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New Georgia Company Manages Vegetation
Plantation Creation Uses SUPERTRAK Inc. Machines to Remove Trees, Preserve Landscape
By Pete Hildebrandt
Date Posted: 12/1/2006
VALDOSTA, Georgia — For a new business, Plantation Creation LLC is well on the way to establishing itself as a viable, growing land improvement service in the Southeast. Owner Mike Lansdell came to this relatively new industry with plenty of related experience, background and education.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the University of Georgia, Mike worked as a field sales rep for Helena Chemical Co., selling chemicals for forestry and other applications. His territory included the entire state of Georgia. When he left the company in late 2005 to begin his own business, Mike was invited by BASF Corp. to participate in its quality vegetation management advisory program.
It was a natural progression to go from representing a large corporation, advising forest landowners on chemical applications, to starting his own business to provide similar services. Plantation Creation provides consulting for forest and vegetation land management as well as actual on-the-ground services to manage vegetation with both suitable chemicals and forestry equipment.
Mike’s company is equipped with SUPERTRAK Inc. forestry machines. “With the SUPERTRAK Inc. machines we use, it’s an exceptional way to regain control of your land or property,” he said. “To go in with conventional land-clearing equipment normally kills a lot of trees. Scratching around on the surface and digging around the roots is hard on the land.”
The combination of SUPERTRAK Inc. forestry equipment and chemicals for forestry applications gives Mike the tools he needs to help landowners effectively manage vegetation on their property.
“Using the BASF products in conjunction with the SUPERTRAK Inc. equipment allows me to do pretty much everything the landowner needs,” said Mike. “I’ll use selective herbicides, depending on the site and vegetation involved. There are several different options involved. I’m licensed to do forestry and aquatic applications through the state of Georgia.”
Plantation Creation also provides services to manage aquatic vegetation. For example, a landowner may want lily pads or other invasive plants removed from a pond or wetland. Mike is licensed by the state of Georgia to apply aquatic pesticides in ponds and lakes but not streams and river, applications that are regulated differently.
Plantation Creation will be working for a client next year who owns a 350-acre swamp. The first step will be to confer with the landowner to learn his objectives, such as managing to improve wildlife habitat, timber production, or some combination of those kinds of objectives.
For example, in managing vegetation to improve wildlife habitat, landowners typically should remove non-mast-producing hardwoods, Mike noted — hardwood trees that do not produce food for wildlife.
“We can select what we want to take out based on what their needs and goals are,” he explained. “Any red oaks producing nice acorns, we work around them and leave them in place while removing sweet gums, maples or any other oaks of no value to the client or the objective.”
Mike’s company has two forestry machines from SUPERTRAK Inc. The SUPERTRAK Inc. SK120TR is a 127 hp custom rubber-tracked skid steer, and the SUPERTRAK Inc. SK200TR is a 200 hp custom machine with steel tracks. Both machines are equipped with FECON Bull Hog forestry mulching attachments, which shred vegetation, including trees.
The SUPERTRAK Inc. machines feature low ground pressure because they are track-propelled. “We don’t have to worry about the terrain we operate in,” said Mike. The company also is equipped with a Caterpillar four-wheel tractor with boom mower for slope and ditch mowing.
Mike’s wife, Julie, is involved in the business, too. Mike’s duties include consulting with landowners and management, and Julie runs the office. The couple has 5-year-old twins, a boy and girl.
“I’m the owner-operator, so anything I need to do physically with the machinery, I handle that too,” said Mike. “Right now, I operate the SUPERTRAK Inc. SK200TR, and I have an operator usually dedicated to the SUPERTRAK Inc. SK120TR. He can operate either of the other two machines or we rotate in and out.”
“I think one of my biggest challenges with this new business is for me to simply know when to get off the machinery and go visit people or make some quality sales calls,” said Mike. “I really struggle with that. I have so little time. I only have one other employee, so we pretty much handle the whole process. If I’m going out to look at a piece of property, I’ve got to get off the machine and do the work of accessing that land for someone.”
Mike wants to expand the business enough that he can hire another employee to operate equipment. “You simply cannot do it all,” he said. “I would like to continue to sell and manage the business as well as be versatile enough that I can operate all the equipment and fill in when I need to.”
Mike’s company has stayed busy despite changes in workload and operations, depending on the season. “We stayed real busy last winter and didn’t have much downtime,” he said. “Though I don’t have time for much activity outside of work at the moment, at one point in my life I was an avid golfer, and I still enjoy fishing and hunting in spite of all the time I spend outdoors during work.”
Plantation Creation has Global Positioning Services (GPS) capability on its SUPERTRAK Inc. equipment. “Basically you can use GPS to do a lot of different things,” said Mike. “My main method of operation is for a customer to give me a ‘shape’ file, essentially the work area defined on software. I then load that information into my GPS. When I reach the job all the parameters are set. I basically then know where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do on a particular job site.”
“The GPS units we use are of the latest technology on the market,” said Mike, and it saves time for him and the landowner and improves the accuracy of operations. With the data about the landowner’s property loaded into his GPS, Mike doesn’t need to worry if he is in the right location. It speeds up the work because he does not have to rely on a landowner or other person to provide on-site guidance or directions to ensure he is working in the right location.
