working speed 0.4 km/h
“Unbelievable dimensions and extreme contrasts,” is the way Jörn Gläser describes his impression of Australia. He was in Melbourne for four months for Fendt and visited several Fendt customers during this time and asked them what they think about the brand and the products from the Allgäu. In this report, Jörn describes what he experienced at the other end of the world.
I am very proud that I had the opportunity to go to melbourne for Fendt directly after I graduated. My internship began mid-April. One of my tasks was to investigate how satisfied Fendt customers are with the tractors from Marktoberdorf in faraway Australia and how they are used – nearly 16,000 km away. I immediately received a hearty welcome in Melbourne. My workplace was in the Marketing team of the different AGCO brands. In the first few days, I learned a lot about the agricultural machinery market in Australia from my new colleagues. And then it was already time to go out – to visit real Fendt customers “Down Under”.
In my second week, at 4:30 in the morning, my colleague Cameron Power, Digital Marketing Officer AGCO Australia, and I made our way from Melbourne towards the North in the dark morning light – as always, I had my camera with me. We arrived at our destination at sunrise: one of the largest olive producers in Australia, maybe even the entire world. One million olive trees are planted on an area totalling 2,700 hectares near the inconspicuous village of Boort. Two additional locations belong to the farm, which brings the total area that is cultivated to more than 6,200 hectares. Just a reminder: we are talking about an olive plantation, not an arable farming enterprise!
“Professional machinery is crucial in a farm of this size,” says Gerard Healy, Farm Manager in Boort. The farm has been relying on the 200 Vario and 400 Vario series from Marktoberdorf for six years now. There are currently 13 Fendt 200 Vario and eleven Fendt 400 Vario tractors in operation on the farms. For the running harvest, the tractors are responsible for transporting the harvested olives. Just how well they work for olive production can be seen in the olive grove, next to the gigantic harvester. The vehicle, called “Colossus”, lives up to its name. The full harvester literally swallows up the trees, the olives, however, are combed out gently. At a working speed of 0.4 km/h! The 200 Vario, which collects the harvested olives, also has to maintain this snail’s pace.
It takes a good two hours until a wagon is filled and the trip over the rolling farmland to the oil mill can begin. The distances travelled are up to 12 km. Here the top speed of 40 km/h plays a great role. The farm harvests with 19 full harvesters simultaneously and generally in a 24-hour shift. An additional 120 seasonal workers are hired for this. The olives are marketed through the farm as the most widespread olive oil in the country, ”Cobram Estate”.
Gerard Healy produces one of the best olive oils in the world –with the help of “Colossus” and several Fendt 200 Vario tractors.
It is 5 pm Friday and finishing time is nearing as I get a call from Stuart Bowman. He is a farmer on the island of Tasmania and invites me to come and visit him this weekend. He didn’t have to ask twice. I packed up my gear and just made it to the 6 pm ferry in Port Melbourne with my car. After a not very rejuvenating night on a reclining chair, we arrived in the port of Devonport at 6:00 in the morning. At this point, it would make sense to rethink the term “island” in regard to Tasmania, after all, it almost has the same amount of area as Ireland. A bit later I met Stuart in Deloraine, about 50 km away. The 35-yearold is a contractor in an arable farming region. Stuart took his place in a Fendt tractor cab for the first time ten years ago at a field day. That apparently left a strong impression on him: after the first two Fendt 700 Vario tractors, the current fleet includes a Fendt 820 Vario, a Fendt 822 Vario and a Fendt 922 Vario.
As I arrived, Stuart was just about to start working with the Fendt 822 Vario and a 5-metre Lemken disc harrow. I leapt up directly into the instructor seat. Stuart tells me he loves his Fendts. That is why he spends a lot of time in the driver seat, even though he has an employee and temporary operators. In addition to cultivation work, the tractors are used a lot in grassland operations. Furthermore, he also has a job harvesting opium poppies with two tractors. The Fendts are equipped with reversing driver stations and, fitted with a header and transport wagon, they turn into self-propelled harvesters. Opium poppy cultivation, for example, for producing morphine, is strictly controlled by the government. The climatic conditions, but certainly also the geographical remoteness of this area, make it perfect for cultivating this precarious crop.
The next day, before I visit another rig from Stuart’s contacting business, I travel to one of the largest vegetable producers on the island. Harvest Moon produces carrots, leek, broccoli and much more in Northern Tasmania, but it also markets products from other farmers. Things are relatively quiet right now. Sowing and cultivation is done with two Fendt tractors. Both work on very impressive, scenic fields. The cab is a “room with a view” with a panorama of the Tasmanian Sea. Steven is sowing with his 716 Vario above the steep coast and Geoffrey is working with his Fendt 939 Vario in the interior of the land on a slope with a 6-metre Kuhn rotary harrow. In the background is the typical primeval Tasmanian forest, which covers nearly 30 percent of the entire island and is unexplored in many areas.
July is one of the coolest and most unattractive months in Southern Australia. An ideal time to organise a tour to the farmers in the North. A threehour flight takes me to the holiday town of Cairns in Queensland. The year-round summer temperatures and the coast near to the Great Barrier Reef make this region my highlight. Besides citrus fruits and sugar cane, vegetables are also cultivated here. After a two-hour car drive on dirt roads, I meet Don Murray, who uses a 211 Vario on his farm for cultivating organic vegetables. Pumpkins and zucchini are the main crops.
“On my farm, the Vario is driven by me and four different employees. We all managed very well with the new continuously variable transmission from the very beginning. It really simplifies operation and work,” praises Don.
Duncan McNeil is a very busy man. Only on the next to last day of my internship in Melbourne, were we able to arrange an appointment to visit him – although his business is only 1.5 hours by car away, practically “next-door”. Duncan has 22 Fendt tractors in his fleet, ranging from the Fendt tool carrier and the Xylon up to the 800er Vario and the 900er Vario.
Duncan started in the 1980’s, with a Farmer 309. In the meantime, he has grown to become the biggest service provider in the region. And, thanks to their reliability, the Fendt tractors have played a great role in the success of his company, he says. The tractors prove themselves with high speeds towing a Tridem loading wagon and, last but not least, with RTK systems for precise tillage and seeding. The four months were a fantastic experience for me and the insight I gained about Australian agriculture will be a lasting memory. See you, Australia!
Duncan McNeil is a contractor near Melbourne.
He visited the Fendt factory in Marktoberdorf in 2014.