialised conventional tractors with a 100hp version to follow soon after.
As well as the talk of new models, one of the most popular machines on show at the open day was the Antonio Carraro Mach 4R. The articulated four-wheel drive quadtrack tractor is narrow, its weight is evenly distributed to significantly help reduce ground compaction, there is reverse drive functionality, and tracks provide stability on steep slopes, even in extremely wet conditions.
“Antonio Carraro is the only manufacturer to produce a tractor which has been purpose built with tracks and the entire driving mechanism is fabricated with steel to give a much stronger design overall,” said Scott, who revealed that in 2019, Kirkland sold the highest number of Mach 4R models out of any other country in the world.
Together with Federico Bartolucci from Antonio Carraro, the South East area sales manager for RDS Technology, Robert Cresswell, had also travelled to the Kirkland open day to meet customers.
Suppliers of the Spraymaster 200, a sprayer control unit which is designed to carefully regulate the application of spray products proportional to the forward speed of the tractor, RDS has been working with Kirkland for many decades.
“Kirkland install around 25 Spraymaster units per year and we sold six at the open day alone,” said Robert Cresswell, who joined RDS in October 2019. “The user-friendly control unit sits in the cab of the tractor so it can be used with multiple sprayers. It is suitable for both manual and electrically operated sprayers and the system can work from either a pressure or flow sensor. Larger growers find them particularly beneficial because they can be pre-programmed to ensure that no matter which driver is in the seat, or what speed they are going, the spray application will be consistent.”
As well as helping to ensure good, effective coverage, the unit also gives an accurate size of the field, so fruit growers and vineyard managers know they are not wasting chemical unnecessarily.
“When we moved from manual operations to the Spraymaster units, our chemical costs did go down,” said Steve Everard, from AC Goatham and Son. “We like them because they are simple, bulletproof and a handy piece of equipment. We have around 20 machines with the Spraymaster units, they fit all our sprayers, including our weed killers, and they are very accurate.”
When it comes to sprayers, there is also a wide range of different options on offer from Kirkland, from mounted compact single fan options to large orchard tower sprayers, trailed models and a two-row vineyard option too.
“One of the sprayers we sell is the cannon sprayer, manufactured by Dragone,” said Scott. “Predominantly used for glasshouses and polytunnels, these sprayers are designed to speed up spraying as it is possible to blast spray a long way. These have also been put to use for snow clearing.”
Another specialist model is the Dragone two-row sprayer. After purchasing one last year, Marcus Goodwin, vineyard manager at Westwell Wines, Kent, said: “The beauty of the ‘over the row’ sprayer is you’ve got booms either side of the canopy so the spray is coming in from both directions giving you much better coverage inside the canopy itself and this cuts down on the total spraying time.”
When it comes to sprayers, the team at Kirkland is also able to service, maintain and carry out essential NSTS work on all makes and models of sprayers, not just the ones they supply.
In the vineyard
Having dedicated a lot of time to growing its reputation in the UK’s viticultural sector in 2019, there was an unprecedented number of vineyard owners and managers in attendance at this year’s open day.
“Glossy catalogues and online browsing are great, but the open day event means you can see some of the products up close,” said Darryl Kemp, estate manager at Simpsons Wine Estate. “Growers also get to talk to the Kirkland UK team, who are always a pleasure to work with, to get a real impression of the machines and the support behind it.”
There was a lot of interest generated in the Quickpower baler from Caeb. The Quickpower round baler gathers vine pruning from the alleyways and produces a bale in less than one minute. As well as being technologically advanced, it is extremely versatile and works with narrow or wide inter-row spacing, between 750 to 2,300mm, beneath overhead trellises and on any kind of ground.
“The fixed size bales are made in a way which allows for a quick, clean, natural drying process,” said Scott. “This means that as well as the benefits of removing potentially diseased wood from the vineyard, growers can also use the pruning to fuel biomass heaters.”
