Generations in harmony
The Mur valley in Austria has always been farming country. Surrounded by mountains, the plains alongside the Mur river offer good conditions for growing wheat and maize. “We’re right in the middle,” says Sonja Wildbolz, and means it geographically as well as professionally. The company offers a wide range of agricultural services, from soil preparation, sowing and fertilising to entire silage chains for grass and corn. “Demand peaks are common in agriculture, and I need to be able to rely on my team,” says Sonja, who directs up to ten people when the workload is heavy. A major part is also played by the machines, which become more capable year by year.
Trend towards large machines
“It used to be we would contract to do a job during a certain week. Now we agree on the exact time of day we’ll be there. Everything has to be done quickly. Time is short. That means bigger, more expensive machines that let us finish jobs faster.” Sonja is talking about a general trend, that has its good sides for contract service providers. Dominik Wildbolz adds, “Today, successful farmers are the ones who specialise and do what they’re best at. They contract everything else out with service providers. For us, it makes sense to spend the money on bigger machines, since we can use them to capacity.” The Megafex 2200 is an example. Half the year they use it as a transport trailer, and the other half as a spreader.
Two jobs for the Megafex
“Now that it’s autumn we’ll convert the Megadex from trailer to spreader. Then in the spring, when manure spreading is over, we’ll put the load flap back in,” explains Dominik. “Switching from load flap to spreader unit takes less than an hour, and then the Megafex is ready to spread compost, manure or calcium.” He appreciates the flexibility as well as the good spread pattern the Megafex gives.
As a trailer, they use it to move large volumes of silage as substrate for a nearby biogas plant. “We grow 150 hectares of silage maize, much of which goes to make renewable energy,” he says of his dual role in food and energy production.
“We’re not committed to any one manufacturer,” says Sonja. “We buy the machine that best meets our requirements.” The Megafex is part of an illustrious line-up of major German agricultural machine brands. Only the load flap was not quite what Dominik had in mind, so together with colleagues he designed a new flap with integrated feed roller for more even unloading, and had it built in the company’s own, well-equipped workshop. They maintain all their machines there, and work on high-powered “special vehicles” when time allows.
“My Megafex is unique,” says Dominik, “but maybe at Farmtech they’re thinking about something similar.”
The company has another line of business for fertilizing its own acreage as well as customers’ fields – its own composting operation using tested sewage sludge and chopped green cuttings.
Sonja Wildbolz is proud of the high quality they turn out, as confirmed by steady demand. “Our compost is grade A. It is constantly tested and free of contaminants. Our average rotting time is eleven weeks, then we post-rot until use. We screen some of it for sale to private individuals, but most of it goes to agriculture.” The company provides full service – customers tell them which fields need fertilizing, and Wildbolz takes care of how much compost to spread, when to spread it, and properly working it into the ground.
Retirement will have to wait
A not insignificant part in the compost quality is played by regular turning, and the company’s turner seems to be unaffected by the hand of time.
At an age when many a machine would be rusting away at a junkyard or cannibalized for parts, the 1995 vintage Topturn 3000 is still hard at work.
“Some days the electrics get fussy,” says Domonik, “but the engine and the turning equipment are completely functional. Luckily we have a colleague here who’s the right age for the Topturn and knows how to treat it properly. If we ever need a replacement I’m not sure what we’ll do - today’s turners are just too big for our volumes. But luckily there are service providers!
When the work is done it’s time for a chat around the coffee machine. All are agreed – there is more competition and the business is faster-paced now. But with an understanding of nature, fertile soil and a fair amount of business savvy, Sonja and Dominik Wildbolz can look to the future with confidence.