Skilled operator

Having started his company in October 2017, Sam Barnes, who grew up on the family vineyard in Biddenden, Kent, is already working with numerous big names in the South East of England.

Looking after a range of established and newly planted sites across Kent and East Sussex, S J Barnes has already had a busy start to the 2018 season helping vineyards to manage everything from canopy and herbicide spraying to mowing, vine trimming, and re-establishing and levelling alley ways.

At Fruit Focus, Sam will be showcasing a range of his machinery from the Fendt 210V, to his Braun cultivation equipment, vine trimmer, bespoke vineyard drill and newly developed vine tubes.

After struggling to find an effective vineyard sized drill, Sam decided to design and fabricate his own. Combining a power harrow and roller with a seeder which can work at rates equivalent to that of a full-sized drill, the new piece of equipment facilitates even coverage and aids establishment.

“I have worked alongside Nick and the team at N P Seymours to build a machine which is properly suited to vineyards,” said Sam Barnes. “It is all about seed and soil contact and if you want to ensure that the cover crop or grass is going to establish effectively a seeder alone isn’t good enough. The power harrow will open and level the soil, the disks drill the seed and the rollers reconsolidate the ground.”

With 50 hectares already lined up for drilling this autumn, Sam is looking forward to putting the machine to work and is keen to help vineyards put structure back into the surface of the soil and encouraging biodiversity.

For the summer months, S J Barnes is also gearing up for a busy schedule of vine trimming. Complete with tractor, trimmer and skilled operator, Sam is able to take away the hassle for vineyards who usually look to rent machinery.

“Skilled vineyard operators can be difficult to come across and, from the vineyard manager’s point of view, time can be better spent doing other crucial jobs rather than playing around with pieces of hire equipment they are probably unfamiliar with,” said Sam. “There is also no maintenance, servicing or other expenditure to think about. I simply turn up and get the job done.”

The S J Barnes stand at Fruit Focus will also be showcasing a new product which has been developed to protect newly planted vines. After meeting with the inventor in November 2017, Sam has helped to bring Vititube to the market.

“The Vititube provides growers with a completely new type of vine guard,” said Sam. “Although they are produced from plastic, they don’t go brittle in the sun and as they are joined by poppers they can be opened easily and are fully reusable. They are also transparent which creates a greenhouse effect and means that vineyard managers can inspect new planting without having to lift tubes or remove covers.”

The Vititubes can be produced with or without ventilation, come flat packed and are believed to have a 25-year lifespan, meaning they can be easily stored for future plantings.

For those looking to plant vines in 2019 or 2020, Sam is also able to get new vineyards off the ground and is now working as the UK agent for Pépinières du Comtat, one of the largest nurseries in Europe.

“Last year I sold around 100,000 vines to growers in the UK and I have already started taking orders for next year,” said Sam. “At the moment Bacchus, Ortega, Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier are in high demand, but as long as we have at least 18 months’ notice we can get any variety, any clones and any rootstock with vines grafted to specific requirements.”

For more information and to discuss vineyard management requirements with Sam, visit stand 319 at Fruit Focus.

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