North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE -

FOR seven years, Stuart Hall flew in the wilds of Pa­pua New Guinea.

Sling­ing ma­chin­ery from his he­li­copter, Stuart was charged with get­ting largescale min­ing equip­ment in – and out – of re­mote lo­ca­tions.

Work­ing with the po­lice and mil­i­tary in PNG, fly­ing in dan­ger­ous ter­rain be­came sec­ond na­ture to Stewart.

“I spent seven years fly­ing over­seas, but I wanted to come back to Aus­tralia to raise my fam­ily,” Stuart said.

“It was an amaz­ing fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but I didn’t want to be away from home any longer.”

Hav­ing been raised on a farm him­self, Stuart set­tled his fam­ily out of Barna- wartha – and nat­u­rally de­cided to open his own aerial spray­ing business.

“I’ve al­ways loved be­ing in the air, al­ways loved the chal­lenge of fly­ing,” Stuart said.

“Be­fore head­ing over­seas, I flew chop­pers in Queens­land on sta­tions, and also in ag ser­vices across the eastern states – and hav­ing been brought up on a farm, I knew the in­dus­try well – so it made sense that I would come home and open an aerial spray­ing business.”

SGE He­li­copters is now a fam­ily run op­er­a­tion – the SGE rep­re­sents the names of the Hall fam­ily and their chil­dren – and the en­tire team pride them­selves on of­fer­ing friendly, safe and re­li­able ser­vice, backed by years of fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Given the ever-chang­ing soil con­di­tions you can find in pad­docks, he­li­copters rep­re­sent an easy and ef­fec­tive way to tar­get farm­land for fer­tiliser ap­pli­ca­tion and weed spray­ing,” Stuart said.

“I have an agri­cul­ture back­ground, so un­der­stand that pad­docks can be too wet to drive on, or that the na­ture of time-sen­si­tive ap­pli­ca­tions can be im­per­a­tive to a crop’s yield and, there­fore, the farmer’s liveli­hood.

“My aim is to ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently cover more ground in less time with no dam­age to the fields, the sur­round­ing farm­land or any nearby crops.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Stuart said ap­pli­ca­tion prices started from as low as $27 per hectare – which, con­sid­er­ing the pre­ci­sion ap­pli­ca­tion, rep­re­sented a cheap way to cover dif­fi­cult ter­rain.

“It’s sur­pris­ingly cost ef­fec­tive, when you con­sider how much time is saved,” he said

“A he­li­copter will go where a plane can’t; and if a farmer tried to cover those same ar­eas they would po­ten­tially have to do it with a back­pack sprayer, or an ATV – which is not only slow, it ex­poses the farmer to the chem­i­cals be­ing used.”

Stuart’s ex-Cana­dian air force Bell OH-58 he­li­copter can carry up to 400 litres of spray/fer­tiliser – mean­ing he can spend more time in the air, and less time re-load­ing.

“It’s a great ma­chine for the job – ag­ile, but tough – and very re­li­able,” Stuart said.

“The Bell, like most he­li­copters, is able to fly low to the ground, which causes a down­draft of the ro­tor blades, push­ing the chem­i­cals onto and be­tween crops, re­duc­ing the risk of drift and im­prov­ing the suc­cess of the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“It’s an­other ad­van­tage of us­ing a he­li­copter in an ag set­ting.”

Right now, SGE He­li­copters are busy spray­ing for black­ber­ries, burrs and St John’s Wort.

SGE He­li­copters also of­fer aerial spray­ing ser­vices and an­i­mal con­trol ser­vices.

AIR­BORNE: Stuart Hall runs SGE He­li­copters, spe­cial­ists in aerial spray­ing.

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