It’s not every contracting crew that will lend a hand to a fellow tradesman as they are preparing to move off site – but Robinson Structures is no ordinary contractor.

“The Robinson lads were clearing up and about to leave when they noticed a carpenter working on one of my sheds was struggling to get his drill bit to purchase on a steel door frame,” recalled Smarden farmer Mike Wilson.
“One of them immediately went to the back of his van, got out a much more powerful tool and quickly drilled the holes the guy needed.”

It was a small gesture, but for Mike and his son Jon, who farm 500-plus acres at New House Farm, it summed up the Robinson Structures approach to the project they had just completed.

“The teamwork, the attention to detail and the quality of the workmanship was second to none,” said Mike as he surveyed the 120ft by 60ft grain store provided by the Lewes, Sussex-based company. “They really made it very easy.”

It was the company’s friendly but professional approach that won Robinson Structures the contract in the first place, as Mike explained. “I had met Alex Robinson and Charlie Highton at a number of trade shows and ploughing matches and I had always been impressed by them, particularly as I knew they now had a Sussex base.

“When I decided to go ahead with the project I got three prices and although they were all pretty close, Robinson wasn’t the cheapest. I decided to go with them anyway simply because I liked the guys and I thought they would be easy to work with. I was right.”

While the steel framed building is impressive, much of the Robinson Structures ‘added value’ was introduced well before the construction team arrived on site.

Robinson Structures successfully applied for planning permission for the new building, which is capable of holding 2,000 tonnes of grain in six bays, but not before spending a considerable amount of time making sure the building would be as efficient and effective as possible.

“We looked at everything from the orientation, the site, the position of the doors, the shape and even the colour of the sheeting to make sure the store would do exactly what Mike and Jon wanted it to do,” explained sales executive Charlie Highton.

“It’s important to invest time and energy into the pre-build stage as the planning plays a huge part in making sure the customer gets the building they need, rather than the one they thought they wanted.”

For Mike, who moved to the farm at the age of seven when his father John bought it in 1950, the new building’s main aim was to allow him to bring more of his storage back to the farm and modernise his facilities.

“We have been storing grain off-site for many years because we don’t have the capacity here – and what storage we do have is made up of older style circular grain silos that are slow to load and unload,” he explained.
“Storing our grain up the road costs us several thousand pounds a year, and besides the cost it’s simply better management to be able to put your own grain in your own barn. Our combine harvester is too fast for the old silos and with the increasing tonnages that we are getting these days we needed more storage.”

Mike and Jon grow wheat, barley, oil seed rape and beans at New House Farm, along with a small amount of Kent perennial rye grass for seed, and plan to use part of the barn for storing machinery in the winter months. After signing off the building itself as an “excellent job,” they are waiting for the warmer spring weather before having the concrete floor installed.

The father and son team did much of the preparatory site work themselves but brought in David Holmes from FGS Agri to tackle the foundations – and were impressed with the result.

The frame is galvanised, in theory because it is reasonably close to the coast but in practice because it just makes sense. “For the relatively small amount extra it costs, it’s a no-brainer,” Jon commented. “It just makes the building so much more weather resistant and gives it a much longer life. There was no debate over that decision.”

The grain store also features variable louvres for ventilation, complete with Robinson Structures’ own design of bird screen that keeps unwanted guests out of the harvested crop.

A number of neighbouring farmers have already dropped in to cast an eye over the new store, which Mike said reflected “a lot of attention to detail and pride in the finish achieved”. He added: “I am delighted with the quality of the steelwork and the standard of workmanship.”

Charlie Highton said the standard of the finish reflected the fact that the team doing the sheeting was made up of direct employees who shared the Robinson Structures focus on quality and commitment to the customer.
“We take a pride in our buildings and the team takes a pride in handing over something that is second to none,” he said. “Many of the components we use are bespoke or sourced from quality suppliers and our entire focus in on getting the job done properly.”

Pictured: Jon Wilson, Charlie HIghton and Mike Wilson