Robots invading our farms
by Service Dealer Editor, Steve Gibbs
Steve Gibbs

How do you feel the increased automation of agricultural machinery will affect the independent dealer sector?


This will probably come as a shock to most of you, but I am a nerd. I like spaceships and laser swords and superheroes.


And funnily enough there aren't many occasions where my nerdy interests crossover and intersect with my work interests. However just lately, there have been a couple of notable exceptions.


For example in the final film to feature Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character, Logan, there are key sequences set in vast GM corn fields that are being tended to by gigantic, automated combine harvesters. In the story set in the not-too-distant future, these machines appear to be continuously working through the night, with no people around to monitor their progress.


More recently, the new Picard Star Trek series, finds Patrick Stewart's titular character retired to his vineyard - where we see autonomous drones, gently floating back and forth above the rows of grapes, spraying the crops without disturbing the environment.


Whilst the agricultural machinery industry isn't quite matching the writers of these speculative fictions just yet, if you listen to key industry figures they will tell you that this is most definitely the way technology for the farming sector is heading. Indeed, they would assert it's the way it must develop.


We've featured a couple of stories in this Weekly Update in recent weeks which highlight that radical thinking for ag equipment is well underway. 


Kubota unveiled their concept for what they described as their "dream tractor" at a show in Japan in January. This theoretical design incorporated fully unmanned operation driven by A.I as well as full electrification facilitated by a combination of lithium-ion batteries and solar batteries in order, the manufacturer said, to achieve an environmentally friendly on-farm operation.


Last week meanwhile, we featured the news that the Small Robot Company (SRC), a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, had announced the industrial design and manufacture of its first fleet of agricultural robots. What's significant about this of course, is that this isn't a concept design of things which might be possible in the future - rather this is actually happening and being put into commercial production right now.


SRC have clearly hit on a concept which investors have belief and faith in. After their announcement of partnering with Tharsus last Friday, they subsequently issued a press release saying they had been initially looking to crowd-fund £700,000 for their concept. In the end what they actually raised was £2.1m, over-funding their target by three times.


In an official statement, SRC said, "This overwhelming support really demonstrates the huge appetite for agritech. It shows just how much demand there is for this new technology."


It's companies and thinking like this which could have huge implications for the industry as a whole and very specifically for the dealer sector.


It begs the question for how long will ag machinery dealers still find themselves selling huge, hefty tractors? What do you think? 30 years? 20? Less?


Experts will tell us that agricultural production techniques are simply not sustainable in their current state. There are only a finite number of harvests left. Something has to change. We are witnessing that early stage of radical evolution today.


Rather than being some sort of death knell for the dealer sector though, should these advancements be seen as an opportunity for the network to grasp? A chance to get in right at the beginning. Because someone is going to have to sell these robots. Someone is going to have to install them. Someone is going to have to fix them when they break down.


It seems hard to deny that that less tractors will be sold in the future. So alternatives need to be sought. Progressive lawn and garden dealers are already seeing increasing and new business through embracing robotic grass cutting solutions. Will it be the same for ag dealers?


So what do you think? Will you have a showroom and a workshop full of robots in years to come? Or do you believe that kind of technology will remain in the realm of science fiction?


Please leave your thoughts below. We may feature your opinions in a future issue of Service Dealer magazine.

Ben Burgess & Farol to increase coverage
Ben Burgess, Ellington

This week's WEB ONLY story is John Deere dealers Ben Burgess and Farol are set to expand their businesses into the East Midlands during 2020 - covering the area which would be left when Sharmans Agricultural no longer hold the franchise at the end of October.


Slowest start to year since 2001
January 2020 saw a slow start for tractor registrations

Figures released by the AEA show that the monthly total for UK agricultural tractor registrations (over 50hp) for January 2020 was 477 units.


Figures released by the AEA show that the substantial downturn in UK agricultural tractor registrations (over 50hp) seen in late 2019 continued into the opening month of 2020.


The monthly total of 477 machines, was 31% lower than in January 2019, making it the slowest start to the year since 2001.


Stephen Howarth, agricultural economist at the AEA said, "Total registrations over the last year were the lowest for any 12-month period since December 2016 - November 2017. The wet autumn is likely to have contributed to a reduction in orders, which would be reflected in the latest figures.


"It remains to be seen whether the improvement in the weather more recently and the arrival of BPS cheques in December will make any difference to the trend."


