Prospects for the upcoming National Fruit Show appear better than ever. Stand space sold out well in advance, indicating healthy support for the apple and pear industry from its suppliers of machinery, equipment, requisites and services.
The event is taking place at the Kent County Showground in Detling, near Maidstone, on 19-20 October. Organised by the Marden Fruit Show Society, it will be officially opened by agriculture minister Jim Paice. Undoubtedly, he will be impressed by the competition entries that form the centrepiece in the main hall. Their numbers and quality promise to be as high as ever.
"There's been a lot of momentum behind the show's organisation thanks to the sterling efforts of the show committee, excellent people in the office and my brilliant vice-chairman Robert Oliver," says show chairman Sarah Calcutt. "We've also been looking closely at the way things are done and trying to improve many aspects." Admittance to the show is free.
Main sponsors Norman Collett, BASF, Agrovista and ICA will be joined this year by solicitors Whitehead Monckton based in Tenterden and Maidstone and large-scale Kent grower Clive Goatham.
Goatham will be supplying a lorry after the show closes to take competition entries, including fruit juice, to the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate, where the fruit will be sold to visitors at a Country Live event. "Its organisers are building a special display stand and we will be cooking apples for the public in its kitchen theatre," says Calcutt.
In Maidstone, various special events are planned. At a Cameo Champagne reception on Norman Collett's stand on the first afternoon, visitors will have the chance to participate in a lottery-type game, says Cameo Europe manager Fiona Davidson. The prize will be a weekend in Paris including a dinner cruise on the Seine or a cabaret show at the Lido. The winner's name will be announced during prize-giving for the competition classes (see box, page 36).
This year, the ceremony will be held at 12 noon on the second day to give winners from further afield who may not be at the show the opportunity to attend.
Other special events will include the launching of a new dessert apple variety on fruit tree supplier JR Breach's stand. Its details are being kept under wraps until the show.
As part of the show society's campaign to inform youngsters about how fruit is grown and its nutritional value, it has appointed an education officer, Samantha Smith. She is producing a leaflet describing a year in the life of an apple tree, the amount of fruit produced and who sells, presented in the form of cartoon strips. In addition, she is preparing explanatory notes on fruit production for local schools so that teachers can explain the process to their pupils before they attend next year's show.
For the second year running, the show dinner will be held at Turkey Mill in Maidstone on the evening of the first day. The event is proving popular and is almost fully booked already, according to show secretary Maria Clarke. At the dinner, Pro-Tech Marketing will be announcing its sponsorship of the Bonanza prize, with a weekend for two in Prague up for grabs.
A number of companies, including many machinery providers, will have stands at the show for the first time - or will be introducing new products to the industry - with the aim of informing a large number of potential customers in a short period about their machines and services.
"Fruit growers are currently investing heavily in machinery and getting it right is paramount," says Calcutt. "Growers are able to come to the show and see like-for-like machinery, talk to sales teams and make an informed decision to the benefit of their businesses."
Agwood, Massey Ferguson's appointed Kent and East Sussex dealer, will be showing a new addition to the well-established MF 3600 series of specialist fruit and vineyard tractors.
Making its first-ever appearance in the UK, Agwood will display a pre-production version of the model - one of three new specialist narrow tractors of 80hp-plus due to be launched formally by Massey Ferguson in November.
Rated at 102hp maximum, the MF 3660 will be joined at its launch by the 94hp-maximum MF 3650 and 84hp-maximum MF 3640 - extending the series to five. Among the noteworthy features of the new MF 3660 is the use of high-performance common-rail diesel engines with electronic engine management and new Powershuttle/Speedshift transmissions offering eight clutchless gears.
In addition, the Agwood stand will feature a new utility front-end loader for Massey Ferguson tractors. The MF 915 is purpose-designed for the MF 3600 as well as other lowto medium-horsepower Massey Ferguson tractor models.
Newcomer Lister Wilder will have its narrow four-wheel drive Kubota M8540 orchard and vineyard tractor on its stand, with the aim of increasing its presence in the fruit market. Its engine is rated at 85bhp and it has 15 forward and reverse gears.
The tractor, which measures 1.45m wide by 3.7m long by 2.4m high, can be fitted with a flow control valve for hydraulic motor operation allowing the use of leaf and prunings sweepers as well as branch cutters. It is also equipped with an exclusive bi-speed turning system that is activated whenever the turning angle exceeds 32 degs. The result is a smoother and much tighter turn with less ground disturbance.
Stacatruc will also be a first-time exhibitor at the show with the aim of expanding its service to Kent fruit farms. The company sells, rents and services Clark forklift trucks equipped with diesel, electric or gas-powered engines.
"We hope to have an electric or gas forklift and a diesel-powered, four-wheel drive rough terrain forklift on our stand," says company director David Hart. "We also aim to promote the short-term hire of forklifts for use during growers' busiest periods. One big Kent grower is renting five back-up machines from us."
Among the other new exhibitors is Bellingham & Stanley, which will be showing its new digital refractometer that gives an instant reading of fruit's sugar level (Brix) to an accuracy of 0.2 per cent. Selling for £275, it supersedes its economy and professional optical models, which cost £60 and £120 respectively. The company will be donating its three models to the first, second and third prize winners in the juice competition.
