In the last six years, The Jersey Royal Company has reportedly saved over £300,000 through an unconventional but effective use of a Stocks Ag Rotor Meter. As well as, the company has also helped the island of Jersey to improve the drinking water quality.
In 2016, having discovered that the island’s drinking water contained more than 50mg per litre of nitrogen, Jersey’s environment minister published a five-year water management plan, which relied heavily on working with the Action for Cleaner Water group.
As a key member of the group, The Jersey Royal Company was determined to do what it could to help the group. Mike Renouard, business unit director, asked the engineering manager, Ricky Gallon to look at solving two key objectives: reducing the amount of fertiliser the company was using and applying it in a more targeted way.
Before 2016, the firm used a spreader to apply fertiliser before hand planting and it was decided that the ideal solution was to place the fertiliser directly into the row beneath the tubers. However, they were disappointed with the accuracy of combining a wheel-driven applicator and power harrow, and were faced with limited options on the island.
Mr Gallon, who had previously worked for RG Herbert, just a stone’s throw away from Stocks Ag, said: “Having spent considerable time looking at what was available to us, I knew we needed something different to what was commonly used on the mainland. We needed something that would suit the unique nature of Jersey’s farmland. That’s why I picked up the phone to Stocks Ag. I knew if anyone could help us, it would be them.”
Stocks Ag accepted the challenge and just a few weeks after the enquiry, the R&D team had customised a Rotor Meter to deliver what The Jersey Royal Company was looking for. This involved mounting and controlling a fourth hopper on the unit, which had been a proven tool for potato growers for more than thirty years.
“The solution our team came up with offers everything Ricky was looking for,” said David Goodale in Stocks Ag’s technical sales team. “We engineered a way to place four hoppers on a planter, with each hopper having one outlet.”
The unit was first used in the 2016 season, achieving a 15% reduction in fertiliser use. Mr Gallon and the team were so impressed that they ordered another four machines for the following year, with an additional two units added in 2020 and 2022.
In 2020, Stocks Ag developed the i-CON system to control and maintain pre-set application rates and retrofitted this to The Jersey Royal Company’s machines; this led to a further reduction in fertiliser use.
“As part of the government’s water management plan, each of our fields is graded red, amber or green for the presence of nitrates,” explained Mr Gallon. “We farm 1,600 fields, with an average area of just two acres! Each field’s nitrogen grading is stored in the cloud, and the driver accesses this remotely via a tablet or phone. Then with just a few selections on the touchscreen, they’ve set the i-CON system to deliver the right application rate to suit their location. We save so much time by having a touchscreen and access to remote information. It’s a fantastic system for us and makes the Rotor Meter so easy to use.”
As well as the ease of use, the 24 units used by the company have reportedly helped to reduce fertiliser use to just 1,000 tonnes per season – a 15% reduction from the pre-2016 seasons.
“We are really happy with how the Rotor Meters perform, and the cost savings they have created means they pay for themselves in just one season,” he added. “Over the six years of using the Rotor Meter in this way, I think we’ve saved over £300,000 in fertiliser costs. Perhaps even better than the financial benefits is that since introducing the Rotor Meters, the presence of nitrates in our fields is now under 40 mg per litre.
“I think the next step will be to see if we can use GPS data to plot fertiliser application in even more detail, which will reduce the amount we use even further, leading to better water quality and further financial savings!”
Mr Goodale is expecting more growers to follow suit as they look to reduce input costs.
“With fertiliser prices rising rapidly in 2022, reducing input costs has become a priority for all farmers, not just The Jersey Royal Company,” he said. “Running in parallel with cost savings is a desire to increase precision while at the same time looking after the land.
“The Jersey Royal Company wanted to see its fertiliser working at the point of sowing and not running off the surface during rainfall. We used our engineering experience to develop a solution that achieves both objectives. It’s great to know that the water quality in Jersey has improved and that The Jersey Royal Company has managed to save over £300,000 since using the Rotor Meter in this unusual but effective way.”
For more information go to www.stocks-ag.co.uk