Of 2020's Service Dealer Conference & Awards
Kevin Ashmore, Husqvarna Professional UK Manager presenting the Garden Machinery Dealer of the Year award to Jason Nettle of Winchester Garden Machinery at 2019's ceremony

Service Dealer are pleased to announce Husqvarna as Gold Sponsor of the 2020 Service Dealer Conference & Awards which returns to the Double Tree by Hilton Oxford Belfry this November.


Returning to the Double Tree by Hilton Oxford Belfry this November, the Service Dealer Conference & Awards will once again benefit from Husqvarna as Gold Sponsor.


The date of this year's event has been confirmed as Thursday November 19th 2020.


Kevin Ashmore, Husqvarna Professional UK Manager presenting the Garden Machinery Dealer of the Year award to Jason Nettle of Winchester Garden Machinery with Service Dealer owner Duncan Murray-Clarke (l) and comedian Charlie Baker (r) at 2019's ceremony


Service Dealer owner Duncan Murray-Clarke said, "We are very pleased to once again be announcing Husqvarna as Gold Sponsor for Service Dealer's Conference & Awards.


"To be partnering again this year, on a day which is shaping up to be of great value for our independent dealer readers, is great news."


Ken Brewster, UK sales & marketing director of Husqvarna, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary of the Automower this year, said, "Husqvarna UK are very pleased to be supporting the Service Dealer Conference 2020.


"We’ll be sponsoring the Garden Machinery Dealer of the Year award again, a channel which is of key strategic importance for Husqvarna and for our industry."


More details about this year's Service Dealer Conference & Awards will be announced in due course.


You can watch an interview with Husqavrna's field sales manager, Mike Hind, from last year's Service Dealer Conference below:


Service Dealer C&A 2019: Mike Hind



Lewys Richards, 17
L-R: Lewys Richards and Richard Morgan, owner of dealers D P Mowers

Local Stiga dealer DP Mower Services in Newport  welcomed Lewys as a new brand ambassador this week, presenting him with tools from the new battery range.


Stiga say they are proud to support Lewys Richards who they have welcomed on board as their youngest brand ambassador.


L-R: Lewys Richards and Richard Morgan, owner of dealers D P Mowers


Lewys is 17 years old and has been gardening since he was 9. Stiga say that as soon as Lewys left school he realised that gardening was his passion and proceeded to set up his own business, Lewys' Garden Maintenance, in his hometown of Caerphilly.


Starting with a just Facebook page, he began advertising his services and now says he is fully booked all year round.


Lewys has received advice from Richard Morgan, owner of D P Mowers, his local Stiga dealership, on what's the right machinery for him to get his business going.


This week Stiga and DP Mower Services welcomed Lewys as a new Stiga ambassador and presented him with the Combi 50 SQ DAE and SAB 500 Ae Blower, both from the new 500 battery series.


Lewys said, "I can’t wait to get started using the new battery mower and blower. I already own a Stiga garden tractor, brushcutter and hedgetrimmer and this is a great opportunity to promote a brand that I already love using."

Vincent Tractors & Plant appointed
L-R: Vincent Tractors & Plant's Alec Vincent and Nick Vincent with Vicon sales manager, David Furber

Agreement enables Vincent to sell sprayers and balers through their Fraddon and Smithaleigh branches, with the entire Vicon range available through the Holsworthy depot.


Vicon's latest dealer appointment is that of Vincent Tractors & Plant, with depots in Fraddon, Cornwall, plus Holsworthy in north Devon, and Smithaleigh near Plympton in south Devon.

The agreement allows Vincent Tractors & Plant to sell sprayers and balers through Fraddon and Smithaleigh, with the entire Vicon range available through the Holsworthy depot - a location previously occupied by former Vicon dealer WH Bond.


L-R: Vincent Tractors & Plant's Alec Vincent and Nick Vincent with Vicon sales manager, David Furber

“We’re delighted to add the Vicon portfolio to our business,” said Vincent Tractors & Plant managing director Paul Vincent. “Vicon is a well-established premium brand with a strong reputation, and its extensive product range now takes us into new market sectors with a well-respected range of mounted and trailed sprayers.”


Nick Vincent, who is part of the sales team, added, “We’ve recently completed extensive product training on the new range of Vicon iXter and iXtrack sprayers, so we can continue to give existing Vicon customers the best backup and support, while introducing new customers to these sprayers."


Commenting on the appointment, Vicon sales manager David Furber reports that the new venture with Vincent Tractors & Plant is one that will also be welcomed by existing Vicon sprayer customers.

“We’re pleased to have secured a well-known dealer to handle sales and service of our new sprayers in an area that has given us a strong market share," he said.

