Lamma is a unique showcase for specialist agricultural products offered by importers who have developed their businesses to support machinery for specific applications. Jane Carley looks at three of these companies.
Mastenbroek was founded in 1965 in Boston, Lincolnshire, by Dutch drainage equipment manufacturer John Mastenbroek, who saw strong links between the conditions in the South Holland region of East Anglia and the Netherlands.
A major milestone for the company came in 1973 when the use of laser control of drainage grade and depth was incorporated in the machinery designs.
Mastenbroek’s history in drainage equipment goes back to the 1960s.
General manager Christopher Pett says: “Mastenbroek was the one of the first companies to use lasers in the UK. It was as revolutionary as the use of GPS in agriculture a few years later, eliminating the need to use rods for measurements.”
The company also began manufacturing drainage machines in Boston, designed specifically for UK agriculture to suit the varied soil conditions.
“Many other countries have similar conditions to the UK, giving us export opportunities,” says Mr Pett.
In the late 1960s Mastenbroek became the importer for the Dutch-built Herder mowing arms, providing water management systems, and in 1999 the franchise for Conver maintenance boats completed the circle.
“We also expanded the range to cover drain jetters, aiming at the niche end of the market with high pressure machines for contaminated drains.
GPS guidance for drainage trenchers has been a major milestone for the industry and for Mastenbroek.
From 1977 to 1984 the focus was on farm drainage trenchers, but with the sudden removal of all agricultural drainage grants in 1984, Mastenbroek needed to diversify.
Projects included sub-sea trenchers, designed to work on the sea bed, which have recently found a new market in offshore wind farms, allowing grids of cables to be laid below the ocean to share electricity between countries. Trenches can be made at depths down to 1,000 metres (3,280ft).
He points out one of Mastenbroek’s strengths is it is still a small business with 35 employees, maintaining a hands-on approach.
“The headquarters was originally a farm building but has gradually expanded to cover an eight-acre site, and it is still a privately owned company. The current majority shareholder, Jack Geelhoed, came here as a teenager from Holland to work as a fitter. Many of the staff have worked at Mastenbroek for 30 years or more.”
Other niche products include high pressure drain jetters.
The pioneering approach has continued in the agricultural side of the business, which has seen fortunes improve as farmers seek to boost yields and improve margins by addressing drainage issues.
Mastenbroek’s laser supplier became part of the Trimble group and, in 2011, the two companies began to explore the use of GPS to control depth and grade on trenchers.
By 2014 the technology had developed to combine this with auto steer on the trencher.
Mr Pett describes the use of GPS for drainage as a ‘game changer’ in the same way laser grading was in the 1970s and says Mastenbroek builds one trencher a month for agriculture, virtually all of which are GPS-equipped.
Mastenbroek has exhibited at Lamma since 2006 and Mr Pett says: “Although the show has grown considerably, it remains a low cost, exhibitor-friendly event at an ideal time of year for farmers.”
Best known for its cleaner loader range, but now also the importer of several market-leading ranges of harvesting and handling equipment, CTM has a long history of innovation.
The Bergmann beet chaser complements the high output Ropa Tiger harvester, both imported by CTM Harpley.
Like many British agricultural engineers, CTM sprung out of the village forge. Charles Thomas Mountain was a blacksmith and farrier in the hamlet of Harpley, Norfolk, who started producing harrows and other implements required by the rise of tractors.
In 1950, Charles Mountain built the first sugar beet cleaner loader which led to the establishment of Harpley Engineering and subsequently CTM Root Crop Systems, a family business now managed by his grandsons Nigel, Adrian, Andrew and James.
For more than 50 years the company designed and built sugar beet cleaner loaders while providing a subcontracting service to other machinery manufacturers. But in a competitive market, innovation, diversification and partnership with international machinery specialists have been key.
CTM Harpley is probably best known for its cleaner loader range.
Diversification came in 2010 when CTM applied its expertise in soil and stone separation into the new Rockstar range of potato field destoners. Ridgestar field ridgers followed shortly afterwards.
A number of partnerships with specialist equipment manufacturers have also been formed, including UK representation of German sugar beet machinery manufacturer, Ropa, well known for its harvesters and Maus cleaner loaders. In 2016, CTM added Bergmann Beet Chasers to its portfolio.
Nigel Mountain says: “CTM has evolved over the past 66 years and we are ready to meet the future needs of British agriculture.”
Danagri 3S originated when two Danish businessmen joined forces to market Skiold mill and mix machinery and Cormall straw processing equipment in the UK in 1990.
Managing director Mark Unitt says: “The fixed equipment range was then joined by bale wrappers, maize drills, sugar beet and fodder beet machinery, although these ranges later went on to other distributors and the decision was taken to focus on the core products from 1997.”
Danagri 3S provides specialist sales and support for GSI grain storage products, now part of the Agco group.
There are four main product groups, which Mr Unitt points out offer synergies in terms of sales and support.
The GSI range includes silos and grain drying equipment, complemented by JEMA elevators and conveyors. Skiold mill and mix equipment goes mainly into the pig and poultry market, which also sees demand for the JEMA range.
Cormall straw processors fulfil a semi-industrial market for producers who process straw into pellets or shredded products for feeds, animal bedding industry or briquettes for biomass heating.
Hampshire Feeding Systems was bought in 1999 and supplies liquid feeding equipment for pig farms. In addition to UK sales, this range is exported to English-speaking countries and has also been successful in Japan.
Storage silos can be designed and built for a variety of products.
“The ranges complement each other because if, for example, the arable business is good, grain equipment sales increase. But if prices are down, input costs for pig and poultry farmers fall so they can invest. Our turnover has been consistent year on year, but the contribution of each product area varies,” says Mr Unitt.
He says interest in drying and storage equipment for handling woodchip destined for biomass boilers has grown in recent years and the nature of investments and installations has also changed.
“Farms smaller than 500 acres find it hard to invest but business is good on the larger estates. We have also seen significant investment in mill and mix systems from the pig industry. In many cases feed ingredients have changed over the years and producers are having to update their systems to keep up. One issue for us is although rotors and hammers need replacement, mills can last 30 years.”
Feeding equipment has to keep pace with the changing needs of livestock production.
On the arable side, farmers update their combines but do not always realise grain intake and drying equipment needs upgrading to meet the extra capacity.
Technology moves on apace, and Mr Unitt expects in-bin drying to grow on larger farms as it has in the USA, offering the opportunity to store and dry in one place.
He says the disc mill, introduced in 2000, was a major development on the mill and mix side, moving trade away from hammer mills.
“Our customer base is diverse. We recently carried out a £750,000 mill and mix project in Scotland, but can still cater for a single bin order for a family farm.
Danagri 3S has exhibited at Lamma since the 1990s and Mr Unitt says the event was welcomed for its exhibitor-friendly approach.
“Timing is surprisingly tight for us to follow enquiries and commission grain equipment for the forthcoming harvest. We see less emphasis on actually selling equipment at the show these days, but it is still worthwhile. We also take a different approach, often using videos, models and photos of installations as a talking point, rather than displaying machinery.”