Preferred tractor brands have returned to the fields of a large potato producer following the opening of RW Crawford’s Billingshurst and Ropley depots.
Whitewater Potatoes Ltd operates from Lodge Farm, North Warnborough, Hampshire, and grows approximately 40,000 tonnes of potatoes for crisps on 800ha of owned and rented land. Seed tubers are grown on a second farm in Scotland, ensuring crop quality control from seed to crisp. Other main crops include cereals, and there is also a Soil Association-certified organic free-range poultry enterprise with up to 20,000 hens laying eggs supplied to major supermarkets and farm shops.
The business is owned by the Janaway family and managed by Richard Janaway and his sons, Andrew, Duncan, and Gavin. Much of the fieldwork is seasonal, and up to 35 tractors are needed at peak times, although the regular fleet includes only ten machines.
Three of the four Fendt 900 Vario-series tractors supplied to Hampshire-based Whitewater Potatoes by RW Crawford.
Return to Valtra
Four Valtra tractors include an A114 HiTech, an N124 HiTech, a T234 Versu and a T254 Direct, all supplied by local main dealer RW Crawford Ltd on two-year contract-hire agreements. Two have front loaders, and the versatile tractors are used all year round for general tasks, from shunting lorry trailers in the yard to moving irrigation equipment for field work, farm transport, and grass topping. “Our fleet included Valtra tractors in the past, but we moved to another brand and dealer when a more attractive package was offered, including better back-up,” explained Gavin Janaway. “When RW Crawford was appointed to represent Valtra in our area and opened its new depots at Billingshurst and Ropley, we were keen to find out what the team could offer. In 2020, we agreed an initial deal for the long-term hire of two Valtras working 1,200–1,400 hours per year. Then, impressed by the dealer’s very good service, we added another two tractors. The N-series tractor is especially good, but all the Valtras pull well and are excellent on the road.”
Whitewater Potatoes specialises in potatoes for crisp making and produces approximately 40,000t each year. The Fendt tractors are ideal for land preparation ahead of planting, including operating the farm’s three-bed tillers and are preferred to other premium brands used previously.
One 800-series, four 900-series and four 700-series Fendt tractors have been hired from R W Crawford this spring, repeating a similar arrangement which has proved successful over the last two seasons. The two 942 Varios, a 939 Vario and a 936 Vario have been hired for this planting season, carrying out heavy field tasks preparing the land for potatoes. “They are well balanced and ideal for working with our bed tillers,” continued Gavin. “Last spring the tractors worked 400–500 hours in less than two months and they were reliable, fuel efficient and easy to move between work areas with their 60kph transmissions.”
Fendt tractors had been used previously but were replaced by another premium brand hired each season from a more local dealer until 2019. “We always liked Fendt and considered the tractors far superior for the work that we do. The drivers enjoy operating them too, so when RW Crawford opened its new depots in Sussex and Hampshire, we considered it an ideal opportunity to return to the brand we prefer.”
The Fendts are equipped with VarioGrip on-board tyre inflation to optimise performance on- and off-road.
There are five full-time tractor operators, and although their opinions are sought when new tractors are being considered, Gavin said the priority is suitability for the task and the package offered by the dealer. Asked whether hiring tractors from RW Crawford allows the same choice of specifications as buying, Gavin confirmed that everything needed is available. “We require front PTOs for potato harvesting and upgraded hydraulic oil supplies too. There has been no problem obtaining tractors equipped with the features we need. ”
Although the Fendt and Valtra tractors have proved reliable, Gavin stressed that relying on efficient dealer back-up in the event of breakdowns is essential.
“As a family farming business, dealing with another family-owned and run business like RW Crawford is attractive. We get on well with the dealer team and find managing director Wes Crawford keen to work with us and always approachable”.
“We tend to stay loyal to suppliers when we feel we are being looked after, and although there are several other dealers to choose from, the service from RW Crawford is excellent.”
Valtra tractors are used throughout the year, supplied by RW Crawford on a contract-hire agreement.
“In 2021, we chose the smaller A- and N-series tractors for loader work as they are extremely versatile,” he explained. “They are perfect for working with our irrigators in the summer as they are light and very manoeuvrable, and we use them for chicken feeding in the winter as, with their wide low-profile tyres, they cause little ground damage even in wet conditions. With the front loaders they are perfect for smaller handling tasks away from the farm, and the N-series’ 50kph transmission allows it to travel between sites more quickly than our other loaders.
“Even though the A-series tractor has only a 40kph transmission it still has air brakes, so it is perfect for shunting potato bulkers around the yard using our high-tech dolly,” he added.