While reaching a business milestone sounds impressive, it only benefits the customer if it can be used to deliver a better service.

That vital link between longevity and tangible value to the customer certainly exists in the case of NP Seymour Ltd, where 50 years in business has created a pool of knowledge and experience that directly benefits the many fruit, hop and vineyard customers it serves across the South East and beyond.

Such is the company’s impressive reputation as a specialist Fendt dealer that the “and beyond” referenced above has long seen the family-run firm supplying growers in all corners of England and Wales as well as the fruit regions of Scotland.

“Unlike other dealers who prioritise their arable and forage harvesting offerings, we focus exclusively on Fendt’s 200 VFP Vario range. This means that we often have the right models in stock and ready to go, which is why growers come to us instead of their local dealer,” explained Claire Seymour, sales and marketing director and daughter of founder Nick Seymour.

“We have the specialist industry knowledge and expertise to go beyond providing the machinery and instead give customers, particularly newcomers to the industry, the help they need to spec up a tractor – or other piece of kit – that will do the job properly because it has been set up for their long-term requirements.”

There are many options that need to be considered, from nice-to-have add-ons to things that will make a big difference to a grower’s bottom line.

“There is nothing worse than seeing a grower struggle because their tractor does not have enough spool valves or hydraulic capability to run the machines they need to manage their orchard or vineyard efficiently and cost-effectively,” continued Claire.

“It’s relatively easy to set up in business to supply machinery to fruit growers and vineyard owners, but to make sure that the customer ends up with exactly what they need takes a lot more experience and know-how.”

In the case of NP Seymour, delivering exactly what the farm or vineyard manager needs goes beyond just making sure that the right tractor is selected. The business has a well-deserved reputation for supplying a wide range of specialist machinery, equipment and hand-held tools, as well as being able to adapt machinery, design bespoke attachments and do all kinds of fabrication work at its Avon Works base in Kent.

“The majority of specialist machinery manufacturers design their products to fit the Fendt 200 VFP Vario range. When customers with other brands of tractor come to us for equipment, we already know what challenges they’re likely to face. We’ve worked with it all and our skilled workshop team is well versed in creating brackets and frames and making adjustments to ensure the products fit and work as they should from the moment they’re delivered,” said Claire.

It’s that level of expertise that sets the company, set up by Nick Seymour in 1974, apart. But it did not happen overnight. As well as celebrating 50 years since the start of NP Seymour, 2024 also marks an impressive 40 years since it became a Fendt specialist dealer supplying the 200 VFP series of vineyard and fruit-focused tractors.

The relationship has stood the test of time because, in Claire’s view, the Fendt range is far and away the ‘best in show’ when it comes to specialist machinery that’s dedicated to supporting fruit, hop and vine growers.

“Unlike a lot of other fruit and vineyard tractors, the Fendt range isn’t just a cut-down version of the main range but is designed from the bottom up to do that specific job, and it does it consistently and reliably,” she commented.

Market testing, albeit not particularly scientific, has proved the point. “On occasions over the years we have offered alternatives from other manufacturers, but our customers always come back to Fendt because they know it’s the best choice for their business,” Claire explained.

Nick Seymour, who is still involved in the workshop side of the business half a century on, started out offering mobile engineering services. He expanded into machinery sales as customers began choosing to buy new equipment rather than asking him to repair their existing sprayers and other kit.

At a blackcurrant conference in Herefordshire in 1984 he got chatting to friend and fellow engineer Bob Chapman, of Bavenhill Mechanics, who introduced him to Fendt.

“Dad was not looking to supply tractors but was immediately persuaded that their orchard and vineyard range was head and shoulders above the rest. He became a Fendt specialist dealer, and the rest is history,” Claire recalled.

That relationship has grown over the years, and when allied to N P Seymour’s long-standing team means there’s not much the dealership doesn’t know about Fendt’s specialist 200 VFP tractors.

“The expansion of viticulture in this part of the country means there are other dealerships, but NP Seymour has a clear advantage when it comes to helping growers get the most out of their new machine and the equipment they want to pair with it,” said Claire.

“On the service and workshop side, our team includes engineers like Greg Surowiec, who has been with us for the past 15 years, and Mark Maynard, who has been part of the team for more than a decade. There’s very little they don’t know about Fendts and their capabilities and how to keep them running smoothly. They can troubleshoot issues in a heartbeat and have the skills to keep the tractors performing at their best for decades.”

With one eye always on the future, Claire headed to Fendt Germany in May this year to see the manufacturer’s new fully electric tractor, the E100V Vario.

The electric version has all the functionality of the existing 200 VFP range but with a battery instead of an engine that can be used in eco, dynamic or dynamic-plus modes.

“Looking at the design and specification, in theory there’s nothing the diesel-engined version can do that the electric model won’t be able to match in terms of power and functionality,” said Claire.

Maintenance costs are expected to be reduced by a third when compared to internal combustion engine-powered machines, while growers can choose to ‘refuel’ using cheap renewable sources such as solar.

