It has been a busy few years for Matt Solley. After winning Farmers Weekly Farm Manager of the Year in 2008 he returned to the family fold in Mongeham Kent and set up J S Crop Management as a joint venture providing the machinery and labour to the Solley farm and the neighbouring Northbourne Farming Partnership. The success of the venture has allowed Matt to expand the business to cover a couple of farms near Canterbury – a mere 24 miles from base and brings over 4,000 acres under Matt’s management. Managing the extra contracts at a distance started Matt re-evaluating the kit he had at his disposal. Based around the tasks J S Crop Management had to perform Matt needed a tractor flexible enough to excel both on the road and in the field.
When Matt’s local dealer suggested looking at the new Fendt 800 Vario, Matt was initially a little sceptical about the up-front cost. However once the figures were analysed it became apparent that when projected fuel savings, productivity improvements and tractor resale values were put into the equation the overall costs of Fendt ownership were considerably less than other makes. A trip to the Fendt factory in Marktoberdorf to see the product being engineered and assembled confirmed his view that Fendt represented “the ultimate tractor” and he subsequently invested in a 248 hp Fendt Vario 824, combining the potential of a 60 kph road capability with the necessary power and specification to easily cope with field work.
In early 2011 the new Fendt 800 Vario went to work in the fields of Kent – the first one in the county - and the 824 has so far clocked up around 500 trouble free hours. Matt aims to do around 1200 hours per year in the 824 and is impressed with the engineering and build quality. It’s a long road to and from Canterbury and it was interesting to see if the 824 performed on the tarmac as well as it is billed.
Ian Lawrence the day to day operator, who has quickly developed a good working relationship with the 824, commented that “the Vario box is awesome on the road” and jokes that the dual circuit braking system is so good that wearing a seat belt is a must! He confirms that the cab and axle suspension combined with the new X5 cab gives an exceptionally smooth, comfortable and quiet ride, which, together with the safety first attitude of the Fendt engineers make roadwork safe and easy. In fact the Fendt 824 Vario is the only tractor in the J S Crop Management fleet that makes the regular 48 mile round trip to the contract sites in Canterbury.
There has been a lot of discussion about the merits of the SCR AdBlue additive versus the particulate filter for meeting the latest engine emission targets. Fendt have chosen the SCR AdBlue route and Matt is convinced that this is the correct decision. J S Crop Management have a tank of AdBlue on site from which they top the additive tank up when they re-fuel. Ian says that when silaging with the tractor this year he spent two days in the field and used half a tank of diesel – 250 litres!
Matt and Ian are very pleased with the new Varioterminal, their ProfiPlus version has the 10.4” screen to which Matt already feeds images from an on board camera helping Ian to monitor implement tasks such as “pick-up” during silaging.
Matt is also planning to install another camera on the back of their Stewart tipping trailer to ensure safe reversing.