Appointed dealers for East Anglia
L to R: Julian Cullis of GreenMech, with TNS sales director Chris Tew and Matt Bailey, Suffolk groundcare sales manager

Thurlow Nunn Standen Ltd (TNS) have been appointed GreenMech distributors for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.


Thurlow Nunn Standen Ltd (TNS) have been appointed GreenMech distributors for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.


L to R: Julian Cullis of GreenMech, with TNS sales director Chris Tew and Matt Bailey, Suffolk groundcare sales manager


Operating out of three depots in Attleborough, Kennett and Melton, TNS will now be handling sales and support for the range of woodchippers.

Chris Tew, sales director at TNS said of the new equipment they are taking on, “We believe the range of quality products they offer will complement our existing portfolio and will suit both professional and domestic users. We look forward to promoting this range to our existing and new customers and working with this market leading British manufacturer”.

GreenMech regional sales manager Julian Cullis added, ““TNS have built a fantastic reputation on providing established products with excellent customer service. With so many years of experience and know-how under their belts, we look forward to working together with them to offer a more localised service across this area.”

New regional sales manager
Peter Barfield

Avant Tecno UK have appointed Peter Barfield as regional sales manager to join their team for northern England and Scotland.


Avant Tecno UK have appointed Peter Barfield as regional sales manager to join their team for northern England and Scotland.


Peter Barfield


John Spencer, sales & marketing director at AVANT Tecno said, "We have been looking for a regional manager to join our team for the North of the UK, to assist our dedicated dealership network and make sure our Avant owners continue to receive the personal touch that we pride ourselves on.

"Peter joins us with a vast knowledge and experience of the plant/machinery industry, and I truly believe he is going to be a great asset to the Avant Family.

"I look forward to introducing Peter to our current dealer network and working with him to strengthen our close relationship with our customers, plus he will be assisting in the growth of our already extensive Avant Network throughout Northern England and Scotland bringing Avant closer to the wider audience.”


Peter Barfield added, "I am very excited to be joining an excellent team and hope I can add to their continued success."

At Doosan Bobcat
Jarry Fišer, product line director, Loaders

Doosan Bobcat EMEA has announced two new product management appointments for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.


Doosan Bobcat EMEA has announced two new product management appointments for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.


Based in the Dobříš headquarters in the Czech Republic, Jarry Fišer (right) is now responsible for leading the Skid-Steer and Compact Track Loader, Backhoe Loader and future loader product lines in the EMEA region.

In this new role, the company says Jarry will develop and implement the long-term strategies for the product lines, create business opportunities and collaborate with the company’s worldwide partners to continue the development of their products.


Also located in Dobříš, Robert Husar (left) has been promoted to the position of product line manager for Bobcat Mini-Excavators in the EMEA region.

The company says his role is to enhance the product strategy and business development, work globally on the long-term product plan, developing the current portfolio of 17 Mini-Excavators and drive activities to achieve the company’s market share targets.

Due to Coronavirus
Asia Forest & Garden Equipment & Tools Fair

The 2020 Asia Forest & Garden Equipment & Tools Fair (GMF 2020) has been rescheduled for a new date and venue.


A major Chinese garden machinery fair has been forced to reschedule and change venue due to the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.


The 2020 Asia Forest & Garden Equipment & Tools Fair (GMF 2020) was originally slated for March 16-18 2020 at Guangzhou International Sourcing Centre. 



Organisers say that the show has been resheduled for May 11-13 2020, at Hall 3 - Hall 4, Guangzhou Poly World Trade Centre Expo.


A statement issued by the GMF Organising Committee said, "Your safety and health is our top priority. Right now the virus has been well contained on a national scale with everyday new cases decreasing on a daily basis, and even during the epidemic, we will continue to do our best to prepare the show for another successful year.


"We believe under the co-efforts of China and the international community, we will soon win the battle against this virus. Please feel safe to attend the show this May!"

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Sponsored Product Announcements
120iB complements the 100 series range
Husqvarna 120iB Battery Blower

This handheld blower is the perfect entry level blower for occasional use for clearing small to medium areas.


Husqvarna have launched a new domestic battery blower, the Husqvarna 120iB Battery Blower complements the Husqvarna 100 series range for domestic users, this handheld blower is the perfect entry level blower for occasional use for clearing small to medium areas.



The design and layout of the blower is based on the Husqvarna professional 500 series blower meaning it is a well-balanced and ergonomic machine to use, reducing strain on the operator.


The blower boasts very rapid acceleration and high air speed at 46 m/s. The intuitive keypad offers 3 power modes at the push of a button, allowing the operator to choose the right setting based on the task in hand to get the perfect balance between power output and battery runtime.


