French manufacturer Sulky has set up its first overseas subsidiary
French manufacturer Sulky has set up its first overseas subsidiary to ensure continuity of supply and after-sales service for its products, following the closure of Reco, which has imported and distributed the brand in the UK for approximately 23 years. David Williams reports.
Sulky has a strong following among UK farmers, making the country the manufacturer’s third largest market, after France and Germany. Its range of products enjoys an excellent reputation for performance and longevity and is supplied through many leading machinery dealers.
The company’s aim is to double its total export sales within the next five years and its infrastructure includes two export offices; one in Hungary and the other in Russia and it has appointed six export managers and four export technicians. For the UK market, it has set up its own distribution business – Sulky UK, and its target within the UK is to occupy a position within the leading five brands in each of the product groups it serves within the five-year period.
Whereas previously Sulky products were available from large numbers of dealers even within the same area, a new dedicated dealer network is being created which will encourage dealers to invest in the franchise, stocking products and parts and ensuring staff are trained to advise users on getting the most from their machines. Previously only a limited number of Sulky products were available, but the full range will be represented under the new dealer agreements.
Sulky UK has moved in with fellow French-owned subsidiary Gregoire-Besson UK Ltd, at its Bourne, Lincolnshire HQ and, while the companies remain independent, they will be sharing resources including the premises as well as sales and service teams. The team will consist of three regional sales managers, a sales assistant and a product manager responsible for sales support and marketing. Co-operation between the companies ensures efficiencies of scale for both manufacturers, but also makes it easier for dealers representing both brands to handle and sell the products. The company exhibited its products alongside Gregoire Besson for the first time in the UK at Lamma last month.
“The arrangement makes a lot of sense,” explains Sulky UK product manager David Parsons who was responsible for sales of the brand previously with Reco. “Our ranges are complementary, with Gregoire Besson and Rabe offering ploughs and heavy cultivators whereas the Sulky line-up includes power harrows, drills and spreaders. Where possible we will be serving farmers in each trading area through the same dealers, but where this isn’t the case then the sales representatives will be offering the brands through different outlets. We are delighted that the move to supply through the UK division has been greeted enthusiastically by many of those dealers which were key to the brand’s success in the past, but we do have some gaps in the network and are looking for up to 40 outlets, to serve farmers across the UK.”
There has been significant investment by Sulky in recent years, in both its manufacturing and product ranges and its factory near Rennes in Brittany, which was built on a greenfield site and completed in 2011, replaced a building within the city which it had occupied since 1945 and which could not keep up with the 15-35 machines per day manufacturing rate. The new factory includes a state-of-the-art paintshop, as well as a recently installed robotic welding system for spreader mounting frames, which cost 380,000.
Sulky works closely with the IRTSEA institute in France to test the accuracy and performance of its spreaders. Three-dimensional analysis of the pattern is used and has helped the company to develop its Econov spread control system which allows the application rate to be maintained accurately even when the section control is in use. “Even with 11 out of the 12 sections closed, the application rate is maintained correctly,” said David. “We have the only spreader which offers dual variable rate application which means flow to the two discs is controlled independently.
A new feature, available on our latest X50+ spreaders is a border system which can be fitted to either the left or right sides, or to both, allowing operators to carry out headland applications travelling in either direction; clockwise or anti-clockwise around the field.”
The Econov system has the potential to offer significant savings in fertiliser use by ensuring accurate application. Tests have shown that a nine per cent reduction is easily achieved, which equates to approximately 2,600 euros in value for a 150ha field at an application rate of 220 units of nitrogen. “As well as cost savings, increased yields are likely due to less lodging through over-application and the protein content will be correct too, ensuring quality,” explains David.
Sulky has also invested in IT to make it easier for users to correctly set up their spreaders for a wide range of fertilisers. ‘Fertitest’ is available through the company’s website and allows users to look up the fertiliser being applied, as well as their model of spreader, and the recommended settings are easily found.
Collaboration with John Deere has taken this a stage further and, using John Deere’s Greenstar 2630 terminal, users can input the fertiliser type and the system will automatically obtain the correct settings and apply them to the spreader. The Connected Nutrient Management concept was awarded a Gold Medal at Agritechnica.
A new touch-screen control was launched at Lamma. The Isobus Sulky Quartz 800 allows guidance and machine set-up and monitoring to be visible on the same display, and up to 12 automatic boom sections to be controlled, as well as providing dual-rate application to both sides.
As well as the new mounted spreaders, Sulky has introduced updated XT trailed machines which, for the first time, are available with the Econov spread system at the rear, providing the same accuracy for those spreading on a larger scale.
The XT100 and 130 models with 7 and 10t capacity, and capable of applying granular fertilisers up to 50m, can achieve work rates up to 90ha/hr at an application rate of 300kg/ha and the spread pattern can be adjusted in six sections. The adjustment relies on the curved spread pattern and functions when applying granules but not powdered products such as lime.
Updates to the range of Sulky drills include the Cultiline XR compact disc cultivator onto which the Xeos Pro drill body can be mounted to replace the traditional Cultiline HR power harrow. Both are compatible with and complement the Cultidisc rear seed coulter arrangement, preparing the land for the 415mm notched discs. “The Xeos Pro power harrow drill is superb, allowing crop to be established even in very challenging conditions, but the new Cultiline XR ensures excellent penetration, even in very dry conditions and allows much faster operation. The power harrow/ drill version will operate typically at approximately 8-10kph whereas the Cultiline XR offers up to 41 per cent extra output, operating at speeds up to 14kph,” says David. “The new option means the drill is more versatile allowing farmers to get even better performance from their investment whatever the working conditions.”
Another crop establishment option from Sulky is the Kronos tine seeder, available in 4.8, 5.6 and 6.0m work widths, all folding to 3.0m for transport and all with a 1,700-litre seed hopper. With five rows of large clearance tines, the high-speed drill can cope with considerable amounts of trash. Front guide wheels and the rear press provide depth control. Integrated or front-mounted hopper versions are available for all working widths, and the front hopper can double as a fertiliser hopper for use with rear-mounted precision drills. The Kronos seeder will be available for the first time in the UK through the new subsidiary and the 6m version is expected to be the most popular choice for users, being compatible with 12, 18, 24 and 30m tramline systems.
Pictured (l-r) are Sulky marketing manager Stephane Billerot, product manager Joachim Brossard and David Parsons.