Sharing an innovative approach to agriculture
KUHN sponsored the Contractor Innovator award at the British Farming Awards 2021. The award was won by farmer and sheep dipping contractor Neil Fell whose business has ballooned since he began in 2013. Mr Fell shares KUHN’s passion for innovation and won the award for his mobile sheep dipping service and innovative new hydraulic dipping machine. He is not a stranger to KUHN machines and has used KUHN mowers, balers and bedders on his family farm in County Durham.
Neil’s wife Sarah entered him into the awards in 2018. Sadly, this wasn’t to be his year, but she remained positive, and with the addition of his new sheep dipping unit she felt convinced he would win in 2021.
“She knows how hard I have worked over the years, and she felt I deserved some recognition for my efforts. It also helps raise awareness of the mobile sheep dipping business and the new dipping machines,” he says.
Mr Fell was unsure of his chances because he is not the typical agricultural contractor. His niche service is not like more conventional, tractor-related machinery work, but this may well have been an attraction for the judges.
“Our service is completely different – you can’t just buy a machine to do it – you need licenses and certification. It was nice for people to understand what we have to learn to do what we do,” he explains.
He has grown the business to almost 250 customers for which he dipped approximately 495,000 sheep in 2021. The original equipment was bought from a local contractor, and it wasn’t long before his clients came looking for Mr Fell.
“We started locally and dipped about 2,500 sheep in the first year and it’s snowballed from there. As the numbers increased, I started thinking of innovative ways to do the work more efficiently and the new hydraulic dipping machine has helped us to hit numbers I never expected to reach.”
Standing in his local fish and chip shop he had an epiphany. As the bucket of chips hit the oil it sparked the idea for his new dipping machine. In 2017, Neil started to manufacture the hydraulic cage dipper and has sold units to customers into Ireland and Wales. He has set up a separate company with vet practice Synergy Farm Health, and plans to build and sell more machines throughout the UK and Ireland.
Looking ahead, he plans to run three mobile units and will be able to handle more than 8,500 sheep a day at peak times. However, this has not dampened his interest in farming at home too.
“We have 1,200 pigs, 1,000 ewes and 475 acres which I farm with my father. In 2014 we had 250 ewes, but I’ve grown the flock and I plan to push on to 1,500 in the next few years. I have learned a great deal by doing the dipping which has helped me on my own farm and also provided some of the investment needed to expand,” he concludes.
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