Future-Proofing with Fendt: Crows Lane Estate Invest in a Strategic Upgrade

Investing in a fleet of four new narrow Fendt vineyard tractors from Crawfords is part of a strategy to future-proof a Vineyard located in the Crouch Valley and its associated contracting business. Managed by Mikey Hollington, Crows Lane Estate in Essex benefits from the reliability and advanced features of Fendt tractors, enhancing both efficiency and productivity.

The Right, Modern Kit

“When my father set up our vineyard in 2018, we relied on a standard vineyard tractor, but it was quickly obvious when we started offering our contracting service that newer and more reliable tractors and a fleet of modern implements were needed, and that is when we bought our first Fendt,” explained Mikey.

The family’s own 34ha vineyard produces top quality Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes which are processed and bottled elsewhere. Mikey, and his team of two full-time and two part-time operators carry out all the vineyard operations throughout the year and provide a contracting service for other growers within 20–30 miles of the base. The main contracting tasks include mowing, spraying, under-vine and inter-row cultivations, canopy management, harvesting and composting. The Fendts have a 40kph transmission and perform well on the road, but for working further afield into Suffolk and Norfolk, then they are moved on the company’s low-loader instead.

Fendt Favoured

The Fendt tractor fleet includes four 113hp 211 F Vario tractors, bought one each year since 2021. This year, an older Fendt 208 Vario was also added to the fleet. “We like Fendt because the build quality and reliability are superb,” continued Mikey. “The ISOBUS link is also an attraction, allowing compatible implements to operate direct from the tractor controls and display, which means an additional screen isn’t needed. That saves space in the narrow cabs and makes a considerable difference to operator comfort.”

Fendt vineyard tractors

Other attractions of Fendt include the Vario CVT transmission. “It’s smooth and very flexible, and provides infinite speed control,” explained Foreman James Pegram. “We work on some steep slopes, but it’s easy to maintain the correct speed for any task, and to compensate for wheelslip. For harvesting grapes on steep slopes, the foot control transmission is a great safety feature. The instant the operator removes his foot from the pedal, then the tractor stops moving almost instantly, ensuring the safety of others nearby.”

GPS Guidance

Three of the Fendt 211 F Varios have the top Profi Plus specification and the fourth tractor has the base Power equipment level. Profi Plus machines come with GPS guidance and autosteer. “Working within the vineyards, we don’t tend to use autosteer as although the vines are usually planted in straight lines, many operations rely on the driver to steer the tractor relative to each plant,” said Mikey. “The GPS guidance is used most of the time though, especially for operations such as spraying.”

“It makes the job much easier,” confirmed full-time operator, Lucy Wright. “The Fendts are very manoeuvrable, but it’s often easier and more comfortable working alternate rows rather than turning back on yourself at the headlands. Doing that without GPS guidance is risky. It’s hard to tell which rows have already been sprayed so it’s easy to lose track and miss rows or apply a double dose. However, the Fendt display clearly shows the areas worked so far, and those still to do. You can’t go wrong.”

User-friendly Controls

The Fendt ONE display allows users to select what information is shown on which of the two screens. James said he prefers GPS guidance and field maps displayed on the dashboard screen in front of the steering wheel, and tractor and Isobus implement settings on the roof-mounted display.

Most tractor settings are adjusted from the touch-screen terminals. “On other tractors I’ve used, adjusting hydraulic oil flow meant getting out of the cab, squeezing between the tractor and implement, and adjusting taps at the rear, but on the Fendts we just touch the screen and adjust the flow on the move,” pointed out James. “We can also save preferred settings for different applications and implements. Using a side-mounted rotating nylon cutting head for under-vine weed control requires high oil flow for aggressive cutting, but when the same implement is used for bud rubbing, then a lower speed reduces trunk damage. I just select the memorised hydraulic flow setting for each task and it’s set up instantly.”

Investing in Precision Technology

Mikey said that although only a handful of current vineyard implements are ISOBUS-compatible, he expects greater availability in future. “For operating complex implements it offers many advantages, making precision farming techniques such as variable rate applications according to field maps possible. It also makes it easier to record and share task data through the telematics. In future, this sort of technology is going to be considered essential by our customers.”

Cab Comfort Essential

James commented that most agricultural tractor operators don’t realise how much time vineyard operatives can spend in their cabs. Within six weeks of its arrival in April this year, the newest 211 F Vario had already worked 500 hours and, like two of the other spraying tractors, it is expected to record up to 1,500 hours annually. “We have a long and demanding working season, and when vine treatments are needed then day after day, we spend 12 hours or more in the cabs. They are much smaller than agricultural tractor cabs, but operator comfort is just as important. The Fendt cabs are particularly well designed and come with Cat 4 filtration for spraying.”

Lucy said that having used Fendt vineyard tractors, she wouldn’t be happy now to swap brands. “It’s got to have a dark green bonnet! I love my Fendt and really enjoy my time in the seat. It would be hard to improve on the working environment, and especially the comfort and ease of use.”

Exceptional service

“The service from the Crawfords team at Writtle is exceptional,”


“Even though most customers are farmers and agricultural contractors, Dealer Principal, Wes Crawford; Sales Operations Director, Nunzio Rio and Area Sales Manager, Tim Osborne all seem to understand our business. The service and parts teams also realise what we are up against, and the back-up is more like a specialist vineyard machinery supplier. The Fendts are reliable, but if problems occur then someone is usually out within 60–90 minutes, even at weekends, and the engineers quickly identify and fix any issues. I’m keen to see Crawfords take on additional specialist vineyard machinery brands to complement the range of tractors. The team is so easy to deal with and the service is so good that we would buy more from them as the portfolio continues to grow.”

The new Fendt tractors were purchased with an 8,000-hour warranty and service package, allowing ownership costs to be fixed. “Fendt tractors make sense for us. We can’t afford downtime, and their reliability and efficiency are second to none. They are exceptionally economical in terms of fuel use too,” Mikey concluded. “The tractors also help us attract and retain the best operators. Good staff are increasingly hard to find, but being able to offer a modern Fendt tractor to work on makes the job much more attractive, especially when so many hours are spent in the cabs. I can’t imagine any reason why we would move away from Fendt tractors anytime soon.”

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