It’s not just new machines that leave NP Seymour’s purpose-built Avon Works yard. Fendts hold their value so well that used tractors are much in demand, and rarely make it as far as the stock list.

“Once people get to know there’s a part exchange tractor on the way in, it’s snapped up,” Claire added. “That also means we can offer competitive part exchange deals for those looking to upgrade their fleet used tractors.”

The advice on offer from NP Seymour is particularly useful in supporting new vineyard entrants who may not have experience or knowledge of the vast range of specialist machinery available and for whom understanding exactly what they need from their shiny new tractor is likely to benefit from some guidance.

“Guesswork can be expensive, and we take that risk away,” commented Claire, who heads up a sales team which includes Tim Sillence and, on the viticulture side, Sam Barnes.

“Both Tim and Sam have a wealth of practical experience operating the machinery in a range of planting styles and soil types. We will never sell something a grower doesn’t need now or in the long term, and will always be straight to the point in explaining what is going to work for their individual set-up and why.”

Alongside tractors, the dealership has built up an impressive list of franchises over the past half century.

In the 1980s, around the same time as NP Seymour started working with Fendt, the dealership also started supplying the Braun range of mechanical weeders, Carrarospray sprayers from OCLL and the Fischer range of mowers.

Today, the Braun Rollhacke rotary star tiller remains the most popular mechanical weeder on the market and the clear weapon of choice for orchard and vineyard managers across the UK, having proved itself well-adapted to different soil types.

“As well as the famous Rollhacke, Braun’s modular tool carrier system can be equipped with a range of tools, including horizontal finger weeders, rotary tillers, scalloped discs and demounders, to offers growers access to a well-rounded and extremely comprehensive mechanical weeding set-up,” said Claire.

“The German manufacturer’s vari-width Alpha mower can also be fitted with what Braun calls a vine stem cleaner. Initially designed for bud rubbing, the flat rubber paddles on this head can be replaced with white strimmer cord to provide effective weed removal up to the trunk while mowing.”

The Carrarospray range from OCLL remains popular with growers, with the economically priced sprayers particularly sought after by small- to medium-sized growers.

For orchards, the Q Wector 3 benefits from an air intake fan in front of the tower to prevent debris or spray from being drawn in, while for vineyards the NPA directional sprayer offers effective and efficient coverage thanks to its eight adjustable sprayer hands.

From Fischer, the robust and compact vari-width GL4 blade mower can be used in a wide array of applications, from orchards and vineyards to tabletop strawberries. The swing wing arms are hydraulically controlled by precision sensors to allow for accurate mowing right up to the base of the trunk, vine or table legs.

Other big names that partner with NP Seymour include Agrofer, Agrofrost, ARS, Aporo, Aweta, BMV, Berthoud, Boreco, ERO, Brevi, Fruit-Tec, Felco, Pessl iMetos, KWH, Munckhof, Perfect van Wamel and Tecnoagri.

Meanwhile the company’s own engineering expertise means that if the right piece of kit isn’t on the shelf, that doesn’t mean it’s not available.

“Our engineering experience and the extensive range of specialist fabrication equipment we have in our workshop have always allowed us to design and build bespoke machinery for growers to fill gaps in the market,” said Claire.

“We are perhaps most famously known for our tabletop strawberry sprayers and bush fruit sprayers. No two are the same, they’re all built to the grower’s individual needs.”

It was in 2005 that a grower approached Nick because he couldn’t find a sprayer that would do exactly what he wanted it to do. Nick built him what he needed from scratch, and as word spread amongst other growers, orders quickly followed.

Now the company also regularly designs and supplies other bespoke tools such as working and picking platforms and its most recently launched front-mounted tool carrier for vineyards and orchards. Again designed to fit each buyer’s requirements, it is adaptable for a range of mechanical weeding and other equipment.

Working in partnership with Bioline AgroSciences, NP Seymour has also designed and built a beneficial insect application sprayer to support growers using an integrated pest management regime.

The company is also playing a vital part in a collaboration with crop protection specialists Hutchinsons, NIAB East Malling and others to create a variable-rate orchard sprayer.

NP Seymour worked on the PODS precision sprayer system over three years as part of the InnovateUK-funded research project aimed at improving the economic performance of orchards and is now involved in the follow-up POME (Precision Orchard Management for the Environment) project.

While working hard to support a sustainable future for orchards and vineyards across the UK, NP Seymour’s own future seems to be in safe hands.

Claire, who joined the business 25 years ago, making this another anniversary to add to the year’s other celebrations, has three children who are all keen to play their part in this successful family business.

“Angus is 17 and studying agricultural engineering at Reaseheath College in Cheshire. He’s passionate about the industry and is always keen to get involved at every given opportunity.

“Eli is 15 and on the same path, and while Fifi is only 13, she is already talking about following the route her brothers have taken and looking at what roles she could pursue in the business,” Claire commented.

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