Innovation award for Ron

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Methven's Ron Smith, of R&R Spreading, is presented the New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association (NZGFA) innovation award by award sponsor Nick Allen, of Trucks & Trailers.Photo Rachel Hume.

Methven businessman Ron Smith had an idea five years ago, invested in it and, with the research to back it up, ran with it.

He then made the information he had learned available to others to better the groundspread industry.

His efforts, and those backed by the staff at R&R Spreading, won him the innovation award at the recent New Zealand Groundspread Fertiliser conference.

Mr Smith, now semi-retired, is constantly thinking of ways to improve industry performance.

He knows fertiliser and nutrient spreading is an important part of the food production chain.

He said farmers had strict regulation around their fertiliser use and faced penalties if it was used excessively, or patchy crop growth if it was spread unevenly.

It was his business to make sure the right nutrients got put on to the ground at the right time and to the right levels.

Using an independent company Mr Smith delved into researching how best to spread fertiliser on the land.

It took months of testing, charting and fine-tuning.

Mr Smith said the most commonly used fertilisers DAP, Urea and Super Phosphate all had different percentage variation rates.

The different sizes of each batch of fertiliser had an effect on how it sprayed from booms of the groundspread trucks.

“One batch can be pea sized, or as fine as talcum powder,” he said.

Imported fertiliser goes through many stages to get into the country and can be received in some pretty rough condition, Mr Smith said.

The more it was knocked during transport, the more it broke down and became fine powder.

Mr Smith said initially the fertiliser was sieved for testing and spread across trays placed on the ground under the path of each truck. The particles from the spray were caught, measured and recorded.

Sieving the product was timely and impractical, so material was tested in its natural state.

It showed spray rates varied due to the state of the fertiliser received, Mr Smith said.

Depending on the product it could vary anywhere in range from 26-metres (coarse Urea) to 18-metres (fine Urea).

Now every time drivers go on farm, they do a product density test to ensure the right bout-width spread is used for the product to do the best job.

“We know what each truck can do and how far they can spread,” Mr Smith said.

The driver’s were up to speed with ongoing training and regular testing of the trucks which were “put over the trays” to make sure the spread continues to be “nice and even.”

It makes sure farmers are getting the right consistency spread on to their properties, he said.

There is a price for accuracy but Mr Smith said farmers understood the process and saw results and the decision was ultimately up to them.