From Formula One to wheeled loaders

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:

Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire, founded by ex-Ferrari racing driver Jody Scheckter, uses a Case 821F and 240B to process green waste, and now has ambitions to export its compost. Geraldine Faulkner reports

An opportunity to visit a biodynamic farm (more of that in a moment) that is run by a former F1 driver and which includes a composting site doesn’t come up very often. Oh alright, it has never come up before. So it was with great anticipation that I visited Jody Scheckter’s Laverstoke Park Farm outside Overton in Hampshire, where two Case machines are being put through their paces.

Spanning 2,500 acres, Laverstoke Park Farm rears pigs, cows, sheep, chickens and, most notably, a herd of Asian water buffalo using biodynamic principles. Biodynamics is an organic farm movement that was started in 1924 by scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner and which Scheckter and his wife, Clare, have embraced enthusiastically.

“Under biodynamic philosophies the farm is regarded as a whole unit – biodynamic preparations are added to the compost and the land; planting follows the cycles of the moon as much as possible in a British climate,” says the South African former F1 racing driver.

An important part of the biodynamic farm’s operations is the purpose-built seven-acre compost site which shreds green waste and turns it into PAS100-standard compost.

Currently producing 30,000 tonnes a year, there are plans to more than double this to 70,000 tonnes per annum.

Bob Coles, site manager at Laverstoke Park Farm’s composting site, sets the scene: “We bring in green waste from various commercial sources – no food waste – just pure green waste. We shred it and put in windrows, let it bake for eight weeks, while continually turning before putting it through a screener. We don’t bag it at the moment, although we do have PAS100.”

Coles emphasises that the operation has been spreading green waste on its fields for years because the supply to the site has not exceeded the needs of the farm.

“However, since the reorganisation of the compost site, the projected amount of compost we are producing exceeds the demands of the farm, thus we are applying for an export licence to cope with the excess we produce,” he adds.

Coles and his colleague, Rob Sweeney, the Case 360 and loading shovel driver, only joined the composting operation at Laverstoke three months ago. Their first task was to remove a huge heap of green waste that had been dumped onto the composting site, shred it and spread it on the farm’s fields.

“We couldn’t do anything else with it as we had not yet been given final approval for PAS100. Now we’ve started our windrows and last month was the first time we were able to put it on the fields. We are at the stage now where we’re producing good compost and we’re happy with that. We are now going up to the next tier once we have gained final PAS100 approval,” continues the site manager, who joined the farm from a clay quarry, while Sweeney boasts a background in farming.

Both men are excited at the prospect of being at the start of the new composting operation and one which promises to be expanding before long. “We have two Case machines at the moment,” states Coles. “But this is going to change as we are growing.”

The Case at the moment

The team currently uses a Case 821F wheeled loader to turn the windrows and a Case 240B tracked excavator to fill the shredder.

On this occasion, the focus is on the 821F. With its sturdy build, the wheeled loader is a reliable workhorse that has no problems with its primary function, which is to turn the windrows on a daily basis.

“You start at one end and work your way through until it’s time to start all over again; it’s a bit like painting the Forth Bridge,” quips Coles.

Sweeney adds: “The wheeled loader is a good honest piece of kit. In a nutshell, it’s a nice all-round machine that is stable with a very comfortable cab and you don’t have a problem driving it for eight hours.”

The cab on the 821F is 2.06m3 and, at 1.64m, is reported to be the widest in the industry.

According to Case dealer Peter Bishop at Otterbourne-based BPMS: “The 821F features the highly efficient mid-mounted cooling cube, which is extremely effective in waste and recycling operations such as this. It virtually eliminates the build-up of debris and is coupled to an auto-reversing fan fitted as standard. This is particularly useful on the composting site where it doesn’t take much to block up conventional cooling systems.”

From the operator’s POV

Another plus from the 821F operator’s point of view in terms of low engine vibrations and stability is a rear-mounted engine that is as far away as possible from the cab. “Engine noise and vibrations are reduced and we use the rear-mounted engine as a counterweight so there is less dead weight to carry around, which helps save fuel,” adds Bishop.

The relationship between Case and Scheckter goes back to 2007 when BPMS supplied a skid steer loader for the dairy. “We started supplying parts and servicing the machine and it grew from there. We’ve always had a good working relationship with Jody regarding the machines and service contract.”

An important consideration in the relationship between Laverstoke Park Farm’s composting operation and BPMS is geographical. “We are only half an hour away and, to ensure we don’t encroach on the team’s schedule, we usually carry out the 500-hour servicing of the machine on a Saturday,” says Bishop. “We have maintained the machines since they were supplied new. In fact, when the engineers have been here, they have also repaired some of the other kit, even though they are not our machines.”

Going the extra mile appears to be nothing unusual at Laverstoke, with both the Case team and composting site staff helping out with Carfest South, an event that takes place on the August bank holiday weekend and which raised £1.5 million for Children in Need last year. “The whole site shuts for the weekend and basically Mr Scheckter and other personalities like Chris Evans race cars,” explains Andy Spiers, the composting site’s weigh bridge operator and administrator.

Case is also taking part in the event. “We have been asked to display machines like a mini excavator and think up games. For instance, we plan to disconnect the slew and tracks on a mini excavator and put it on a pile of materials, so that children assisted by our engineers can sit in it and have a go at digging,” says Bishop.

“In total we plan to display around six machines. Other activities will involve putting a weight at the end of strings and dropping them into a series of pipes.”

Coles has the final word: “It’s all part of the pit-crew mentality that operates here.”

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