Business Rural Summer 2021

56 | Continuous investment essential to keep Hugh de Lacy RURAL SERVICES » Skyfarmers Aviation Ltd • ON SITE SE R VICE T R UCK • HYDRA ULIC RE P AIRS • CUSTOM F ABRIC A TION • SEASONAL SE R VICING NewModernWorkshop at 77 Line Road, Methven Guyon 027 622 8933 | Andrew 027 722 8933 w w w . h u m m e n g i n e e r i n g . c o . n z Proud to support Skyfarmers C oming up on 40 years in business, family agricultural firm Skyfarmers Aviation keeps abreast of the competition by continuous in- vestment in its aircraft capabilities. Duncan Hart bought the business from his father, Don Hart, in the mid-2000s and, working from the family farm on the Springfields Estate in mid-Can- terbury, continued the policy of regular upgrading of both the aircraft and their technological capacity. After operating Airtrucks and Fletchers, the company now has a fleet of two Air Tractors – both bought new in respectively 1995 and 2012 - with a Fletcher as back-up. Don Hart launched Skyfarmers Aviation in 1982 in partnership with pilot Col Bolger, and it was based in South Canterbury before being shifted to Methven when Don took over full ownership. Don took the business into the GPS and turbine aircraft era in the early 1990s, before Duncan started leasing the first Air Tractor and equipment on the way to buying his father out. “Recently we have upgraded to the latest Tracmap GPS, which makes it easier to receive and export maps and provide proof of placement,” Duncan Hart says. “Also, one aircraft has now been fitted with hydraulic hopper doors that have the capacity to be operated for either constant or variable rate, and is able to automatically shut off for any sensitive areas such as water-ways. “That was a $100,000 exercise, and we hope soon to have a new loader built that will be a bit of a prototype, having a telehandler boom mounted on the back of a Hino truck for loading.” The turbine aircraft are fitted with the engine trend monitoring unit DAAM. Such investment is vital to keep the fleet viable in a competitive market. “Recently one of the fertiliser co-ops decided to enter the South Island with their flying business, but our recent investments in technology ensure our planes can do what anyone else’s can do. “Some farmers like supporting private enterprise, and we can work alongside the big co-ops in this market,” Duncan says. Though far less affected by the Covid pandemic than other parts of the aviation industry, the agri- cultural sector has had to contend with challenges in importing new engines and parts, and even the fertiliser itself. “Demand for topdressing and spraying has re- mained constant, but freight is one of the big issues to come out of Covid,” Duncan says. Skyfarmers Aviation works throughout Canter- bury, with the business a 50/50 mix of fertiliser on hill country and traditional and specialist crops, including potatoes and other vegetables. “Our fertiliser work covers a wide range of applications, from high country stations to high analysis fertiliser on the foothills, to cropping on the Canterbury Plains. “We do a lot of potato spraying between Novem- ber and April, and some farmers use the aeroplane right through, while others start when the wheel ruts from ground rigs and irrigators become too deep for ground work. “The aeroplane will always be a vital tool and have a place in New Zealand farming,” Duncan says. Skyfarmers has a fleet of two Air Tractors – both bought new in respectively 1995 and 2012.