On the stand of Ether Creative, another newcomer to the show, growers will be able to learn about the Pomona software programme that it is developing with Mid Kent Growers for recording members' year-round farm activities. Version one includes planting, grubbing, storage and weekly picks in bins by orchard and variety. Twice-daily weather reports - including sunshine hours, rainfall and temperatures - will be incorporated in version two of the software, which is currently being developed.
"The programme is online and cloud-based, which means that growers save information to the web, not to their computers, so that it is always there and cannot be accidentally lost," explains Ether Creative owner Gill Collins.
Family business NP Seymour, based in Cranbrook, Kent, is bringing its new BMV trimming machines to the show. These can be used for both winter and summer pruning of fruit trees to control growth and promote heavier cropping. The machines are suited to modern orchard plantings, especially the new fruit wall systems, the company claims.
The Horsepower (UK) stand will feature the Valpadana tractor range, which is being relaunched into the fruit sector at this year's show. The move follows a decision to fully integrate Valpadana into the ARGO Tractors operation and transfer UK distribution to AgriArgo UK.
The line-up available in Britain comprises six families of compact, four-wheel drive tractors with a choice of articulated chassis or four-wheel steering, creating a total of 24 models.
Reversible driving controls are a highlight of the 26hp 2730 hydrostatic drive tractor and the 54- 101hp 6600 and 9600 machines. These allow the operator to work the tractor in whichever direction best suits the task and equipment involved.
The ability to reduce width to less than 1m on the smaller models should prove attractive to growers wanting a relatively powerful tractor capable of working between narrow soft fruit rows, the company believes.
Haynes Agricultural, New Holland Dealer of the Year for 2010, will be launching a three-year operating lease at the show. A team will be on hand to explain the deal that it is offering on the newly launched and award-winning New Holland T4040N and T4050F.
The financial product will allow growers to fully factor in costs over the lease period with simple monthly payments that include warranty and service costs.
Haynes representative Eric Hysted says: "Traditionally customers either pay outright for their machines or enter into a hire-purchase agreement. We believe that offering an all-inclusive, fixed monthly payment will help with long-term financial planning without the worry of maintenance costs."
Haynes Agricultural has also started distributing France-based Technoma Sprayers. It will be bringing a sprayer from Technoma's Eolis 100-1500-2000L range that has a 1,500-litre polyethylene tank with twin sight gauges, a 150-litre rinse tank with twin rotating tank washing nozzles and a 15-litre hand wash tank.
Exhibitor John Bourne specialised in lime spreading until 2009 but decided to provide a compost spreading service to exploit the increasing volume of PAS 100 green waste compost being produced. The spreader it uses will be on view on the company's stand.
Waste Resources Action Programme trials have shown that the application of PAS 100-assured green waste compost along the herbicide strips in orchards has significant benefits, claims Bourne's Peter Trail.
"The mulch improves the health of trees, gives them a very good start and increases yields," he points out. "It does this by increasing the soil's moisture retention, suppressing weeds and providing nutrients."
The material - produced by a number of companies based in Kent - is collected by Bourne's lorries and tipped onto the headlands of the orchards. A fore-end tractor bucket loads the compost into an adapted PTO-driven lime spreader fitted with a moving floor hopper and a side-delivery conveyor.
The spreader's hopper holds about two tonnes of compost and the application rate is 30 tonnes or more per hectare. It is pulled by a small orchard tractor of around 60bhp.
"Principally, it is for young orchards," says Trail. "The compost needs to be applied in the spring before growth takes off. The cost is basically haulage and application related."
Kent Fruit Services, formerly known as Jan Vogelaar, will be displaying the new Greefa GeoSortIII grader, which boasts 33 per cent capacity and guaranteed accuracy. The machine can sort eight fruits per second instead of six, with precise measurement and guaranteed weighing.
Fruit size is measured using high-resolution white-and-white CCD infrared cameras a number of times using a special combination of hardware and software. This ensures extremely accurate measurements.
The colour of the fruit is determined using CCD colour cameras. The fruit is sorted according to an average value with respect to blush, colour or background colour. Moreover, the use of special filters eliminates the effect of any reflection. The fruit is electronically weighed using an advanced three-point weighing system.
The company's Peter Kelly will be demonstrating the machine to visitors at the show and is confident that this latest generation of technology will continue to streamline packhouses and ensure that quality produce reaches the consumer.
Debating the hot topics
Solicitor Whitehead Monckton will be sponsoring the president's reception and the debate, a first-day innovation. The topics to be discussed will be the Localism Bill, employment prospects in fruit production and whether the apple and pear industry is likely to meet its target of a 50 per cent market share. The chair will be Maldon Fruit Show Society president Michael Jack and the panel will include a grower, a supermarket representative, Fresh Produce Consortium chief Nigel Jenney and English Apples & Pears head Adrian Barlow.
There will be the usual 22 competition classes for apples and pears, displayed on double-sided staging in the main hall to form the show's centrepiece, together with classes for soft fruit, cobnuts and walnuts.
The 25th juice competition, with classes for singlevariety and blended apples and blends of different fruits, promises to be as popular as ever.
Those with a flair for producing giant-sized fruit will again be able to enter the heaviest apples and pears and the largest single and matching pair of pumpkins. There will also be prizes for the tastiest tomato and apple.