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The life of a Dundee groundsman

The life of a Dundee groundsman: It’s no walk in the park being a groundsman at a Scottish football club when the dark winter hits.

Read the full article from The Courier here

The life of a Dundee groundsman

The life of a Dundee groundsman

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FLexGrass a new INFINICUT® partner

FLexGrass a new INFINICUT® partner: INFINICUT® are pleased to announce a new distribution partnership with one of the world’s leading hybrid pitch suppliers, FLexGrass.

With vast international experience in countries including Italy, Switzerland, North Africa, the Balkans as well as Mexico, Argentina and beyond, FLexGrass will be adding the INFINICUT® range of professional cylinder and rotary mowers to their ‘one-stop shop’ installation and maintenance package.

FLexGrass a new INFINICUT® partner

FLexGrass a new INFINICUT® partner

FLexGrass have been working with some of the biggest names in sport for over 10 years. Its owners Fabio and Lorenzo Travaini, in collaboration with SIS Pitches, pride themselves on providing a complete surface package – from project management and installation, through to maintenance and follow-up service and support. With a number of exciting pitch projects in the pipeline for 2021 and beyond, Turf Managers will now have the opportunity to specify mowers from the renowned INFINICUT® collection to keep the health and playability of new installations in first-rate condition.

“We are extremely excited to start this collaboration with INFINICUT®” comments FLexGrass CEO Fabio Travaini. “Our customers are interested in achieving excellence and we have therefore always made it our mission to create or find the very best products to give our customers just that. With INFINICUT® we are now in the position to offer them not only the best, but the most technologically advanced, mowing equipment available in our market today.”

INFINICUT® Sales Manager Vinny Tarbox added, “It’s been a very exciting few months for the team as we continue to construct our global distribution channels. Fabio, Lorenzo and the team at FLexGrass have worked incredibly hard to establish themselves as a leading provider of hybrid surfaces, all backed up with the very best products and support. We look forward to working closely alongside them to bring the INFINICUT® range to even more venues around the world.”

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A spotlight on Tom Hobbis

A spotlight on Tom Hobbis: Tom Hobbis, former greenkeeper, father-to-be and Amenity Specialist for Agrovista Amenity reveals exactly why he feels blessed – every single day.

As the end of his school life was approaching, Tom didn’t really know what his future held. However, a chance work experience placement at his local golf course made him fall in love with working in the great outdoors.

A spotlight on Tom Hobbis

A spotlight on Tom Hobbis

“I was offered a full-time role after my work placement at the golf course and found that working outdoors with early starts and early finishes was something that appealed to me – it just suited me down to a tee.”

After greenkeeping for thirteen years he moved into machinery sales, where he was working with some of the most prominent brands in turf care. Of course, he didn’t have any experience in sales at the time, but he wasn’t about to let that stop him.

“I’m a firm believer in the saying, if you don’t ask you don’t get,” said Tom. “I thought it was something I’d like to do so I just asked the company outright if I could have a job. They gave me one and in turn it gave me the experience I needed to be able to apply for the job with Agrovista.”

Tom was in this role for fifteen months before he saw the opportunity at Agrovista Amenity. He admits that it piqued his interest immediately, but this time, it wasn’t as straight forward as just calling someone up and asking for the job.

“Agrovista is a huge company and it seemed to tick every box for me,” continued Tom. “I knew a couple of people that were working there, and they explained how good a company it was to work for – in terms of support, training and development. It was quite a long application and interview process but fortunately I was offered the role and I’ve never looked back.”

Tom has now been an Amenity Specialist for just under two years, focussing his efforts on a variety of sites around Scotland. Tom clocks up the miles as his daily travels take him to some spectacular places on his home soil, including East Lothian, Perth and Aberdeenshire – to name but a few.

The best part of his day? A wee chinwag of course.

“It’s always a 5am start and it will be a case of catching up with customers; going over a quotation or looking at the results of some products that have been put down; talking about the plan moving forward – or just having a chinwag. I love a good chinwag! The conversation always varies depending on the site and each has their own objectives and goals. The whole aspect of the job is completely different, and it certainly keeps me on my toes.”

Tom makes an average of five visits a day to customers and even though two years might seem a long time, he claims that he still has some work to put in when it comes to getting to know all of his customers.

“I cover pretty much the whole of Scotland and it is still a learning curve,” he said. “I’m still in that period of getting to know my customer base on a personal level. Every customer is just as important as the next, whether they spend £2 or £20,000 – it’s essential that we offer the same level of service at all times.”

