Denne Hill Farm Project

There is a world of difference between building a new grain store for a client and working closely with a customer to build him the grain store he needs.

That difference is at the heart of the approach that Faversham-based Harvest Installations takes to every new contract – and one that certainly impressed James Loder-Symonds of Denne Hill Farm, Womenswold near Canterbury.

James knew he needed new drying and storage capacity to cope with his expanding arable operation, but the best way of achieving that goal was far from clear.

Mike Wilson, owner of Harvest Installations, explained: “It was clear from the outset that there was more than one way in which we could give James increased drying capacity and a larger store so I sat down with him and looked at a number of options before we agreed on the best way forward.

“Harvest Installations prides itself not just on the quality of the drying equipment it manufactures but on the quality of the advice it gives around the whole issue of grain storage. We devote many hours to making sure the client knows exactly what he wants before we get anywhere near digging holes in the ground.”

In James’ case the end product of that carefully-though out advice was a 3,000 tonne grain store and state-of-the-art floor drying equipment.

James farms 2,600 acres from Denne Hill Farm, growing 3,000 tonnes of milling wheat, 800 tonnes or oilseed rape, 600 tonnes of winter malting barley and 600 tonnes of spring beans a year, as well as 1,500 tonnes of feed wheat.

Although last year’s particularly wet harvest focused his mind, he had been talking to Mike about increased drying and storage capacity since the end of 2007.

His existing grain store was fed by a serviceable continuous flow Law-Denis dryer but could only hold 750 tonnes. More of a problem was the fact that the dryer could only handle 40 tonnes per hour, simply not enough to cope with the output of modern combines.

One of the early options the two men considered was building another modest-sized store on another of the company’s farms and upgrading the dryer serving the existing facility, but they decided that would represent a missed opportunity to future-proof the business.

“We decided instead that the best option was to centralise the storage on this site and create a store large enough to handle the farm’s needs over the next 25 years or more.” Mike explained.

That decision also meant that the existing dryer could be retained for the smaller tonnage specialist crops, since with less intensive use it has many years of drying left ahead of it.

In the event the calculations showed that investing in more storage cost about the same per tonne – around £140 – as the smaller-scale plans would have cost.

“It was a brave decision but it was the right one as it has given us all the storage we need, even if we succeed in our plans to buy more land,” explained James, whose parents Roddy and Caroline are the other partners in the business.

That brave decision saw Harvest Installations project manage the construction and commissioning of a purpose-built 42m by 30m store that stands 7.5m at the eaves capacity 3000 tonnes.

At present the right hand half of the store is fitted with a Challow Products hardwood drying floor, allowing 1,500 tonnes of grain to be stored and dried. Maximising the dryer capacity simply means moving the dried product across to the other side and starting again.

All the drying infrastructure, though, has also been built into the left hand bay, which means that it’s simply a matter of adding a floor and connecting the equipment to realise the full potential of the store. James estimates that such an upgrade is no more than three years away and will coincide with the company taking on extra arable land.

At the heart of the new store is Harvest Installations’ own award-winning constant humidity controllers and grain stirrers, products that have revolutionised bulk on-floor storage. The company also supplied the main air duct, fans and internal fan house that completes the low-maintenance, cost-effective system.

Roy Wickenden carried out the groundworks, the building and concrete walling was supplied and erected by A C Bacon of Hingham in Norfolk and the electrical work was done by J W Brazier.

The building itself is airy and light thanks to the inclusion of skylights, a fairly recent addition to grain storage buildings made possible because they are now animal and bird-proof. High-level extraction fans that change the air twelve times an hour which removes moist air and keeps dust levels down making it more comfortable for employees.

With Mike doing everything from applying for planning permission to supervising the whole job on site, it left James to concentrate on the day job at Denne Hill, which includes looking after 30 store cattle and managing a cross-country ride, an archive storage facility and an eight-unit business centre.