RCNZ contractor profile: Douglas Farm Contracting

The business of agricultural spray contracting is highly specialised, requiring high levels of expertise and precision

Based in North Canterbury, Douglas Farm Contracting was launched in November 2005 by Sam and Amber Douglas.

Keeping up to date with chemical products and technology is crucial for spray contractors

The agricultural spray business completed its first spray job at Glens Of Tekoa in the Hurunui. While the Douglas’ main area of focus is the Hurunui district, over the years, the company has successfully served clients from Rakaia to the Awatere Valley.

Sam started spraying seasonally around Australia in 1999, working on cotton crop farms in Moree, New South Wales, and general broad-acre spraying in Western Australia, operating large-scale John Deere self-propelled spray rigs.

Here in New Zealand, the business runs a variety of machinery, with all trucks running Topcon GPS systems.

“They are simple, reliable, and have a back-up service,” says Sam. The business currently runs two Iveco Dailys operating 15-metre Bertolini spray packs, one Isuzu Croplands 24-metre spray pack, and recently purchased a Multidrive with 28-metre booms to service specialised crops.

The recently purchased Multidrive

“Machinery that is run efficiently, with limited breakdowns and accurate GPS software is pertinent to the daily running of our business,” Sam explains.

Sam believes that the success of the business comes down to five key aspects:

  1. Operating modern equipment that is practical to their landscape, with accurate Topcon GPS gear (thanks to Autosparks Ashburton).
  2. The fact the business is a ‘Chemically Registered Applicator’ with a broad knowledge of specialty recommendations.
  3. As an owner-operator, Sam returned to New Zealand determined to succeed in an industry he had a passion for. Many years of long hours and hard work have ensured their success, he says.
  4. Customer service: Douglas Farm Contracting retains a high number of loyal clients and ‘genuine good buggers’.
  5. Sam says he hit the jackpot and married the daughter of a well-known spraying contractor from Mid Canterbury. “She knows the industry well and understands the demands of the busy season,” he says.

Sam reckons taking some early risks in business has helped set Douglas Farm Contracting apart from the rest.

Liquid fertigation units

“We started dissolving and applying liquid nitrogen and other minerals 10 years ago when people frowned upon the idea that using less fertiliser in a liquid form could give you the same results as solid fertiliser,” he explains.

In 14 years of business, Sam he has seen numerous changes in the industry. “From starting out with a small handgun business that grew rapidly to selling this business to an employee and concentrating on the broadacre side of our business,” he explains.

“We have also noticed a change for the better in spray nozzle technology,” Sam adds.
However, he also thinks there are some big challenges facing the sector as well.

“We have noticed many agricultural businesses are struggling to find top-quality staff members that are local and having to look overseas,” he says.

Sam adds that the current staffing shortage in the New Zealand agricultural sector is supported to a high standard by Rural Contractors NZ. And while the industry will always face numerous challenges, Sam says there are some ways people can give themselves a leg up.

The business  runs two Iveco Dailys operating 15-metre Bertolini spray packs

“Be up to date with the increasing number of changed chemical products on the market and use up-to-date technology inside the trucks and at home base to ensure accurate mapping, recording, and general data that clients and suppliers require,” he explains.

Sam says organisations such as Rural Contractors NZ play a vital role in supporting the sector.

“Rural Contractors’ recruiting of international staff for seasonal demands, and the organisation’s advice to its members, is pertinent to the success of many New Zealand agricultural contracting businesses,” he says.  

Find more farm machinery for sale in NZ

Photography: Shannon Williams

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