A chance meeting with an organic farmer more than 20 years ago set Richard Kennard on a new career path, one that is continuing to deliver rewards for his business, growers across the South East and the environment.
Friend and farmer Keith Langmead, from Arundel, told Richard that he was happy to spread as much organic material on his land as possible – with horse manure a particularly good source of the nutrients he needed.
“I was running a successful plant hire company at the time, but Keith was so enthusiastic about the potential benefits of horse manure, something that stables are always needing to get rid of, that it sparked an idea,” Richard recalled. “I spotted another business opportunity in helping equestrian establishments get rid of their waste material and putting it to good use at the same time.”
Richard was determined that his new business, Sussex Manures, would offer a comprehensive and professional, end-to-end service, not just picking up and delivering the manure but spreading it on the recipient’s fields to complete the task and put the nutrients to work as quickly as possible.
To move the product quickly, efficiently – and legally – from stable to stubble, he needed the right motive power, and so his relationship with Haynes Agricultural and JCB’s impressive Fastrac machines began.
“The Fastrac is the only real option if you want to be able to tow a trailer full of manure over a reasonable distance at a decent speed,” commented Richard. “JCB is one of only two manufacturers that make a full suspended, fully braked, ABS-equipped tractor that can legally travel at 40mph on the roads.
“Not only does it meet the criteria but it meets them exceptionally well, with the result that we have bought 12 Fastracs over the past 20 years, all of them from Haynes.”
With Richard at Haynes’ Uckfield depot to collect the company’s latest Fastrac – an impressive new 4220 – from Area Sales Executive Simon Sinclair was Sussex Manures’ Agricultural Services Director and Fastrac operator Tyffany Booker.
Regularly turning heads when she turns up at stables across Sussex and Surrey at the wheel of a bright yellow Fastrac, 30 year-old Tyffany has been with the company for five years, having previously trained sales teams for a mobile phone manufacturer.
“A lot of people are surprised to see a woman at the wheel of a Fastrac, and there certainly aren’t many of us, but I really enjoy driving big kit and I love the job I do,” she said. “I fancied something different after training and this really suited me, particularly the idea that we are taking a waste product and putting it to good use.”
Richard commented: “Tyffany recognised the value of what we do and fitted in well with the company’s vision, so we just had to train her to use the machinery. When it comes to handling a Fastrac, she’s more than kept up with the boys; she’s shown them a few things, too.”
As well as being able to handle a Fastrac, Tyffany has a range of business skills that has seen her take on the new directorship, in which role she will be responsible for the company’s drivers, with a particular focus on compliance.
“Safety and compliance are really important to Sussex Manures,” explained Richard, who served as a retained fireman for 15 years and has worked in the construction industry, another area where the workplace demands respect and concentration.
“A loaded trailer towed by a tractor can weigh a total of 30 tonnes. That means you need a well-trained and fully qualified operator, but you also need the right vehicle, and that’s why we only use Fastracs. It’s not just potentially illegal but unwise to use a standard tractor on lengthy road trips; they just aren’t designed for it, and using a tractor at high speeds regularly doesn’t do a lot for the brakes.”
Tyffany, who said the Fastrac was “one of the easiest things to drive, it’s so smooth and comfortable, and the four-wheel steering makes it easy to manoeuvre” has just earned her HGV Category C licence.
“It’s not mandatory for the driving she is doing, but it has given her an insight into HGV training and into the safety aspects in particular,” said Richard. “I also see it as future proofing as I think – and hope, to be honest – that the powers that be continue to raise the safety bar when it comes to moving heavy loads around the countryside.”
It is for that reason that Sussex Manures runs its own in-house training and assessment scheme for its Fastrac drivers based on the standards set for HGV drivers. “Given that 18 year-olds can drive these machines, we feel duty bound to make sure our drivers exceed the current requirements,” said Richard.
It is Richard’s – and his fellow director’s – healthy obsession with safety and compliance that has seen Sussex Manures take advantage of Haynes Agricultural’s new full maintenance service contract. Apart from the peace of mind it delivers by fixing the costs up front, it also means that Richard knows his machinery will always be compliant as it is being looked after by the dealer.
Sussex Manures’ first Fastrac was a 145, bought – from Haynes – to launch the business in 2000. It was the start of a close relationship that even saw one of the company’s Fastracs taken back and stripped down by the manufacturer in 2009 so that they could assess the impact of high mileage on their product.
“In a small way I think feedback from Sussex Manures has helped in the development of the machine,” said Richard, who has now bought four 4220s in succession.
The other benefit of buying Fastracs is that the company can use them throughout the year, as Sussex Manures also carries out gritting and snow clearance work for councils during the winter.
“Operating Fastracs has been key to picking up national contracts for this kind of work as it immediately sends a signal that you are a professional outfit that’s geared up to meet the challenge,” Richard said. “Pointing out that your motive power is a JCB Fastrac is the key to being taken seriously when it comes to that kind of work.”
The move into manure haulage and spreading, which Richard is keen to stress is an integrated package, also saw Sussex Manures move into grassland contracting, while the company also makes hay and haylage from 200 acres of grassland at Ashington and offers a range of other agricultural services.
Richard was also keen to pay tribute to other valued members of his team, including brother Roger Kennard, who he said had been “a key member and operator with us for 20 years, cascading his experience down to the younger operators”. Also vital to the success of Sussex Manures is Harriet Burbidge, manure sales and operational director.
Another new product launched by Sussex Manures is Puckamuck, a bagged manure that is growth tested and is proving extremely popular with gardeners and smallholders as a “safe, consistent and peat-free” manure.
Based at Muntham Farm, Findon, near Worthing, the company runs three JCB Fastracs, two Loadalls and three 360-degree diggers. Nineteen year-old Archie Osenton is the third driver on the team.
Sussex Manures uses a grab loader to collect manure from large livery yards, racing stables and individual clients who may just have one or two horses. Because it is spread back onto the land, improving the soil, the waste is classified as agricultural. “We are always looking for new equestrian outfits that want their waste removed quickly and efficiently and put to good use elsewhere,” Richard concluded.