Nineteen years ago, the Zonderland family left the ‘Noordoostpolder’ in the Netherlands. They knew exactly where they wanted to go: the Province of Ontario in Canada. An area with a mild climate, which is very similar to that in the Netherlands, the winters are not extremely cold and summers not excessively dry. “Although there is now over 30 cm of snow” father Jan Zonderland laughs. It is the end of December when we speak. I am curious about their experience in Canada, their business and also about the Condor ClearancePlus they bought last year.
Together with his wife Til and son Huib, Jan runs a small arable farm in Dresden. He has sugar beets on about 50 acres and grows onions on 37 acres. In addition, they have a contract business with mainly custom spraying and the family has a seed dealership, focusing on corn and soybeans. Of their two daughters, one returned to the Netherlands.
The enthusiasm for his work is clear, even over the distance of almost 4,000 miles. With the same enthusiasm he tells about his decision to buy the Condor ClearancePlus. “Of course there are things that you can buy anywhere, but the Agrifac machines have a number of advantages that are absolutely unique.” Jan explains that he was looking for a machine that can spray high corn late into the season, so a machine with high ground clearance. In Canada and North America he could not find a machine that meets his quality standards. “Compared with the Agrifac machines, actually each machine runs behind technology wise. Your Condor is designed for one purpose: to reach the product on the right spot. That is really special.”
“For our contract work we spray each field as if it were our own. It is not about making quick steps, but about giving the plant what it needs. That is something in which we differ from most contractors here. Which makes sense because the Canadian farmer is not always aware of the newest technology. I see it as part of my job to discuss about this issue with the farmers. It is not just about spraying a field, but about a problem that he has and that we want to solve in a qualitative way. Not every farmer sees the spraying job that way, but I feel it is a growth process.”
Jan tells me that three points were decisive for him to choose an Agrifac machine. First, the HighTechAirPlus system (HTA). “The fact that we can easily adapt the spraying to all kinds of weather, is priceless. We can change the droplet size without even getting out of the chair. And the result is much less drift.
Another plus is the circulation system (GreenFlowPlus), allowing to quickly switch between different liquids. It also makes rinsing quick and easy. And finally, the balance of the boom, which is really second to none.”
Apart from these advantages, Zonderland is very pleased with the service. “This was a bit of an issue for us, being so far away from the factory and buying the first Agrifac Condor in Canada. But the promised service level is fully met.”
Zonderland sprays approximately 21,000 acres a year. He wants to expand this to 25,000 acres. With the current labor and one sprayer, that would be the maximum in order to still deliver a good job. “We just want to make optimal use of the Condor, that’s all we want.” His son Huib does most of the spraying, but in high season they work night and day and Jan takes over the machine in the evening.
When I ask Jan if there is anything that he lacks in Canada, eg. some typical Dutch food, he replies that they regularly eat ‘Dutch’. No problem, everything is available. What he sometimes misses is the Dutch “gezelligheid”. A word that is almost impossible to translate, it is the social cohesion in the Netherlands, especially in the villages. However, he stresses that Canada is a great country for various reasons. What he certainly does not miss, is the over-regulation in the Netherlands, although he also sees the disadvantages of less strict rules in Canada. He encounters many machines that would be rejected in the Netherlands. There is little pressure to minimise the use of chemicals. Which according to him, is the reason that technology does not focus on this too. Personally, he believes it is important to protect the environment and only use what a crop needs. A believe that fits perfectly with the Agrifac vision.
Josephine van Gelder