One company that has been consistently providing farmers in the South East and beyond with effective on-floor bulk drying and storage solutions is Harvest Installations, which was set up in Faversham back in 1979 and has since built up an impressive reputation for its products.
The company supplies, installs and services its own burners, stirrers and tunnel systems, and while the majority of sales are through a nationwide network of dealers, the company can supply just the drying plant or act as a main contractor in an area where there is no dealer.
It was in this guise that Harvest Installations was asked to design, build and fit out an impressive new grain store for Hinxhill Estate at Wilmington Farm, just outside Ashford in Kent.
“By being actively involved in the early stages of the process we can design the store around the equipment that we are planning to include within it and make sure that everything comes together neatly and efficiently,” explained Harvest Installations’ managing director Lewis Harvey.
The Wilmington Farm store, which holds 4,500 tonnes in two large bays, includes a series of air doors that allow specific areas of the store to be dried to the required moisture level and keep the air pressure at an optimum level for drying. ‘Clean out’ doors at the far side of the drying floor make cleaning the store a very simple process.
The store uses Harvest Installations’ own Maxi Stirrers and Constant Humidity Controllers and has an all-hardwood Challow floor. “We like to specify Challow because the quality reflects our own standards,” said Lewis. I have seen some of the company’s floors that are 40 years old, and they are still looking good.”
The building itself is equally impressive and was supplied and erected by Norfolk company A C Bacon, again Harvest Installation’s partner of choice when it operates as main contractor. The electrical installation was carried out by DGM Electrical in Sittingbourne.
Because Harvest Installations designs and installs its own equipment, it is able to keep a close eye on quality and ensure everything is running smoothly and at maximum efficiency. “And when the job is finished we don’t just walk away,” Lewis added. “We like to come back to make sure the farmer is happy with the way it is operating and knows how to get the most out of the kit.”
Lewis is unapologetic about the fact that the company does not operate at the budget end of the market and is proud that it attracts a loyal following amongst farmers who recognise quality, and value reliability and longevity when investing in a new bulk drying and storage facility.
Hinxhill Estate’s Jonathan Houchin asked Harvest Installations to design and build the new store because the company came up with “the right price backed up by the right reputation for quality” – and was delighted with the result.
“There is nothing about this building or the equipment inside it that we aren’t totally happy with,” he commented. “Any minor issues were sorted immediately, everything was built exactly to spec and for the agreed price and it was delivered on time, despite us asking for it to be finished within just nine months.”
Jonathan said the building had increased the farm’s efficiency and helped the business’ goal of producing top quality grain. “At the peak of harvest, using two combines, we are loading 1,000 tonnes of wheat a day into this shed, covering a range of moisture levels. This building allows us to get on with the job because we know we can then selectively dry it to the moisture level the merchants need.”
Lewis pointed out that grain stores with on-floor drying were more cost-effective and flexible than using separate dryers. “Continuous flow dryers have a fixed capacity, which can mean holding back trailers and delaying combining while earlier loads are being dried,” he said. “And the farmer still needs to store the grain anyway, so it makes far more sense to combine the drying and storage operations in the same shed.
“That way the farmer can just keep harvesting and load the crop straight into the barn with no delays or hold ups. The calculations show that it’s a more economical way of doing things in terms of both cost and time management.”
Delivered in the last week of June 2019, the store at Wilmington Farm was the last major project that former managing director Mike Wilson worked on, but while his family essentially took over the reins during the build, he still provides regular, much-valued support. “I have to say that Mike and Lewis made a fantastic job of it,” said Jonathan. “Everything was managed well and the fact that Harvest Installations shares our own focus on attention to detail shows through in the finished build.”
The set up at Wilmington Farm, with Maxi Stirrers and larger burners, can be used for both relative humidity drying – for grain with a moisture content up to 18% or 19% – and temperature drying, which can comfortably handle anything up to and beyond this and is popular with farmers in more northerly areas of the country.
Harvest Installations was set up by Colin Hales but was then taken over by Michael Wilson, who has developed it into a well-established family business. His son Matthew Wilson runs the engineering side of things, son-in-law Lewis is now managing director and looks after sales and his daughter Lisa – Lewis’ wife – is the office manager and generally keeps everything running smoothly. David Elliott is the company’s technical manager.
The company, which moved its headquarters from Faversham to Bury St Edmunds last June, has a strong market in the South East and a growing presence internationally, with kit in New Zealand and Germany. It offers sales, servicing and repairs through its national dealer network.