Tony Cross, Director of Central Hills Machinery is a fifth generation mixed farmer from the North West coast of Tasmania. He was one of the third largest seed and commercial potato growers in Tasmania who worked with McCains and Edgels potatoes, experimenting with seed potatoes for Australasia. He also designed a 3-row potato planter which is still being used successfully in Tasmania and Australia for potato planting.
Whilst in Tasmania, he worked at several agricultural machinery dealerships as a sales manager – the largest being Gaffney’s Machinery. He also introduced many different types of European machinery and different ways of cropping to Tasmanian growers – gleaned from the experience he gained whilst travelling around the world working with farming communities. One such trip involved working with a Tasmanian association called Simplot Industries together with Chamble AgriTech (the largest fertiliser company in the world) in an advisory role in Punjab to set up their distribution warehouses for potato seed growing. Another was working with Milestone Agricultural Machinery – a world-leading company in Idaho, travelling extensively to the North American potato growers.
Tony then moved to Victoria as a sales area manager for Lely Australia in Rochester. At the time, his area was achieving $1.5million wholesale per year, and in 13 months he had increased it to 3.2million. He also quadrupled their sales in different areas, so he then went on full contract with the company. One of these areas was mouldboard ploughing, as in Tasmania he had ploughed in the world ploughing competitions and won many events. He then went to work as a Sales Manager for Warnambool Agricultural Machinery – Victoria’s biggest CASE dealership. In 1998 Tony was offered a manager’s position travel to South Africa and work for Lely Industries in Holland, in order to increase their market share in South Africa, however due to the current political unrest at the time it wasn’t safe and didn’t eventuate.
Tony then purchased Central Hills Machinery Traders (CHMT) in 1999 with a turnover of $930,000. In 2 years the spare parts department alone reached $1.2million, and by 2003/2004 it was turning over approximately $9million. CHMT has been in operation for nearly 50 years, and is one of the oldest agricultural dealerships in Australia.
CHMT were distributing Grimme potato harvesters in South Australia, which is the largest potato growing area in the southern hemisphere. Tony established the seed potato growing industry on Kangaroo Island with the SA Government in 2002, which today is the biggest potato seed growing area in Australia.
In 2008, CHMT went on to be the largest retailer of all Claas machinery in Australia, along with being the biggest Daedong dealer in Australia and the biggest Grimme harvester reseller in Australia. Both Central Hills Machinery and Tony Cross have received many accolades for being the top selling dealership along with top salesman’s awards. Tony also has a letter from Lely Industries in Holland for selling the most machinery in a year within Lely’s world distributorship in its history. In 2004-2005, David Edwards, Westpac’s Corporate Division’s Bank Manager, voted Central Hills Machinery one of their leading and up-and-coming businesses in SA.
Tony has been a leader in the industry in South Australia over the last 20 years, working with the Department of Natural Resources in South Australia by conducting seminars and workshops for dairy farmers, beef farmers and potato growers. He is currently working with the SA Government to introduce mouldboard ploughing in South Australia, as he has his own machinery, ploughs and articulated tractors, which are run under another company. Tony started mouldboard ploughing in Western Australia over sixteen years ago, and helped the farmers to triple their crops.
At present, Central Hills Machinery continues to be a leader in the industry as the clientele over the last 15 years has moved from being 95% large growers and 5% small weekend farmers, to being 95% small farmers and 5% large farmers. Central Hills Machinery is still PFG’s industry leader by being their oldest and biggest dealer. CHMT became a distributor for Mahindra in November 2015, and became their biggest dealer by June 2016, selling 25% of their turnover in 6 months. Our scope at present is to continue to import implements and tractors direct from overseas.