Herefordshire-based agri, forestry and ecological conservation contractor Agreco added the PrimeTech PT-300 self-propelled mulcher from FAE to its fleet in 2018. It is an impressive bit of kit that can effortlessly chomp through the toughest terrain, as Forestry Journal’s Fraser Rummens found out when he spoke with director Kim Parsons.

‘IF the work is there for it, we will invest in it’. It’s an ethos that has served Kim Parsons, owner of agricultural, forestry and ecological conservation contractor Agreco, well over the last decade.

Returning to the UK in 2010 after working abroad for some years as a mechanical demining specialist for the HALO Trust, he took up work with an ecological contracting company as a field manager. It was during a construction project in Essex that he made his first foray into forestry kit. The rough terrain was proving difficult for flail mowing, so a forestry mulcher was in order, Kim said.

Forestry Journal: Kim Parsons with his dog, Jake.Kim Parsons with his dog, Jake.

He explained: “It was very cheap and easy to get a digger to do a job, but for veg clearance and land management work there was nobody around doing it. I ended up buying some kit to do it to help them out and that’s what got us going. Once we got up and running with that, out of season I started finding work elsewhere for it, doing more traditional work with it in woods. It went from there.”

Kim soon went out on his own and hasn’t looked back. He attributes the business’s growth to reinvestment, following the work and being prepared to take on new kit as and when it is required. In the early days, if there was a lull during the season, Kim would look for something new to keep the work going.

“If there is ever a job that comes up and needs a bit of kit, or people are asking for a particular service, and the work is there for it, we’ll invest in it,” he said.

“We’re led by market forces and customer requirements. Going out and buying machinery just because you like the look of it doesn’t tend to pay off very well. If there is work for something, we will go out and get it or if a customer wants us to do something, if we can warrant it, we will invest in the kit to do it, or are likely to know someone who can help us out. But things are always changing, so you’ve got to be fairly flexible with kit. I don’t like tying myself to going down a particular avenue and working practice just because that’s the kit we’ve got and we’re always going to use that.”

Forestry Journal: Post-clearfell ground preperation in South Wales.Post-clearfell ground preperation in South Wales.

There are two distinct sides to Agreco – forestry and ground clearance. When Kim spoke to Forestry Journal late last year, it was getting into the busy site clearance season. The rest of the year is spent predominantly carrying out forestry and agricultural work.

Testament to Kim’s attitude towards continued reinvestment, Late 2018 saw the delivery of the PrimeTech PT-300 self-propelled mulcher from FAE – a deal that was done at that year’s APF, and the first new model in the UK.

“I’ve had FAE equipment for quite a long time and I’ve also had a relationship with FAE and PrimeTech,” explained Kim. That pre-existing relationship and experience with the kit meant that when it was time to invest in a self-propelled mulcher, there was no question about it. FAE was the way to go.

The 302 hp PT-300 is driven by a 6-cylinder, CAT C7 Stage 5 emissions engine, which has already enabled Agreco to win contracts on projects like HS2. It is equipped with an oscillating BERCO D4 undercarriage, and offers ground clearance of 46 cm and a ground pressure of 0.23 kg/cm2 (3.25 psi). It features dozer-style rollers (six single-flange and three double-flange rollers per side), full-tilt cabin, built-in air filter system, flat-faced front windshield, high-performance LED lights and a compressed air cleaning system for the windshield, designed to offer better visibility in case of dust or debris build-up.

Forestry Journal: Post-clearfell ground preparation in Herefordshire.Post-clearfell ground preparation in Herefordshire.

The PT-300 is predominantly used for site preparation and clearfell operations, Kim said. He praised its ability to traverse rough, steep terrain and do work like stump mulching, which the firm’s tractor could not. Put simply: “If it needs mulching, that’s the tool for it.”

Kim said: “We’ve put more hours on it and done more work than we budgeted for and scheduled for but it’s one of those things – if you don’t have the machine, you can’t do the work; but once you’ve got the machine, the work will often come and find you.

“People are very impressed with it. It leaves a really nice job and we’re not just trying to sell ourselves as going out and just doing a job of mulching – because mulching is very expensive, people who are not tuned into it, they can take a bit of bringing round or they might not be interested, they’ll just keep on trying to windrow their brash – but then you’ve still got a site that’s covered in stumps, covered in brash.

“If you’ve got a site that’s only been raked, for example, or not even prepped at all, everybody’s job thereafter becomes a lot harder, whether they are planting, doing beat up, doing weeding – but with the mulcher, once we’ve mulched a site it is very easy for the guys to plant it, it is very easy for us to go in with the Bobcats to do mechanical weeding and everything else becomes easier, like beat-up, etc. and there are some clients that we’re working with who are really beginning to see and feel the benefits of that. While the site prep initially costs them a lot more, all operations that come thereafter are significantly easier and cheaper, and that is where they start seeing the value in the job.”

Forestry Journal: Reclaiming old apple orchards prior to planting wheat in Worcestershire.Reclaiming old apple orchards prior to planting wheat in Worcestershire.

Kim expressed an interest in carrying out niche work, noting an increase in winch-assisted hill work. He was also full of praise for the skid-steer, calling it the best system he has ever bought into.

“There is always another use for the skid-steer; there is always another attachment you can put on it to make it more useful. It’s a hell of a tool. Brilliant.”

Forestry Journal: Ride clearance under close supervision.Ride clearance under close supervision.

And what about his favourite type of job to be involved in? “Ground reclamation jobs because you are really creating something with that. You are given a patch of scrubland or woodland or an old gone-to-seed Christmas tree plantation, etc. on what is potentially good, useful land – but covered in trees or scrub, it’s of no use. So, to get in there and clear it, get all the roots scrubbed out and be able to return it to the plough and get a crop planted in there for your client is always a fairly rewarding job and it allows us to use a fairly wide range of the kit and services we’ve got. Jobs like that are always a good advert for our capabilities, and considering the cost of land, excellent value for the client.”