- Brixworth Farming’s Mark Jelley has been crowned as this year’s Syngenta Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year (FSOOTY)
Announced in the Sprays & Sprayers Arena at Cereals 2023 in Nottinghamshire, the prestigious FSOOTY title seeks to recognise and reward the skills and expertise of the UK’s top operators.
Mark Jelley is the lead sprayer operator at Brixworth Farming in Northamptonshire. He has been operating sprayers for 45 years and now uses a state-of-the-art Chafer Interceptor self-propelled sprayer to work across 1,500 hectares of combinable crops on the farm’s own land, plus an additional 500 hectares of contract farming.
In addition to his knowledge and attention to optimise every application, the judges exemplified Mark’s approach to progressing the skills of his fellow operators on the farm. That included sharing information and best practice to ensure they are all working in the same way, which leads to consistently better results.
“Having been a previous finalist I was keen to give it another go,” Mark reported. “The FSOOTY questions make you think, so it’s a good learning experience too.
“Entering FSOOTY is a good way to measure and further your knowledge, and to keep on learning.” He undertakes frequent work-based training, as well as taking every opportunity to increase his knowledge in his own time.
Making the presentation, Syngenta Application Specialist, Scott Cockburn, who organises the annual competition, said: “In one of the largest entries in recent years, this year’s finalists highlighted that experience counts – since all of them had made the shortlist before.
“Everyone in the industry is aware of how the application of plant protection products are under constant scrutiny. That’s why highly skilled, qualified and expert operators, who take seriously their continuous professional development, hold such an important position on farms,” he added.
For more than 30 years FSOOTY finalists have shone a light on best practice. While over the same period equipment, techniques and technology have seen enormous advances, it still takes the operator’s skill and knowledge to ensure products are applied accurately, safely and efficiently, Scott pointed out.
The FSOOTY judges are always keen to stress it’s the operator’s skills that are being judged, not their machines and stores. “That’s illustrated by this year’s wide variety of equipment being employed by the finalists,” Scott pointed out. “It is, however, now noticeable how many farms, of all sizes, are now investing in modern filling areas, stores and water handling facilities.”
Other finalists commended at the FSOOTY Awards included Peter Dennis of Sternberg Farms, Tenterden, Kent. With more than 40 years of spraying experience, Peter is the lead sprayer operator on the farm and is responsible for all the applications, where he operates a John Deere R962i, treating 1,000ha of combinable crops. The farm has also updated its spray filling system, adding a 50,000L water tank and new bunded container store.
Another previously short-listed finalist that was also in the line-up this year was Chris Hosking, now the lead operator at Varfell Farms near Penzance in Cornwall. He’s responsible for the crop protection applications on 1,600ha of land, including producing 41 million bunches daffodils. Chris is also responsible for the sprayer store and managing the stock.