I particularly enjoyed attending this year’s SALTEX. There seemed to be more optimism in the industry and in my new role as editor of TurfPro, I was excited to meet many new and existing clients.
Innovation was the buzzword of the show, with many companies embracing the new technologies coming on line. Battery power, hybrid mowers and robotics were the talk of the show. My first invitation of the day was attending the Intelligent Marking press event featuring a Danish company promoting their enhanced Intelligent One (10) line marking machine and Prostripe Paint.
One of the unique features of this product is the robot’s accuracy. The machine can be operated without a costly annual subscription and without cellular or real time kinematic (RTK) connectivity and coverage from their integral, optional base station.
I am amazed at how many new line marking devices we now have on offer in the industry. Fleet Line Markers Ltd, with over 60 years working experience in our industry, were also on hand to demonstrate their two laser-guided line marking machines and range of paints.
Ian Courage on the Fleet stand
I was particularly interested in their new MAQA line marking system which uses GNSS technology to reduce the time it takes to initial mark by a massive 75%! They also launched a new paint storage system called COG, enabling end users the ability to recycle and reuse refilled paint containers on their machines.
I will no doubt need to catch up with all the line marking companies and perhaps undertake a few field trials and report on the advances of line marking technologies.
Walking around the show I could not help but notice the number of robotic products we now have on offer, with many companies embracing and perusing this growing trend. Large and small they come in all sorts of configurations. We now have robotic mowers employed to cut sports pitches, local authority parks and open spaces, private estates and golf courses. And the good news is the prices are coming down with the advancement of technology and the fact that more end users are considering the use of these devices.
Better battery life, safety controls, cutting quality and reliability have enabled these robotic mowers to become more efficient, added to which they do save labour time - thus making the cost of these machines more appealing.
Whilst on the subject of batteries, there is no doubt that the technology has moved on in leaps and bounds in recent years, making these products more appealing. With the added bonus of longer run times, noise reduction and less vibration, leading companies like STIHL, Husqvarna, Pellenc, EGO, Club Cadet, Toro, John Deere, Dennis and many more are now investing in and developing battery powered products.
For me another innovation that has taken on new opportunities has been the use of artificial fibres to reinforce soil profiles. For many years we have seen Desso pitches being installed at many professional clubs that have contributed to exceptional playing surfaces. One company, SIS / Grass, has further developed the product and has now successfully sown these fibres into other sports surfaces such as golf, tennis, rugby, and latterly cricket. Having seen for myself the many advantages and the reduction in wear these reinforced pitches bring, they will no doubt be increasingly used in the coming years. There is a great opportunity to get these systems into grass roots level facilities - it just requires sorting out cost implications and the education and resources to manage these systems.
Their use in cricket is amazing. Having seen for myself the trials being conducted at Loughborough University and listening to comments made by some of the leading county cricket groundsmen who now have them sown into some of their practice net areas, there is overwhelming evidence that they help prolong the durability of the playing surface.
It was also nice to catch up with Dennis mowers to find out how well their new PR Rotary 34R mowers are being received by the industry. Sales have been very good with over 70 machines sold since launch.
Also, I noticed a rise in the number of manufacturers selling specific bank and slope flail / rotary mowers – with most being radio controlled to safeguard personal safety while working on steep slopes. Companies such as Spider, Agria, Robocut were showing off their wares in this field.
Spider mower team
As always there were plenty of educational opportunities for the visiting attendees with a vast range of presentations from industry professionals in the four theatre areas and Innovation Hub - and of course on the IOG stand where I saw Frank Newberry and several other IOG instructors giving out advice to end users.
However, for me the greatest asset of the show is the opportunity for people to meet up with fellow colleagues and turf professionals - plus have the opportunity to see over 300 exhibitors under one roof in two full-on days.
Also, it is always a great event to promote our fascinating industry. The awards night is especially rewarding as it recognises the commitment, endeavour, resourcefulness and hard work achieved by many individuals and teams of ground professionals / volunteers who work in this fantastic industry.
And lastly I would also like to thank the commitment and support of all the 300 exhibitors who pay for the privilege to exhibit at SALTEX - without them there would be no show.
For me personally, I enjoyed catching up with you all and will no doubt be chasing you for all those technical articles you have promised me! So again thank you for supporting myself and TurfPro and hope to see you at Saltex 2019.