40 years of AMAZONE Ltd.

Amazone ZA: the start of the twin disc revolution

AMAZONE machinery in Great Britain has enjoyed a long tradition. Since the early 60’s, Curtis & Padwick from Winchester acted as the importer for the AMAZONE ZA spreaders, a company that subsequently moved a few thousand ZA-S and ZA-E twin disc broadcasters in that decade. The 1970’s saw a change in that importer with Taskers of Andover taking on the role and selling the AMAZONE brand alongside their own in-house produced Tasker Pattinson Fertispread spreader plus other European-manufactured machinery. The Sales Manager in those days for Taskers was Rod Baker, and following a decision by the Taskers Group to stop their involvement in the import of machinery to concentrate on their lorry trailer business, Rod Baker was approached by AMAZONEN-WERKE to start up what was to be the first of the now numerous, family-owned AMAZONE subsidiaries across the world and AMAZONE Ltd. commenced trading in April 1983.

The launch of Amazone Ltd: April 1983

The launch of Amazone Ltd. took place in the spring of 1983 at the Conference Centre in NAC Stoneleigh where the British farming press and the dealer network from around the country were invited to come and see the full range of Jet 801/1201 12 metre pneumatic and the new twin disc spreaders, including the trailed FR2000 chassis, as well as the iconic drill combinations

Before & after: Cuckoo Copse in 1985

AMAZONE Ltd. with its three employees, Rod Baker, Peter Murray and Simon Brown, started life based in Rod Baker’s garage in Hungerford before investing in its own premises at Cuckoo Copse, Lambourn Woodlands. Formerly used as an agricultural contractor's yard and located just of the M4 at Membury services, Cuckoo Copse made the ideal parts and machine distribution centre.

Klaus Dreyer at Harworth with Rod Baker & Rolf Fredricks

Continuing growth in the 1980's, and the limited overnight network possibilities for parts distribution in Britain, saw it open sub-depots in Linlithgow, Scotland and Harworth, South Yorkshire to ensure the appropriate level of service could be maintained across the whole of Great Britain.

As parts deliveries improved and with the excellent transport links that Doncaster offered, AMAZONE Ltd. settled eventually in Harworth which was to become its base for the next 20 years. That period in Harworth also saw it import other non-competitive European machinery such as Niemeyer forage equipment, Elho bale wrappers and Strautmann diet feeders before enjoying 11 years of successful cooperation with Krone.

Orchard Farm, the new home of Amazone Ltd

The noughties saw an exponential expansion of the AMAZONE product range, particularly in the world of sprayers and, having outgrown Harworth and the business in need of site capable of carrying out demonstrations, Orchard Farm was purchased in 2016 with the smallholding initially being used as a training centre. After completion of the development on the site of the old farm buildings, AMAZONE Ltd moved lock, stock and barrel in 2019 to its state-of-the-art, 30 acre site in Auckley, a major, multi-million £ investment for the business and a major statement of its commitment to British agriculture.

The ZA-U 1001: the spreader ahead of its time

Looking back on the 40 years just gone, there were some iconic products back in the day; Royal Show 1983 saw the introduction of the new ZA-U 1001 which revolutionised the spreader world with accurate spreading up to an enormous 24 m, now we are at 54 m and with inferior granular fertiliser quality to spread to boot!

The D7 EC-N conventional drill with its 8 cm row spacing and fitted with band sow shoes combined with the REV 30 reciprocating harrow, provided the benchmark for crop establishment.

Royal Show 1984 presents the golden seed drill

With the advent of the KG S rotary cultivator, the RPD drill combination, in both 3 m and 4 m working widths, then took over the mantel of drill supremo. With its roll disc coulters it was the ideal combination for that min-till crop establishment following a cultivator. 

The late 1980’s also saw the UF 1200 sprayers, with the cable-operated H-boom, take a foothold in the market.

Amazone enters the world of Groundcare

The Groundcare arm of AMAZONE Ltd was added in the late 1980’s with the development of the ‘tondobalai’ mower/collector, known more commonly as the Groundkeeper. Mike Hughes took on the Groundcare challenge and established the brand across a diverse scope of applications: golf, local authorities, polo pitches, country estates, celebrities, sports stadia, you name it, they have some Groundcare kit.

VRA mapping at the turn of the Century

Since those relatively simplistic days, the last 40 years have seen some radical changes in AMAZONE machinery and also its early adaption of new technologies such as GPS-controlled application and ISOBUS machine control. Working in conjunction with Massey Ferguson’s Fieldstar ISOBUS screen, spreaders utilising variable rate maps based on soil sampling and soil nutrient level were introduced in the late 1990’s, whereas the automatic shutoff of spreaders and sprayers, using GPS-Switch, has been around now for over 15 years.

Farming relies heavily on Amazone technology

Performance and precision has always been at the forefront of machine design, and technology, such as the latest ZA-TS spreaders with ArgusTwin and WindControl, or UX 7601 Super trailed sprayers with AmaSelect, ContourControl and SwingStop have gone a long way to revolutionising spreading and spraying. This level of technology has enabled better output, less environmental impact by the targeted use of inputs as well as the increased convenience and comfort for the operator. 

In the drill world, we now see three hopper drills with different coulter positions across the drill, what we call multi-bin, multi-boom, i.e. you can sow three different materials at three different depths and three different rates; and all controlled separately by application maps and SectionControl.

Shifting trends in crop establishment with the desire to up soil organic matter levels, improve soil health and increase traffic carrying capability has seen a move towards the use of more cover crops, stale seedbeds, targeting the use of fertiliser with the seed, reducing disturbance during drilling and a change in timing with later drilling choices.

Schmotzer Hacktechnik joins the Amazone Group

Amazone has always been the harvest to harvest specialist, concentrating on soil tillage, seeding and planting as well as crop care through fertilising and spraying. Soil tillage has seen both extremes with soil inversion and mechanical weeding systems being added to the range whereas, on the planting scene, then high-speed grain singling with the Precea precision seeder for maize, rape and sugar beet is an expanding area of expertise.

Now 40 years on, the business has grown exponentially from those early years with now 9 agricultural and 3 Groundcare sales staff being supported by 7 service staff in the field. Two HGVs with cranes and a flatbed pickup make sure that both new and demonstration kit is delivered in a timely fashion around Britain. Inhouse, the parts warehouse picks and packs up to 120 orders a day and the admin team keep the paperwork shipshape. The business boasts many long-serving, highly-proficient, loyal staff but throughout those 40 years, there is one name that has seen the company blossom and has, as such, become part of the furniture, and that is Simon Brown, the present managing director.

As we start the next 40 years, autonomous operation is now coming into the forefront as well as the use of AI to predict when and where an input is required. Hopefully we can continue to offer sustainable solutions for crop production and assist in feeding the world as the population grows against a backdrop of reducing agricultural land as energy and housing remove land from food production

The shape of things to come: robotic-handled cultivations