Matt Fuller has been named this year’s winner of the Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year (FSOOTY) award at the Cereals LIVE virtual event.
After leaving university four years ago, Matt began work at Heathcote Farms in Bedfordshire, where he is now the main sprayer operator.
He operates a 4,000-litre Bateman RB35 with 32m wide VG boom – one of the first in the UK to be equipped with the Capstan Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), which became the subject of his BASIS project.
First-time FSOOTY applicant Matt commented: “We saw the main benefits in investing in PWM is the improved accuracy from individual nozzle control, as well as the turn compensation to maintain consistent application rates.
“I’ve only been spraying for five years, but in that time I have seen big changes. I feel it’s so important to keep up to date with training – anything that increases my knowledge is worthwhile.”
Judges were impressed by how quickly Matt has progressed in his relatively short career, as well as his interest in his work and efforts to increase his knowledge.
Scott Cockburn, business manager and application specialist for FSOOTY organiser Syngenta, explained: “This year, judging the contestants by Zoom interviews and questioning, we have been hugely impressed by their knowledge and passion the job entails. Delving into the details, has revealed their professional approach to every application.
“Syngenta recognises that the skills of the sprayer operator are paramount in achieving the full potential from all our crop protection products. Matt has proved a worthy winner by demonstrating that best practice can deliver efficient, cost effective and, above all, safe crop spraying.”
Matt’s top tip was to use an old milk crate to hold 1-litre cans, so the lids can be unscrewed and kept ready for filling without the cans falling over.
As he announced the winner, NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw said: “We know that there’s going to be ever-more scrutiny on the way we use the plant protection products that are available to us.
“And it’s absolutely critical that we can demonstrate professionalism right the way through our industry. We know that the products are absolutely vital in delivering affordable food for society. It is also critical that we look after the environment at the same time.”
Mr Cockburn noted that the FSOOTY awards ceremony has only been cancelled once in its history – in 2001 due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak. In this most unusual year, finalists had to rise to the challenge of the final judging process remotely, via video conferencing.
Runners up this year were: Peter Dennis of Sentry, R Stenberg Farms in Kent; Luke Haynes from Montreal Estate in Kent; Steven Keal of Thelveton Farms in Diss; Michael Knight of A J Middleton in Kettering; and Tristan Newens of Windmill Down Farm in Hampshire.
Syngenta’s Harry Fordham said previous contestants for the award have noted that even if they didn’t win, the opportunity to share knowledge has been “invaluable”, as he encouraged people to enter and nominate others next year.