Greer Ground Spraying
Top Gear, Timely Service - fomula for success
Graham has operated Greer Ground Spraying for the past six years but has been contracting and spraying for 20 years, previously working for a neighbouring spray contractor. Today he is a registered chemical applicator, an essential requirement for spraying export crops.
"I wanted to go on a different track with some of the machinery. At that stage we were doing a lot of onions and potatoes for one particular client, and I bought a specialist machine for doing them. It's a Multidrive sprayer with a 24m Hardi twin-force air boom," he says.
Purchasing the top-quality sprayer got Greer Ground Spraying off to a great start. Graham has since added another two sprayers to his fleet. He has a Hardi sprayer with A an 18m boom mounted on an Isuzu, and a Hardi sprayer with a 15m boom on a Toyota Landcruiser.
He only purchased the Isuzu rig six months ago but has had the Landcruiser for four years. Matt Burke, the local engineer, has been valuable in setting up all the Hardi spray equipment onto the trucks.
"The Multidrive has good ground clearance for potatoes and squash but now it's mainly doing grain. It is a tractor-type machine with the air boom, which is better for fungicide. It has done six years and 45,000 hectares and is very good. It has good suspension and we've had very few problems with it," Graham says.
"The other two sprayers do the same job. The Landcruiser does mainly maize and pre·emergent maize, as well as general spraying like thistles and Roundup. I get good service from Matt Gordon, Agtech Hawkes Bay, who is the local Hardi Agent."
Graham has a Topcon GPS system installed in the Isuzu and has a very basic GPS system called Easy Guide in the Multidrive.
"This new GPS maps the paddock and paints it in as you spray. It's all automatic and turns the boom on and off as you finish the round," he says.
"My son Hamish drives it and he loves it. Once you've had a few days learning it's pretty good to operate. We now have better accuracy and are probably using slightly less chemical because you're not getting overlaps as you do with a foam marker.
"It's about improving the service and in time I think we're all going to have to go down that track for proof of placement. We can show clients exactly what ground has been covered and do a print out of the paddocks."
Greer Ground Spraying has grown significantly over the past six years but is still focused exclusively on spraying services.
"When I started I had one particular large client and half a dozen other guys I knew who came with me. Back then we were doing a lot of potatoes and onions, but since McCains closed down in Feilding we haven't done much for the past three years. Before then it was the bulk of our work, but since then we've been doing a lot of barley, wheat, maize and more recently process peas."
Graham and Hamish use a lot of Roundup-type products, with pre-plough work making up a lot of the business.
"That's mostly done in spring, before the planting of the barley, wheat and maize. Then we go into weed spraying all the crops with maybe an insecticide with fungicide. After that once the crop is emergent we go across a lot of them again with a fungicide," Graham says.
"Then we slow down. We spray a bit of green feed like brassica crops. We're also spraying squash with fungicide with the big Multidrive sprayer. From now on it depends on what the season does. There could be facial eczema on the grass, for example. We generally only do that once every five years. It depends on the conditions at the time with heat and moisture.
"Once the crops come out we might spray the odd one with Roundup again depending if there's a couch or weed problem in the autumn before they plant new grasses. Then we have a break. Around June/July we spray thistles in the young grass and do maintenance spraying."
This season has been a particularly good one for Greer Ground Spraying, with twice as much grain as usual planted in the Marton area. A lot of it is going to the Marton Malting company, which put out a good price this year to farmers.
"There's a lot of extra maize in this year for grain and silage. It's been an excellent growing season in our area. We've had the right weather and rain."
Graham and Hamish work in a 50km radius from Marton and are enjoying an expanding client base. While originally Graham kept his equipment at a friend 's farm, he has since bought a two hectare block and built a large depot for all the machinery.
Graham says it is important to keep up with all the new products coming on the market, particularly the many generic products available now.
"It's pretty hard to keep up with them all. They have different names and come from different companies and it's very confusing as a lot of the products are exactly the same. The companies just market them under different names."
Graham keeps in touch with various sales reps and firms such as Farmlands and Wrightsons in order to help him choose the best products for the job.
And while he does offer some advice on products and spraying to his clients, he usually follows their instructions, particularly if they have sought professional advice from a third party.
With just Hamish and Graham out spraying, and Graham's partner Chris Wall taking care of the bookwork, Graham is pretty happy with the size of his business.
"It works well but last season we were under a bit of pressure and we could have done with another guy part-time for a couple of months. But it's a matter of finding someone suitable and someone who only wants a couple of months' work.
"It's going to be interesting to see what happens next year with will be a big issue as to whether we look at employing someone else part-time or not."
While there is only one other sprayer in Marton, there are quite a few spray contractors operating throughout Manawatu.
"The biggest thing for us is we have bigger booms than a lot of the guys, especially the 24m one. My big Multidrive would cost over $400,000 to build now and the last sprayer cost about $180,000, GPS set up included."
He also attributes his commitment to offering clients a personal touch, as well as his great machinery, to the success of his operation.
"We try to be there on time. We're always battling the weather but the biggest thing is trying not to make clients wait. When the season is on it is pretty demanding. We work from daylight to dark doing 14-hour days."
AN INCREASING PROBLEM FOR GREER GROUND SPRAYING IS THE GROWING NUMBER OFLIFESTYLE BLOCKS IN THE RANGITIKEIMANAWATU DISTRICT.
"You have to be more careful of lifestyle blocks when you're out spraying nearby. You have to have the wind blowing the right way and it's increasingly difficult as there are more and more of them around," Graham Greer says.
"We haven't had any big hassles with them but one or two of them look at you sideways. We sometimes have to go and have a talk with them or get the farmer to let them know what's happening. It's not usually a big deal."
Greer Ground Spraying has been a member of the New Zealand Rural Contractors' federation since the business began.
Graham says the federation offers many services and benefits and enables him to keep up with the latest legislation, regulations and issues. Their annual conference is a means to catch up with like-minded people and compare notes from around the country.