Machinery under hammer as eight jobs go in farm business restructure at Frederick Hiam Ltd
- Credit: Archant
A restructuring operation to bring greater efficiency to an East Anglian agricultural business has created a large surplus of farm machinery – which will be sold via an online auction.
Frederick Hiam Ltd farms about 9,000 acres, specialising in potatoes, onions, parsnips, sugar beet and wheat. It has five sites located around the Norfolk/Suffolk border and in Cambridgeshire, plus a dairy operation in Pembrokeshire.
Managing director Lindsay Hargreaves said the need to become more competitive in a volatile marketplace had prompted a new operations plan to be devised, to make best use of resources and technology.
The new approach has released more than 300 pieces of surplus equipment, which are due to be sold next month in an online auction run by rural business consultant Brown and Co.
Mr Hargreaves said: “Our practical farming operation is spread over half a dozen sites across an area of 30 miles, so we are now thinking much more as one large single farm, rather than a collection of smaller farms.
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“This reorganisation has allowed us to ‘design out’ duplication of equipment. Instead of having a potato harvester on each of our farms, we have gone through a significant planning process and found we could achieve that harvesting programme with two harvesters working across the whole holding, rather than having multiple teams. It is about harnessing technology and working a lot smarter.
“Farming is going through another quite difficult time. We need to be commercially competitive, which means we do have to push a lot harder to deliver the service and quality at a price that our customers are prepared to pay.”
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The restructuring has also resulted in eight redundancies from the farming operation. Mr Hargreaves said: “We have all worked very hard to make sure that it was a fair and honest process and that, for those people who were displaced, every effort was made to help them into new employment, and to do that in a responsible way.”
Mr Hargreaves said the choice of an online machinery sale was partly driven by the practicalities of having to physically assemble all the machinery for a traditional auction.
“More and more people are using this kind of technology,” he said. “We are all becoming more time-pressured and the idea of coming round a farm auction site for hours on end is very time consuming, so as we get more confident in doing things remotely, we are all getting used to the idea of looking at photos and descriptions and going out for a targeted site visit at a time to suit us, rather than someone else.”
The auction lots include tractors, trailers, harvesting equipment, planting equipment, cultivators and workshop tools. Mr Hargreaves said: “There are well over 300 lots, ranging from a 220hp tractor to a pallet of chicken wire – and everything in between.”
The online auction opens for bidding at 7am on February 16 and closes at 7pm on February 25. Viewing can be arranged. For more information see www.brown-co.com.