Vitifruit Equipment: Right machinery for the job

A strong practical background in agriculture coupled with an interest in the early vineyards popping up in the South East of England inspired David Sayell to become one of the first viticultural equipment suppliers in the UK.

“In the early days I knew of a few vineyards operating and I could see that they weren’t using appropriate equipment,” said David Sayell at Vitifruit Equipment. “My local vineyard Penshurst were adapting small farm or amenity equipment on the vines, it was inefficient, and I thought it was wrong having seen what they were doing abroad.”

Growing up on the family farm, studying agriculture at Plumpton College and working as a farm contractor for a number of years, David has always had a foot on the ground and even continues to manage a small vineyard.

His practical experience and understanding of working with machinery in the field coupled with extensive research, visiting manufacturers and attending trade shows has helped David to provide specialist vineyard equipment, concentrating on reliability and usability.

“I have been pretty shrewd in selecting what I believed was the right equipment for the UK market,” said David. “I wanted it to be quality equipment which would get the job done and wasn’t going to cause lots of hassle with break downs.”

While the viticulture machinery market has changed extraordinarily since David started in equipment sales in 1995, his key principles remain the same and in 2010, David joined forces with Richard Witt to establish Vitifruit Equipment and further expand the provision of quality equipment.

The seamless transition to Vitifruit Equipment helped to focus the business and with Richard looking after the day to day running of the company, David is able to concentrate on advising customers and identifying the right machinery for their needs.

“We give a very personal touch with David dedicated to looking after customers,” said Richard Witt. “It is not just about selling, because ill-advised choices can actually make a job harder. If a machine doesn’t do the job it is needed for, you are back to square one. We provide meaningful advice and part of our service is to identify and supply the exact machine for the job in hand.”

Taking specialist requirements and budgets into consideration, David has tried to find at least two suppliers for most machines at varying price points and always encourages customers to try the machines before they buy.

“We will bring the equipment to the vineyard and demonstrate what it is capable of,” said David. “I hear so many stories of where other machines have been out and damaged vines and the perception is that every machine will cause damage but that is not the case.”

Focused on sourcing and supplying dependable equipment, Vitifruit has not needed to recruit any staff for servicing or repairs and consciously decided to not venture into tractor sales, opting instead to develop strong relationships with a few local dealerships such as Haynes and Leppard Engineering.

“We do keep parts, but we have reliable machinery,” said David. “We also don’t do tractors, so we don’t need a big workshop. If a vineyard asks which tractor is right for them I will talk through their requirements, the size of the vineyard and the budget. It often comes down to the hydraulics of the tractor and finding a model which is comfortable and useable.”

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