REPORT: There are certain jobs that are the bread and butter tasks for many contracting operations — silage making, slurry spreading, baling — but Tom Voyce wanted something more niche, hence his move into vegetation management. We find out how the Northumberland-based business is evolving.

There’s something about farming that gets under your skin, and, even if you leave to follow another career, for many there’s a desire to return to the agricultural sector. This is what happened with Tom Voyce. Having grown up on the family farm in Cornwall, he had a successful professional rugby career in England and then became a trader in the city commuting from Northumberland where he had settled with his wife and children.

Three years ago, he researched the local contracting market before identifying a niche opportunity with vegetation management, so he took the plunge, buying his first remote controlled flail robot in 2020. Today the business has evolved with a growing fleet of specialist machines.

“There are not many doing this sort of work in the moorland and highlands. It is usually stone walling or ditching contractors, but vegetation clearance is a secondary job for them,” he explains. “I did the reverse and decided to come from the specialist side. My first machine was a McConnel R56 Robocut, which provided a very good entry point into the market.

“It has taken time to win people over. For a private estate or landowner I initially look expensive, but I can complete the job about 75% faster than one person doing the job manually with a strimmer or chainsaw.” Now he has a growing list of clients, from those private landowners to government bodies and county councils. When we caught up with Tom, he was clearing non-native and invasive black buckthorn from sand dunes, as it has proved to be the catalyst for wild fires. Removing the buckthorn also helps the marram grasses to return, bringing natural and ecological benefits.

But it has not been plain sailing for Trevow Vegetation Management. While the Robocut proved an ideal machine for a firm starting out, it was not able to endure the workload, and in the end he looked to upgrade into a bigger unit. However, the relationship still continues with the Ludlow-based company