The tradition of building machinery for local agricultural needs lives on at W E Scorgie and Son in Angus, Scotland, where sprayers are produced to order. Jane Carley reports.
Best known for its specialist, bespoke sprayers, W.E. Scorgie and Son first pioneered the stone separation process and went on to develop root crop cutters and disc ridgers for the strong root crop industry in the Angus area.
The family-run business was founded in 1967 when the family moved to Balrownie as the late William E.
Scorgie took over the ‘smiddy’, which provided the opportunity for him to make his dream machines a reality.
‘Auld Wull’ was a self-taught agricultural engineer who always strived to make farming more efficient, says his son, ‘Young Wull’, who joined the family business in 1977. Initially the pair focused on designing and building single row stone separators, before developing two- and three-row machines which were manufactured and sold under licence by Root Harvesters/Hestair Harvesters at Peterborough.
In 1989 the Scorgie Root Crop Cutter was developed, latterly made under licence by Ritchies of Forfar.
The company also diversified into the production of hydraulically operated folding spray booms for local farmers and contractors, their design allowing one boom to be folded in while the other boom stayed out remaining perfectly level.
Will Scorgie junior explains: “This was necessary for potato growers wanting to spray around the edge of the field.
“We have since expanded the range up to 30 metres. With trifold booms a little more engineering is required but the design is essentially the same.”
Local farmers then began to ask if the company could produce complete sprayers. Due to the terrain, a mounted design is the most suitable, and to cater for increased capacity requirements, front tanks were also offered.
“The two tanks can be controlled and operated separately. As well as offering more flexibility, it is also more reliable, as it is easy for sensors to fail where the tanks are operated as one unit,” Mr Scorgie explains.
Plastic tanks have allowed for ever greater volumes to be carried, up to 1,900 litres at the rear and 1,500 litres at the front, while a special build using steel tanks from Watson and Brookman gave one customer 4,600 litres total capacity.
In the days of sulphuric acid spraying, Scorgie also developed saddle tank sprayers, some of which are still in use and offer improved balance on hilly ground as well as good rearward visibility, although exhaust layouts make it difficult to fit them to modern tractors.
Demounts are another line, with several sold for Multidrive skid units and the JCB Fastrac.
The manufacturer’s distinctive orange-boomed sprayers are all bespoke, built to suit the requirements of customers who tend to be looking for a durable, manoeuvrable outfit to work on root crop ground and are largely based north of the border. The company also exhibited at Sprays and Sprayers in its Cambridge days, and Mr Scorgie reports a recent enquiry from a vegetable grower in Somerset.
He says: “We have had to move forward with modern technology and fit ARAG controllers, we also have the Mueller distributor, Soil Essentials just down the road so can supply their products as required.”
Entirely family run, the company has won multiple awards at the Royal Highland Show over the years, but the focus remains on building the right machine for the customer.
“The business is just myself, my wife who looks after the accounts and our children, and we produce less machines these days as there is more involved in the electronics side, but we have adapted our sprayers to the latest technology such as GPS auto-shut off to meet our customers’ needs,” says Mr Scorgie.
JM Orr sprays 10,000 hectares of peas and beans for East Coast Viners, along with cereals and grassland work in a 60-mile radius of Wardmill Farm near Forfar.
The company operates four Scorgie 28 and 30-metre mounted sprayers, the latest of which has 4,600 litres capacity from front and rear tanks, supported by three Vegcraft bowsers.
Partner in the business, Gavin Orr explains; “The 8,000ha of peas get two applications while the 2,000ha of beans get a pre-em and five applications of fungicide to tackle aphids, bruchid beetles and chocolate spot. We also apply liquid fertiliser to cereals and grassland.”
With this workload, it is important to have reliable sprayers with local back-up, he comments.
“We did consider a self-propelled sprayer when we bought the 4,600 litre model,” Mr Orr says.
“Instead we prefer to use our John Deere tractors for spraying which have RTK, good road speeds, good manoeuvrability and comfortable cabs. We have auto-section shut-off and have added individual nozzle shut off this time. The sprayers last 15-20 years which you cannot expect from a self-propelled, and if a tractor goes down we simply swap it.”
Crop protection business ACT Scotland runs its own sprayers from its base near Turriff, as well as using contractors, and its most recent Scorgie is a Fastrac demount unit.
Agrochemicals manager Alan Joiner explains: “We had an old MB Trac which had a lot of hours on it and needed replacing, but since we also use the tractor for seed dressing, its successor also had to be a demount.
“We have stuck with Scorgie as we find the single side fold very useful when spraying along fence lines, plus they are a local company that offers solid back-up.”
He comments that the boom is strong and well built and one sprayer normally lasts for the lifetime of two tractors, so when the tractor is updated, it is a simple matter of re-bushing the sprayer booms and joints and fitting it to the new model.
“The latest machine, which was built in 2017, has ARAG controls so we have full GPS for field mapping,” Mr Joiner adds.
The steel Watson and Brookman tank has 2,500 litres capacity, with a 1,500 litre front tank added to make the unit comparable to a self-propelled sprayer in terms of output.
“When we were specifying the new sprayer, we asked customers if they wanted wider booms than the previous 24 metres, but most were happy sticking with that width. We have added extensions for 28m if required, although the majority of work is still at 24m.”
With the Fastrac tied up on seed dressing in the early part of the year, Mr Joiner reckons to cover 3,400 hectares in the season with the Scorgie sprayer, mainly on cereals with a small amount of grassland work.