George & Jonathan Fraser

Sponsored by  bfa sponsor

G and R. Fraser offers specific service contracting and contract farming operations across an area of approximately 1,400 hectares. Operated by George and Jonathan Fraser, the business employs nine full-time staff across a base of 150 customers.

Alongside traditional agricultural contracting, the business offers more specialist services, including digestate application from anaerobic digestion (AD) units and direct drilling.

The application of organic manures from AD plants led to business to invest in a Vervaet self-propelled tanker and application unit, which allows improved productivity and application accuracy. The growth of this service has aligned with a focus on the reduction of artificial fertiliser consumption and net-zero targets for some of the larger customers.

Reflecting this attention to improved environmental impacts, the business works with agronomy business Agrii to host no-tillage trials and open days to demonstrate their findings.

Kevin Heywood

Sponsored by  bfa sponsor

Led by Kevin Heywood, A.J Heywood and Sons offers a wide range of services including forage harvesting, combining, crop establishment, slurry spreading and, more recently, groundworks.

Recognising the changes in farming businesses and customer demands for increased insight into the tasks carried out, the business invested heavily in sensing and data collection.

Using a John Deere HarvestLab NIR sensing system allows them to provide information reports of silage quality and slurry nutrient consistency when collecting grass and applying slurries.

Aiming to offer year-round employment to their 22 full-time staff, the business expanded into groundworks to increase the diversity of the services offered.

This has allowed the business to maintain a closer working relationship with some of their customers as they are able to respond to a wider range of tasks required.

Focusing on punctuality and machine reliability, the business employs an operations manager and full-time mechanic to better manage customer expectations and reduce any issues with unexpected breakdowns.

What Kevin said

“Winning the Contractor of the Year award is totally unexpected, particularly being up against big competition. We do what we do on a daily basis with our farmer customers and decided to share to non farmers too what we do on social media. This has been a bit of a game changer for us to show the wider world what we do and why it is important.
“To be nominated for this award and then to go on to to win is just amazing. We work long days and hours but to be recognised for what we do is just brilliant.”
“I have grown up around farming all my life as my dad was a farmer so I guess you can say it is in my blood. I am so proud to be part of a a growing association and to be recognised.”

What the Judges said

AJ Heywood showed a strong understanding of its customer’s needs and maintained strong financials throughout their business. They are forward-thinking and have maximised opportunities to expand the business into new markets and activities. They have introduced technology to benefit both their customers through improved understanding of the products they are applying, and the environment through greater traceability and accuracy.

Bruce Wilson

Sponsored by  bfa sponsor

B.C. Wilson is a specialist lime spreading contractor offering both blanket and variable rate spreading., a businessOperating in a 150-mile radius of their north Yorkshire base, Bruce Wilson has been offering application services and lime sales since 2001 after purchasing the business from an existing contractor. 

Operating predominately as an owner-operator service, Bruce applies lime and mineral products using a Gustrower 36m spreader mounted on a MAN TGM 13.290 4X4 chassis. Other services include ATV-based spraying, grass harrowing, weed wiping and Avadex application. During the winter months, the business provides snow clearance and gritting services for commercial clients. 

In addition to field applications, Bruce also offers soil sampling services using a Magictec sampling system mounted on a Honda Pioneer UTV, which he imported from America. This service allows the business to accurately assess and record nutrient levels in soils and generate field-specific application maps for nutrient application alongside work for agronomy businesses.  

Annually, he provides services for an average of 50 different customers, with typical daily work rates of lime application of between 200-250 tonnes.  

When asked what he believes have been key to his success, Bruce explains regular communication is appreciated by his customers as he can plan his workload around their cropping 

I endeavour to keep my prices as competitive as possible and I do this by having good relations with my suppliers/agents/quarries,” he says. “I also look for other products that may be more cost effective.  

Equipment efficiencies also figure throughout his daily work and include the installation of a weigher to the telehander to help calibration of products that are loaded onto the spreader and a Centralised Tyre Inflation System to help reduce compaction, reduce tyre wear, increase comfort and also reduce fuel consumption. 

James Dodson

Sponsored by  bfa sponsor

Established in 2006 by James Dodson, Vineworks offers a range of vineyard and wine production services including turnkey establishment of greenfield vineyards to harvesting and maintenance.  

Predominately operatingin the South East, the business has grown with the increase in UK viticulture production and has developed its services to adapt to the needs of vineyard owners.  

Following a degree in Viticulture and Oenology from Plumpton College, James recognised the growing demand for UK-produced wine would require a dedicated contractor who could offer solutions which were both task-related, such as pruning and harvesting, alongside consultancyadvice and complete vineyard establishment with the supply of rootstock vines, trellising supplies and vine protection guards.   

VineWorks has evolved into one of the UK’s leading vineyard services company with more than 80 employees, having established more than 300 vineyards, planted in excess of 4.5 million vines and hand-harvested tens of thousands of tons of grapes.

“We believe in the future of the UK wine industry,” says James. “We want to help vineyards become sustainable both financially and environmentally. That’s why we regularly publish articles promoting good viticultural practice, offer training and fund research into UK-specific innovation.”

Continued investment in machinery has improved processes, efficiency and provide more work capability and ultimately, more services to more customers.

“We have also learnt from working with subcontractors using specialist pieces of kit and have sought to ultimately bring some of these operations in-house where possible, the main example of this is our GPS vine planting machine which had a capital cost to the business of £250,000. “It brings cost savings to the business and the customer as well as reliability from not having to be entirely dependent upon the availability of other companies, some of whom are based abroad which has been further complicated by post Brexit regulations.” 

What the Judges said

Vineworks have utilised an opportunity to expand into a growing and buoyant sector of British agriculture and have created a business to deliver the individual contracting needs for their customers. A strong focus on operator safety was evident, with a drive to offer an adaptable and profitable service to a wide range of customer demands.