This is my first editorial comment since the news of our sale to Agrovista UK became public. It may seem strange to see two direct competitors now working as one, but the coming together of two 'like-minded' businesses made perfect sense in an ever-increasing competitive marketplace.
L-r: Dave Saltman, John Richards, Duncan Brown and Chris Clayton
Both Sherriff Amenity and Maxwell Amenity have strived to provide our respective customers first with good agronomic advice before 'making a sale'. Both companies have maintained a strong educational arm in the belief that a well-informed customer is a long-term customer.
As a groundsman myself, working at the sharp end of pitch maintenance in stadiums, the idea to start Pitchcare came to me one warm day in June 2000. Sitting up in the North Bank at Molineux, enjoying a break with half the pitch mown as we grew in the recently renovated surface; the opportunity to create a hub/forum to share ideas and working practices for free seemed like the right thing to do. Our industry is a people industry, yet most of us work in isolation. At the time, there was very little easily accessible information and advice available, certainly very little that was free to obtain.
The internet has evolved immensely since those earliest days, but there are a great many people who have learned much about how to achieve better surfaces, primarily from reading the articles and forums that Pitchcare has provided over the last two decades. It will continue to grow and provide what is already a huge library of good practice across all disciplines of grass maintenance. The world is fast becoming a small place with information technology, the answer is only ever a few clicks away for those who want to understand and learn.
I'm extremely proud of the way that the Pitchcare business grew over the years. The acquisition of ALS in 2009 allowed us to be in control of our stock and distribution, and we also inherited the Contracting division as well; something very close to my heart.
The momentum of a growing business meant an expanding team of specialists (in their defined areas), with the ability to look closely at new products and ensure the research, development and successful in-house marketing to our customer base.
The ability to launch these products, with robustly researched agronomic information using the internet platform and the Pitchcare magazine, as well as through our internal and external sales teams, backed by our technical team, has been second to none.
However, as legislation increases, more products require testing, not just the chemicals. In the future, I can see the cost of undertaking trials and then registering new fertilisers, biostimulants and seed becoming expensive and, therefore, prohibitive to smaller companies.
We have already seen a lot of consolidation in the amenity sector. In my opinion, the decision by Agrovista to acquire Maxwell Amenity and merge together with Sherriff Amenity, arguably the two most progressive supply businesses, in its new form of Agrovista Amenity, offers a real potential to become the market leader within our industry.
The business model of providing sound agronomic advice, education and shared knowledge, alongside a large portfolio of world class products that should now be even more competitive than before, can only be a win-win for the business and its customers.
Just as important, we have been given assurance from our new shareholders that Pitchcare will continue to be editorially independent.
Good luck as we head towards the spring.