Crop Protection

Gordon Whittingham wins FSOOTY ’24

12 June 2024, UK: Congratulations to the winner of the Syngenta Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year 2024, Gordon Whittingham. He was presented with the prestigious FSOOTY trophy in the Sprays & Sprayers Arena today (11th June 2024) at the Cereals Event by Sarah Iveson, Syngenta’s Commercial Unit Head for North-West Europe. 

Gordon, who was previously a finalist in 2010, took the top honour in one the tightest competitions for many years. The judges were initially going to select just three finalists, but with such fine margins between the operators, they decided to take four through to the final – and they were not disappointed.

Gordon works at Great Tew Farms, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, and is responsible for all the crop protection and fertiliser applications, using a 2020 Bateman RB35, which is equipped with the Capstan II PWM system.

After reaching the FSOOTY finals in 2010, Gordon decided to give it another go this year. “Having another crack at FSOOTY after 14 years was a good opportunity to check my basics and brush up on spraying best practice,” he says.

A lot has changed since his last entry, with the farm investing in not only the latest application technology, but also a new spray and sprayer store with rainwater harvesting and biobed. He has also become a bit of a guru on Gatekeeper software and is happy to share his knowledge with others as part of groups on social media sites.

The judges say Gordon rose to the top in the strong field not only for his professional and meticulous approach to his role, but also how he strives to improve his own operations and shares this knowledge with others.

“Gordon has really mastered new technology. He has also made positive steps forward in not only his work, but also his commitment to protecting the environment and the general public,” says Iain Lindsay, FSOOTY Judge and Syngenta Area Manager.

Fellow judge and Director of Operations at the VI, Neal Evans says it’s the hardest final he has ever judged. “Gordon stood out for not only his approach in the field, but because he really cares about the environment and protecting other people.

“Just fine margins separated the four finalists. It was great to see that those who had entered before had taken advice on board, which has highlighted a greater awareness and professionalism,” he adds.

 Judge and FSOOTY 2020 champion, Matt Fuller adds: “The care and professionalism of all four finalists was a real standout.”

FSOOTY 2024 Finalists

Syngenta also congratulates the other finalists in the competition for their commitment and participation in this tough competition.

Richard Darling – Davison & Co, Great Barford, Bedford

Richard Darling, who operates a Horsch Leeb 8.300 PT self-propelled, is the lead sprayer and combine operator at Davison & Co, which farms across four bases in Bedfordshire. Richard previously entered FSOOTY in 2021 and, after a positive experience with the competition, decided to have another go in 2024.

The business grows all combinable crops and four main land blocks, which involves quite a bit of roading, as well as four spray stores to keep in check and monitor stock.

Macer Nussey – Down Ampney Contracting, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

First time finalist, Macer Nussey is one of two sprayer operators at Down Ampney Contracting, part of the Velcourt group. Based at Down Ampney, Cirencester the business grows 2,100ha of combinable crops and 200ha of maize.

Down Ampney Contracting has two Horsch 5LT sprayers, although the workload is split 80/20 toward Macer, who is the lead operator. He also usually manages the spray store, and keeps a check on record keeping, which is a paper-based system. The judges were impressed with Macer’s enthusiasm and encouraged him to enter future FSOOTY competitions.

Josh Whitear – Netherley Farm Partnership, Chalton, Hampshire

A FSOOTY finalist in 2021, Josh Whitear, works for Netherley Farm Partnership in Hampshire, where the farm grows 418ha of cereals and contract harvests 150ha. Josh carries out all the farm’s spraying with an Amazone front- and rear-mounted combination on a John Deere 6195R CommandPro.

As well as being the lead operator, Josh also takes care of much of the farm’s data input to Gatekeeper. Working closely with the farm’s agronomist he uses paper spray recs, although the business also uses John Deere Operations Center for field records.

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