Amidst all the talk of the wonders of technology and how farming is being transformed, it is often overlooked that it has to be operated at farm level by people who are not as versed in software engineering.

There are a few companies which are now appreciating that sophistication is nothing, if it cannot be applied properly in the field – Sky Agriculture of Brittany being one of them.

The agent for the company in Ireland is Farmec of Co. Meath, a family business ran by Garry Daley.

Garry has a genuine enthusiasm for the brand – as he does for SIP and MZ loaders, two further franchises the company holds.

Sulky drill
The Sulky range of machinery is now being rebranded as Sky Agriculture

Sky Agriculture is the new name for Sulky. It was formed out of three existing brands in a bid to streamline the marketing efforts of the Burrel group to dealers, who are, in turn, looking to streamline their purchasing arrangements.

Although the Sulky name is still on much of the new stock, it will be replaced with the new logo as the season goes forward with the livery changing to two shades of grey, instead of the familiar blue.

Twin disc technology from Sky

It is not just how Sky Agriculture presents itself to the outside world that has been engaging those in northern France; the company continues to improve its range of fertiliser spreaders, with technology that quietly works away in the background without the operator having to become too involved.

At the core of Sky’s range of spreaders, and the mechanism around which the product and the precision ag-systems are built, lies the Epsilon system – which comprises an adjustable drop point feature and feed slide.

Disc on Sky spreader
The adjustable drop point onto the disc can be controlled by the software running in an ISOBUS screen

The first alters the position of the placement of the granules on the spinning disc, while the second changes the feed rate continuously, rather than by defined steps.

Between the balancing of these two parameters and the inclusion of an optional weigh cell on the hopper mounting, Sky spreaders can achieve spread patterns and alter spreading widths.

For wider spreading widths, there is also a double fluted vane which produces two streams of granules from each disc – one stream travelling much further than the other, due to its greater exit velocity from the disc.

Sky patents

So successful is the engineering, that two other major manufacturers have purchased the right to incorporate the design in its own machines, bringing the system to a much broader range of spreaders.

All of this is controlled through a normal ISOBUS terminal. The company did sell its own screen which was ISOBUS compatible, but it is now stressing that any tractor equipped with a terminal can operate the spreader range.

Sky fertiliser spreaders
Stock shortages are now a thing of the past but the trade is having to wait for the weather to cheer up before farmers start buying again

A further feature of the spreader range, is the tine agitator that sits in the hopper above the slide.

This moves the material from side to side to ensure an even flow to the discs, further enhancing the accuracy of spread.

Sky has also updated the accompanying app, which goes by the name of SARA. This now allows spreader settings to be determined by the operator, along with a tool for measuring granule size and weight.

This is part of the drive towards precision, while ease of use is also a huge consideration.

Ultra shallow cultivation

Fertiliser spreaders are just one sector of Sky’s range; the company is also heavily involved in cultivation, seedbed preparation and drilling.

While many other manufacturers have added shallow cultivation techniques to their range by buying in expertise through the acquisition of smaller companies, Sky has been working on organic, or reduced tillage systems, for many years.

Sky cultivator
The Sky Methys cultivator incorporates cover crops into the topsoil before the main crop is drilled

It is a completely organic holding, with many trials investigating cultivation methods and crop rotations – especially the use of cover crops.

Reducing tillage depth to a minimum, while still incorporating stubble or a green cover takes up much of the effort put in by the company.

It is a fundamental part of the company’s research effort, rather than just a bolt-on ancillary.

Soil appreciation

The prevailing ethos at the factory is that farming is all about caring for the soil as a living medium.

It is recognised that the cropping pattern and use of cover crops has a large influence on the soil, and it is to this interaction that a lot of the research is directed.

Lightweight cultivator
Lightweight cultivation which disturbs only the topsoil retains its structure further down

Caring for the environment is also an important facet of machinery development, and this too is very much a part of the Farmec approach to the import and distribution of machinery.

It might seem odd that a machinery company would want to invest in seeking an understanding of how plants might displace implements in forming soil structure, but Sky sees the soil as a partner, rather than a substance to be tamed by intrusive cultivation.

The need for machinery is still there in this scenario Garry Daley noted, it is just that a new approach to its use is required, and the shift in mindset has to take the grower from thinking about what he/she sees above ground, to what is going on below it.

Grassland management

Away from Sky, Farmec is busy preparing for the silage season and is looking forward to SIP grass machinery selling well this year.

Sip belt merger
The SIP belt merger demo unit will be out in the fields again this spring

The SIP Air 900T merger was out and about on demonstration last season, as it will be this spring.

While it has impressed many, Garry Daley feels that past experience with belt rakes in Ireland has not helped the concept; although the latest crop of machines is far more robust than previous models tried in Ireland.

Although farmers and contractors might be cautious about buying these tools, it has brought many to think again about the raking operation.