Kildare Grower “Picks his own” Sprayer

Paul Brophy runs an unusual farm in some respects, from its base close to Naas in Co. Kildare. The original home farm was a mixed beef / tillage enterprise, but Paul decided to make some changes.

Today, Paul Brophy Produce is the largest producer of Broccoli in the country, supplying directly to Supermarkets and the Wholesale trade. Managing the farm for Paul, is a young man Pat Smyth. Who did his Horticultural training in Warrenstown College up in Co. Meath, this is now sadly closed.

I asked Pat why they decided to pick the HARDI COMMANDER.

“We grow around 400 acres of Brassicas here, mostly Broccoli plus white and green cabbage, said Pat. “In addition we grow around 250 acres of cereals. So, as you can see we are in the fields often and have different conditions to contend with. We also need to use fresh land for Brassica production every year to prevent disease such as Club Root. This means that rented land under crop can be widespread so we needed good capacity and some additional features in a new sprayer. We already had experience with the HARDI Air System – it’s really good at getting into and below the crop – so had decided on this system again”.

“The Trailed 3300 litre COMMANDER with a 24 Metre Air Boom was our final choice because of overall weight and capacity. We added a suspended axle to reduce the shock loads on the boom, plus hydraulic brakes for safety. We specified the “Touch the Future” HC9500 Control Panel for Guidance, Auto Section Control, Data Logging, Report generating and Automated Steering”.

“The new DynamicFluid4 Liquid System is now exactly what we need, the fluid on/ shut off is instant” says Pat. “And the way the boom is plumbed we can select via the tractor’s GPS system where to spray and where to shut off. This function can be easily programmed once you have used it once or twice. The Safe Track Steering System ensures the boom is always at 90 degrees to the tramline so no double spraying at turns and no overlapping”. “What about hilly ground” I asked. “Let me show you the boom” says Pat. “Because we moved to a 24 metre boom we automatically got two additional rows of crop, so that was the first bonus. It’s fitted with the Auto Height system which keeps the wide boom parallel to the ground, and here you have Ultrasonic sensors to measure the height above the crop.

It adjusts itself to maintain the setting you want. We can spray even on windy days and are sure to get good penetration even into the growing Broccoli, say for pest control. In cereals it’s also great as the wind FORCEs the crop to move, giving real good under- leaf cover, with no missed targets. We now know the system and can often cut down on overall liquid application and indeed also on overall chemical usage.

These are all time and money saving concepts and give us better control of the growing crop.

We are in the fields in all conditions from March to December, as Brassicas are maturing on a daily and weekly basis. We have seedlings in one field and mature crops in another-each needing its own specific treatment. Supermarkets demand traceability and the HARDI HC9500 provides this and indeed cuts down on some of my hand recording work by providing a print out of acres covered and chemical usage”. “We use both powder and liquid chemicals. The big 35 litre Chemical filler does this very well – wetting the powder and integrating it well. Each nozzle on the stainless steel boom line is in fact a cluster of five allowing us always to have the right one on board. Going from crop to crop we need to be able to flush out the lines completely, a must if you have just used Roundup. This Boom Flush facility and indeed a complete washing system for the outside of the tank are fitted as standard on this COMMANDER. The water for this operation comes from a clean water tank mounted just over the sprayer axle”.

“We also got LED lights fitted for night spraying” says Pat “as we do operate at night as well as very early morning. These lights ensure that we can see the spray pattern should a blockage occur”. “This seldom happens” says Pat “as the self-cleaning filtration system is also special”. “We fitted a quick filling system and incorporated HARDI’s AutoFill as well. This means you can pre-set the sprayer to fill the required amount of water and it will shut off when completed. You then add your chemicals and the unit is ready”. “We walk the crops on a weekly basis” says Pat. “We employ approx. ten people on a regular basis with an additional 30 or so at peak harvesting times. The Broccoli crop is labour intensive and the crop is still all hand cut. It’s then individually wrapped at our base in Naas ready for the Supermarket shelf”. “The COMMANDER is now part of the production line with us”, says Pat.