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Richard Hibbard, Manager of E.C. Dummomd in front of a Fendt 200 Vario

It is the only tractor that our operators want to sit in for 12-hour shifts. It is more comfortable, easier to operate, and we also make significant fuel savings over alternatives

E.C. Drummond - England - Fendt 207, 208, 209, 210 and 211 Vario

It is the only tractor that our operators want to sit in for 12-hour shifts. It is more comfortable, easier to operate, and we also make significant fuel savings over alternatives

Fendt 200 Vario favoured for fruit

When E.C. Drummond made the move to tabletop strawberry growing it changed the business’s machinery requirement leading to a fleet of Fendt 200 Vario tractors being supplied by local dealer Ross Farm Machinery. With further expansion into top fruit production, manager Richard Hibbard has made the most of Fendt’s smallest tractor series and believes the move has helped retain skilled staff, reduce fuel consumption, and increase crop yields.
Of the five Fendt tractors in the fleet, the latest model has had the biggest impact. The 211F has Fendt’s new operating system, FendtOne, which is controlled by a 10-inch terminal in the cab and can be used to program a number of pre-sets for implements and farm work. “The screen is typically Fendt, intuitive and easy to use. Our operators frequently move between the tractors so the ability to store pre-sets is of great benefit, and whilst the older models have a level of programmability, this latest operating system is more comprehensive and saves a great deal of time,” says Mr Hibbard.

There are five models in the 200 Vario range: the 207, 208, 209, 210 and top of the range 211. Power outputs start at 79 horsepower and extend to 124 horsepower. All models are available as Power, Profi and Profi+ with AGCO’s three-cylinder 3.3 litre engine. The 211 benefits from a power boost called ‘Dynamic Performance’ which releases an additional ten horsepower on demand. The system detects when components such as the PTO, hydraulics, engine fan and air-con need more power, and then provides that added power through smart control.
The installation of a tabletop system offered both the opportunity and challenge of how to manage the new strawberry crop. Coir bags were chosen as the substrate which stand a metre off the ground, and the rows have been spaced to allow the Fendt access for regular spraying. “The method of growing on tabletops was the main catalyst for buying more 200 series tractors. The narrow width and high seating position of the Fendt makes it the perfect place to view the crop. We use a Cima sprayer with drop down bars that can spray the strawberries from both above and below, achieving an almost 360-degree spray, and with the Fendt’s Vario we can control our speed more easily and accurately,” he says.

Two cruise control settings can be stored on the new terminal and operators can also store engine speed to provide a constant PTO speed. For the first time, drivers can make engine and gear adjustments using buttons on the joystick. The joystick controls two valves and activates cruise control. It also has buttons ready to be assigned to additional controls, such as the work lights and engine or gearbox functions.

Comfort has always been a distinguishing part of the Fendt brand and the 200 is no exception. Despite being a compact machine with a turning circle of just 4.2 metres, the cabin feels every bit like that of one of the larger models. Even the seat has also been remodelled to give greater cushioning and support. “The seat and the flat floor are both features that I believe keep our operators happy, and if they are happy, they are more likely to stay with us. I have no doubt that by providing Fendt tractors we have been able to improve our staff retention rate.”
The business has devised some custom attachments for the Fendts to operate more efficiently in the orchards. A JCB headstock and muck grab has been adapted to help with pruning. “The Fendt is the perfect width to travel between rows and has plenty of power and lifting capacity to manage the work that we would otherwise have to use a telehandler for. It is also light and easier to manoeuvre.” A flail-like pulveriser has also been developed to help break up the prunings that are subsequently mulched back into the grass strips.

The new 211F model is taller than its predecessor, which offers the operator better vision over the loader and gives an overall feeling of space. The crossbar between the windscreen and the roof window is narrower and there is a bigger inspection window, which is particularly helpful for high front loader work and spraying in the orchards. “We invested in a Munckhof sprayer last season which can spray over three rows. The Fendt enables the operator to see how the boom is operating more easily and make any adjustments needed to achieve an even coverage.”

The oldest 200 Vario in the fleet is a 209 on a 2015 plate and has covered over 7000 hours. It is still used regularly for moving coir bags and helping to remove the tunnel plastic. “It is still performing well, and the support and servicing we have had from Ross Farm Machinery has been superb. The polytunnel plastic works on a three-year cycle and when we replace the plastic there is plenty of work for all the tractors from winding up the plastic to send for recycling to spreading the content of the used coir bags on the orchards.”
Mr Hibbard has tested other brands and often looks at machinery alternatives but has come back to the 200 series each time. “It is the only tractor that our operators want to sit in for 12-hour shifts. It is more comfortable, easier to operate, and we also make significant fuel savings over alternatives, so there is little doubt that we will replace the 2015 with the new model soon,” he concludes.