They supply both equipment and expertise for applications ranging from airports, sporting venues to public authorities. The broad product range encompasses mowers, blowers, scarifiers, turf harvester, seeders, soil renovators, top dressers, stone buriers and vacuums underpinned by a comprehensive after sales support service.
Tim Merrell the company's MD has built up vast knowledge and experience over the years supplying products and services both to the UK and abroad.
The demands of our playing surfaces have changed over the years. To keep pace with this change, Groundsmen and Greenkeepers are continually on the lookout for new, innovative machinery that is reliable, efficient and does what it says on the tin.
Tim has built up his company (The Grass Group) to respond to the needs of the sports turf industry. The Grass Group now have a formidable range of turf care equipment able to cater for both public and private sectors of the industry.
This has been built on the good relationships Tim has acquired over many years, working closely with the product manufacturers. One of the latest companies to recruit The Grass Group to help sell and market their products is the French company, RotaDairon.
Tim is particularly pleased with the appointment, as he started his career in France, "My early days as an agronomist were spent on a farm in France, where I first came across RotaDairon. Their range of products fit very nicely within our existing portfolio and helps us to put together a complete range of equipments for the turf care professional."
The company's portfolio encompasses soil renovators, stone buriers and seeders that can now offer a one pass capability.
Along with a number of other UK journalists, I was invited to visit RotaDairon who are based in Le Mans. The trip was organised by Pan Publicity, and it enabled me to see at first hand some of the new equipment being manufactured for the market place.
The purpose of the trip was to visit the manufacturer Dairon SA. The company has several divisions, but we were interested in RotaDairon which manufactures equipment for the construction of seed beds for the turf industry, golf industry, sports turf industry and the like.
They also have machinery for the maintenance of grassed areas, and intend to increase their product offering in this sector over time.
We were met at Le Mans railway station and taken by tram to the terminus near to the factory. An interesting thing about the track was that turf was laid between the rails. This work was done by an associate Dairon SA company, Hydro Prat Services. Having this grass has helped keep the tram noise to a minimum and reduces the CO2 levels within a city environment
Once at the factory we were given a presentation by Nova-Flore about wildflower meadows. A very interesting talk expounding the virtues of wild flower meadows in open spaces (edges of parks, golf courses, roundabouts etc.) rather than just grass. The idea is to reduce maintenance, as flowers don't need to be cut every 2 weeks like grass does.
The relevance to RotaDairon is that they are in the process of developing a seeder that will be able to spread wildflower seeds as well as grass seeds from the same machine. We saw trials plots where this machine had been used to seed areas of differing densities to see how the seed coverage comes out.
With reduced budgets firmly on many councils' agendas, opportunities to change the way the landscape can be managed may influence them to consider the benefits of using flower mixes to reduce the cost of regular mowing regimes on highway, parks and open spaces.
The initial company was formed in 1958 by Septime Dairon, the father of the current President, Michel Dairon, who took over in 1980. We were taken through the various products manufactured by the company over the years and up to the present day
During the time spent at the factory site, we were shown a number of the latest products, such as the combi-seeder, a number of scarifiers, dethatchers and spikers. One of the latest machines is the Turf Surgeon, a machine that has been designed to dethatch, spike, sweep, remove the debris and roll in one pass.
All products are developed usin computer aided design software - in fact, the company is considered important enough to be used by the software developer to trial new versions (they are currently working with year 2011 version).
Whilst all molded components and metal castings, together with laser cutting of sheet steel, are contracted out, the company machines as many of the other components that it can. It stocks all the raw materials in its own stores, and maintains it has complete traceability of what material is used for what batch of finished products.
This means that if a fault is detected in a finished product, after delivery, the company can indentify other finished products using the same batch, and replace any component before it too fails, although faulty finished products are rare.
It was the attention to detail and the high standard of manufacturing that caught my eye. The Company's President was very keen to demonstrate the quality of his products, with a series of tests showing the quality of the steel being used in components and fabrications.
One test undertaken was to show the resilience of the steel the company makes, demonstrating how it flexes back to its original shape after pressure had been applied. It was very impressive.
However, it was the level of engineering and build quality that shone out. The new scarifying/spiking machine (ED 130 & ED180 Dethatches) were uniquely designed for ease of use and reliability. Changing tines was a doddle, the removal of a couple of bolts gained access to the shaft and allowed the blades to be replaced very easily. A magnetic housing collar with specific blade shape locators enabled quick and easy replacement of the tines/ blades. This, combined with the build quality of the steel flexible blades, make it a stunning feat of engineering.
It was soon apparent, after spending time visiting the factory floor and design office, that the company dedicate themselves to quality and innovation. This innovation was also evident in the new combi-seeder, which is capable of sowing a wide range of seed ( grass and floral ), this is achieved with quite a complex hopper design, where seed is filtered into three compartments with soft apertures to prevent damage to seed.
I dare say we will continue to see more innovative products coming off this factory line, which no doubt will be available through The Grass Group in the coming years. All good news for an ever changing turf grass industry.
As an added bonus, the trip also allowed us some time to visit the historic town of Le Mans, home of the Plantagenet dynasty (King Henry II) and the famous La Mans 24 hour racing track and museum.
We were treated to a privileged tour of the museum by the Director himself. To see the history of Le Man unfold in such a large collection of priceless cars was amazing; also interesting was being able to see how the cars had developed through the years, the technology advancements, the power, aero dynamics, all driven by the desire to win the world famous race.
In fact, similar impressive developments have taken place in our own industry. We often forget how far we have come as an industry, the increasing demand for better playing surfaces has led to the design of some truly amazing pieces of innovative machinery over the last 50 years . You only have to look at the range of equipment that is available to manage and maintain grass, it is staggering to say the least.
I would like to thank Michel Dairon and Tim Merrell for their hospitality. It is very rewarding to see at first hand how equipment is designed and brought to the market place.