As a BASF quality vegetation management advisor, Mike has access to the company’s aerial photography database. “I can use that to do a lot of my work,” he said.
Mike has been pleased with the performance of his SUPERTRAK Inc. equipment. “They’ve figured out a way to get the horsepower to the cutting head, and the machines are very reliable. Though we service all our own machinery, they also have a field mechanic to come and assist you if need be. Their service is excellent. We’re not too far from the SUPERTRAK Inc. dealer in Punta Gorda, Florida — about five hours from our base of operations.”
“They’re always available to talk,” he added. “I’m just really glad I hooked up with SUPERTRAK Inc. to get into this type of business.”
Specialty herbicides for aquatic vegetation typically are applied via boat. Mike’s company is equipped with airboats for this task. The boats are supplied by Dixon Airboats of Bainbridge, Georgia.
“This outfit customizes their boats,” said Mike. “For me it means it’s a real light-weight boat, and with it I can do a lot of things without any other help. I can unload into a place that has no boat ramp, spin it around on the ground, and place it in the water by myself.”
Airboats typically have large engines and weigh considerably more than his Dixon Twister model. Mike’s Dixon Twister has a 35 hp engine, still more power than he needs. “I really just need something to putter around in and get over the vegetation with.”
SUPERTRAK Inc. purchases Caterpillar components as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and uses them to build custom mulching carriers. The company also is a dealer for FECON, which manufactures forestry mulching attachments.
“The good thing about their equipment is that it’s CAT componentry,” said Mike. “It’s very reliable, and you also get the CAT componentry service through SUPERTRAK Inc.”
SUPERTRAK Inc., based in Florida, has manufactured custom heavy equipment for 20 years and has been an OEM utilizing CAT components most of that time. The company buys components directly from CAT OEM Solutions.
“Perhaps 95 percent of the work we do is building custom machines for the vegetation management application involving brush-cutting heads,” said Charles (‘Chuck’) Hussey, SUPERTRAK Inc. sales and marketing manager.
“The majority of SUPERTRAK Inc.’s business for its first 15 years involved construction of rubber-tired, high-horsepower forestry tractors for reforestation projects and land or plantation management,” said Chuck. This equipment was designed to pull plows and choppers for reforestation, land reclamation and vegetation management, he explained. “We still do some of that, but predominantly and to a large extent, things have shifted over to mulching applications for us.”
Much of this has to do with changing landscapes and the cost of managing vegetation, according to Chuck. For example, many plantations have become overgrown and now must be thinned. However, instead of cutting vegetation, piling it up and burning it or hauling it away, converting standing vegetation to mulch with a machine that does it in one process is more efficient and cost effective.
“Hauling has become very expensive,” Chuck noted. Tighter restrictions and a decrease in the amount of time permitted for burning have all contributed to making mulching applications much better, cost-effective options. Also, through mulching, nutrients can be returned to the soil as well as assisting in erosion control.”
Mulching attachments can shred trees and other vegetation while causing little disturbance to the forest floor or residual trees. It is much less invasive than conventional logging or land-clearing methods.
“You can be around the drip line of a pine without hurting it because you are not digging down into the ground to where its roots are,” said Chuck. “Typically, if you disturb the soil around a pine tree deep enough to injure its roots within the drip line from its branches, there’s a good chance you will kill the tree. Using our equipment, you will only go down into the soil no more than two inches, so you’re not going to hurt anything.”
SUPERTRAK Inc. equipment is well suited for removing vegetation to improve plantations, hunting preserves or other wildlife habitat, maintain rights-of-way, and other applications, particularly where reducing disturbance to the forest floor and other vegetation is a priority. Another application is reducing fuels in forests and creating fire breaks to reduce risk of wildfire, especially near residential or urban communities.
Another application is removal of invasive species or non-native vegetation. “Here in Florida we deal with a lot of Brazilian pepper and Palmetto,” noted Chuck. “Over in Georgia you must deal with quite a bit of Kudzu, and in the Western U.S., especially in the Southwest and in Texas, they’re dealing with a species called salt cedar that needs to be managed due to how much water it takes from the ground.”
SUPERTRAK Inc. machines also find applications related to removing vegetation to improve land being put up for sale. Converting some of the vegetation to mulch without disrupting the terrain can make a property more aesthetically pleasing and attractive to a potential buyer. Removing some vegetation may allow a visitor to the property to see more of landscape, such as ponds or other features. Mulching vegetation also may reduce the amount of land-clearing work that would be required later when a new property owner is preparing to build, Chuck noted.
“We work very hard with our customers,” said Chuck. “That includes Tom King, our president, and our sales force, as well as that of our service manager, Jimmy Warram, our technical services manager, John Le Page, and our parts manager, Daniel Dagan. We all work very well together to give our clients the best service we possibly can.”Editor’s Note: Plantation Creation may be reached at (229) 356-3923 or visit www.plantationcreation.com.
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