Available to order now as the machine unit only or as a kit including battery and charger with a cost saving.


120iB Kit Inc BLi20 & QC80 - 967 97 61-02 - £249.00 Inc VAT

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Turn Digital Searches Into Showroom Visits


Garden Trader continues to show high numbers of targeted traffic and is designed to specifically identify and catch customers when they are researching a product online and helping them locate their local dealer.  Last year we delivered over 1.2m dealer search impressions on the site and over 24,000 individual dealer page views. Because of the site promotional criteria, we know the majority are actively looking to make a purchase (product or service).  All subscribed dealers can easily check their listing's analytics just by logging in to see for themselves just how Garden Trader is helping their business. If you do wish to re-subscribe or indeed register it is easy and takes just a few minutes. 

Garden Trader is helping send quality leads to specialist garden machinery dealers in the UK.  It has been designed to  promote our dealer industry to consumers who are specifically searching for garden machinery products and services.


It is easy and quick to register and costs just £96 + VAT per year to be listed and all revenues in 2020 will be reinvested into promoting the site online.


Garden Trader


Join the country’s only independent specialist website, created by the team that bring you Service Dealer. Join our subscribed Garden Trader dealers now by clicking on “Register Dealership” and let's fight back against the zero value retailers.


Map of dealerships registered with Garden Trader



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January / February 2020
Service Dealer January / February 2020
Fighting the plastic invasion
by Chris Biddle, Service Dealer Founder
Artificial lawn

At a time when the focus internationally is firmly on reducing the use of plastic, we are piling more and more of the stuff into an area that should exhibit the greenest credentials - the natural garden.


You probably missed it. I certainly did with all the Brexit stuff around. Last year, a formal petition was submitted to UK Government urging a ban on the sale of artificial grass ‘as a plastic pollutant destroying wildlife’.

The petition was launched in May and closed in October having gained 2901 signatures, well short of 10,000 required for it to be debated in Parliament.

It’s a move that was never likely to get the nation’s juices flowing, but the sentiment behind it had much merit. At a time when the focus internationally is firmly on reducing the use of plastic, we are piling more and more of the stuff into an area that should exhibit the greenest credentials - the natural garden. Soil, grass, trees and shrubs are universally recognised as major contributors in combatting climate change.
Yet the sale of artificial grass is booming. The market is worth £2bn globally and set to double by 2023. But for what purpose? Not for the look of it. Indeed, a recent survey reckoned that artificial grass could detract house buyers and reduce the value by around 5%. Yet, the plastic invasion in the garden is going well beyond lawns with sales of fake outdoor plants, synthetic shrubbery and plastic privet hedges increasing rapidly.

The sellers of the plastic stuff will point to reduced water use and no need for fertilisers or chemicals, nor of machinery which may well be petrol powered. But their principal USP is reduced maintenance. The increasing unwillingness of homeowners to spend time looking after their natural resources.

Yet there is a much bigger picture. According to the RHS Greening Grey Britain report, “Over 40% of front gardens have been paved or concreted in recent years”, mainly to accommodate cars or vehicles which makes the retention of a remaining grass lawn even more important. It is recognised that grass provides the essential ‘green lung’ to city or urban areas. It has a feel, a texture and ecological qualities that synthetic materials can never achieve. And what is voted the nation’s favourite smell in countless surveys? Freshly mown grass.

Even sporting bodies are starting to question the increasing use of artificial pitches. The EU have been considering their future use due to the presence of, and possible damage from microplastics, the very small particles of plastic produced during wear and tear which can then enter the atmosphere. Following controversy over the 100% use of artificial surfaces at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, the 2019 tournament in France only featured grass pitches, and FIFA have formally banned artificial pitches at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

There is case to be made for the use synthetic turf in some applications, but not for rapidly increasing replacement of the real stuff when the only reason is laziness! Perhaps as an industry we should have two messages. One, that nature should never, ever, be smothered by plastic. Two, that cutting the grass, trimming the hedges is beneficial exercise. Environment and health wrapped up in one. I recall visiting a stand (booth) at the EXPO in Louisville a few years ago, where the American Lawnmower Company (established 1895)) were selling push cylinder mowers. Their selling point? Aerobic exercise, pure and simple.

If you combine that message with the benefits of using a human powered piece machinery, you have a strong ecological story. So, should we be bringing back the fabled Ajax (other push mowers are available), at least to make a point in the showroom?

The grass machinery industry can get a bad press (if it gets any press at all), but we must continue to promote and encourage the virtues of real grass at a time when the use of plastics is coming under increased scrutiny.