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Horticulture: Planting Crops with Country Crest

Keeping abreast of and investing in the latest mechanization technology for planting and harvesting vegetables ensures that one large-scale Irish farmer runs an efficient business. 

Brothers Michael and Gabriel Hoey run Country Crest based in Lusk, north of Dublin, which grows potatoes and onions for the retail sector. 

As the fourth generation of the Hoey family to run the business, the brothers have invested heavily in the latest machinery, technology and equipment to ensure that the business is as efficient and cost-effective as possible. 

Back in 2005, the company invested €4 million in a state-of-the-art onion grading, packaging and primary storage facility with a 3,000-tonne storage capacity. 

Today, County Crest uses all the latest kit and GPS technology to help them with planting accuracy and saving money on overlapping when spraying or fertilizing crops. Michael Hoey told AgriExpo e-Magazine they only grow potatoes and onions in the vegetable line; 450 acres of potatoes and 125 of onions this year, one-seventh of their farm area. 

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Using the latest equipment and technology for planting crops ensures high efficiency and lower costs. Images supplied by Michael Hoey, Country Crest.

We use highly mechanized methods for potato and onion production including GPS self-steering tractors since 2003 when we bought a new John Deere 8520 on tracks with StarFire fitted which guides the tractor. 

“This was a fantastic breakthrough in accuracy terms and allowed us to produce straight drills. In more recent years we have adapted precision spraying and fertilizer application techniques. Also, we now use very good traceability systems.” 

By increasing the accuracy of planting Michael and the team save on costs of herbicides and fertilizers as there is no more overlapping and product waste. Michael added: 

The benefits of this increased accuracy means more uniform crops, no overlaps, no burning of crops, but most of all the savings you achieve by not double applying. Also, the benefits of having straight drills allows for easier driver operation. 

According to Hoey, the latest traceability and accounting systems give by-the-minute reporting and audit capability. 

Our farm manager, Thomas, and his team try to keep pace with the latest growing techniques. This is the only way you can stay competitive on the world stage.

As for the latest harvesting techniques, Hoey said:

We use two Grimme 220 self-propelled machines. The latest one incorporating an onboard grading system was only delivered in September last year. These machines tend to be very efficient and gentle on the crops reducing damage and waste. We are about to install the latest optic sorting and robotic packing equipment.

Today, consumers want to know how every morsel of food they consume is produced and the care it receives during processing.

If you don’t keep pace with the latest methods you just get left behind and your customers go somewhere else. 

Spring came late this year, according to Hoey, giving way to little or no land work—meaning “a lot of work will have to take place in a short period when the weather takes up.” 

We personally have no 2017 crops left to harvest but there are still many other farmers with crop in the ground to come out when it dries up. I can’t see the quality being great.