At the open day, the under vine weed management tools, mowers and pulverisers, and vine trimmers from Orizzonti were also popular with those working in the vineyard sector.
“The Orizzonti range is very well built,” said Scott. “The vine trimmers for instance are one of the only ones on the market which are on a v-shaped mounting system which allows for normal visibility through the centre of the vine trimmer’s arms. The great thing about these vine trimmers too is that they can be totally configured to meet the vineyard’s individual specifications. For instance, Simpsons Wine Estate invested in a double sided front mounted trimmer and have opted for knives on the side and rotary blades on top.”
Good lift capacity
For heavy lifting jobs, Kirkland was also demonstrating its range of Giant loaders. The versatile machines can be fitted with up to 150 different attachments making them suitable for a diverse range of applications out in the orchard, vineyard, and across the rest of the farm or estate.
“Forklifts are great if you have a neat concrete yard which is nice and flat, but otherwise you will probably need to get something more substantial and a small telehandler from Giant is the perfect solution,” said Scott. “The Giant products range from a stand on skid steer to the larger wheeled loaders; there is a full range depending on what a grower is looking for. We have customers who have found that there is now always a member of staff using the Giant, they are just so versatile, manoeuvrable and have a good lift capacity of around 1.5-tonnes.”
Despite next year’s harvest seeming a long way off, there was a lot of interest in Kirkland’s range of picking trains and harvesting rigs at the annual open day.
When it comes to transporting fruit from the orchard to the stores, Kirkland offer a range of different options, from two-wheel, single bin units which can be linked together, right up to a heavy-duty, hydraulically adjustable trailer which can be loaded with up to 15 full bins.
The most popular of which is Kirkland’s four-wheel steering carts. Developed by manufacturer Krolik and branded under the dealership’s Orvin range, each unit is capable of transporting three bins of fruit. Growers like its tight turning ability, which allows it to be used in orchards with small headlands, and its carefully designed axel, which keeps the load level across challenging terrain conditions to greatly reduce damage to fruit in transit.
“We sell over 100 of these picking carts to fruit growers across the region every single year,” said Scott. “Time and again, they not only prove to be incredibly well built, strong trailers, but they are also a much safer option. The improved ride reduces the likelihood of fruit bruising, they are more manoeuvrable than a single bin train which decreases the chance of the units locking up in wet conditions or on steep banks, and there is also less risk of injury to pickers as they cannot walk through the convoy as easily.”
For those looking to further increase efficiency in the orchard at harvest time, Kirkland also had a Frumaco Technofruit harvesting machine on display. This new method of picking has rapidly taken off in the last few years being of benefit to growers of all size. The Frumaco heavy-duty machine is diesel powered, has been complimented for its good ground clearance, and has been described by Kirkland customers as incredibly reliable.
“We firmly believe that we have found the best harvesting machine on the market,” said Scott. “We sold our first one a few years ago to a local grower who also purchased a machine from another manufacturer. After using the harvesting machines side by side for two seasons, he came back to us to increase his fleet of Frumacos.”
One of the key benefits of the Frumaco harvesting machines is the ability to quickly transform it into a flat deck platform, which can be used all year round for pruning and other orchard maintenance work.
As well as building a reputation exemplary customer service and its ability to supply a wide range of machines and equipment to fruit growers and vineyard managers, Kirkland also prides itself on its ability to adapt and modify products to ensure that their customers are getting the right machine for the job.
“We always welcome suggestions from growers, and our business is built on listening to what they want,” said Scott. “As well as looking for new products, we can adjust ‘off the shelf’ machines and implements to perfectly suit their needs. We will quite often make tailored adjustments to the machine to ensure that we are meeting our customer’s exact requirements. That, along with our friendly, young and proactive team, is what sets us apart.”
Building on the success of 2019, which was a “very good year” for the firm, and having explored a range of other sectors including viticulture, in 2020 Kirkland UK’s focus will concentrate on its core fruit and vineyard markets, helping those in the sector to access the very best, most efficient machines and implements for the job.