With customer service in mind, Tom believes that the bar has been raised even higher in this respect since Agrovista acquired Maxwell Amenity earlier this year.

“It’s been an exciting time to be part of this company. The portfolio of products that we can now put forward is second to none. I feel it has put Agrovista Amenity in a position where it is at the very top of the marketplace. It’s just a case of driving forward in the right direction – and that is exactly what we are doing as a company.

“Agrovista is supportive in so many ways, it is unbelievable, and someone is always at the end of the phone as well. I’m also currently working towards my BASIS and FACTS qualifications so there is a lot to look forward to.”

Life is good for Tom right now; not only is he in a job he loves but he and his partner are looking forward to welcoming a baby into their family (in just five days, in fact, at the time of writing).

“I’m a big family man and I love spending quality time with my partner and the kids. We’ve got another little girl on the way which we are over the moon about.

“Career wise – I couldn’t be happier, and the position that I am in now makes me feel immensely proud. To be able to go out walking on a golf course, a football stadium, a race course or the beautiful grounds of a private school and to be able to talk to people with the same shared interests – well it’s not a bad gig is it?

“I feel very blessed, every single day, that I can do this job.”

For more information about Agrovista Amenity, visit www.agrovista.co.uk/amenity

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Always the right tine for a Verti-Drain

Always the right tine for a Verti-Drain: Shortly after taking over as Head Greenkeeper at Charleton Golf Club, Brian Heggie quickly drafted in another new member of the team – a Redexim Verti-Drain® 7416 from local dealers Henderson Grass Machinery.

The versatile range of tine options available means that the Verti-Drain® has had a busy year since its delivery in March 2020, conducting monthly aeration across the course’s greens, tees and approaches.

Always the right tine for a Verti-Drain

Always the right tine for a Verti-Drain

A quick scan of the shed upon joining the club in September 2019 highlighted to Brian the absence of any aeration equipment – something he was keen to rectify. “I’ve used the Redexim Verti-Drain® in a number of my previous positions and you know that whichever model you choose, it’s going to be reliable and do exactly what it says on the tin” says Brian, who heads up a team of four. This time Brian opted for the 7416 model, offering a 1.6m working width and penetrating the ground to a maximum depth of 350mm (14”).

“What keeps me coming back to the Verti-Drain® is the flexibility of being able to use different tines throughout the year – ensuring that we are achieving optimal results, no matter the ground conditions. This year we’ve been aerating the greens, tees and approaches once a month with either 8mm pencil tines, 14mm solid tines or 14mm hollow tines. We will continue with the monthly programme over the winter, using pencil tines to keep the surface open while keeping disruption to a minimum.”

While, from experience, Brian knows what he likes when it comes to machinery, he has the additional reassurance of support from his local dealer Hendersons, especially Scott McNeil. “Having been a greenkeeper himself, he’s great to have at the end of the phone to answer any questions we may have.” Brian concludes, “The Verti-Drain® never disappoints and now that we have one in the shed here at Charleton we can up the amount and type of aeration we conduct which will only bring benefit to the health and condition of our playing surfaces.”

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CleanShield – a peace of mind

CleanShield – a peace of mind: Amega Science’s CleanShield – an alcohol-free, multi-surface cleaner, offers peace of mind at a time when it is most needed according to Martin Ford, UK Sales Manager for Agrigem.

It is widely documented that the most common way that microorganisms, particularly bacteria, are spread and cause infection is on hard surfaces and carried on people’s hands. Preventing infection and managing the spread of germs from hands and surfaces is therefore important in all environments.

CleanShield – a peace of mind

CleanShield – a peace of mind

CleanShield is designed to bring broad spectrum pathogen protection and biological cleanliness to large areas in an instant. This high-performance sanitising solution has been independently proven to be effective against a wide variety of germs including Norovirus, Ebola, MERS, Swine-Flu, Covid-19 and many more.

Martin from Agrigem claims that he has seen an increasing demand for CleanShield, particularly over recent months. He also had no hesitation in using the product at his local football club (Rastrick Junior FC in Yorkshire) where he is also manager and chairman.

“Since the pandemic we have obviously had to put many safety measures in place. When we were able to restart after the initial lockdown, we were told by the FA that we needed to disinfect all of our equipment after every session – our goal posts, the footballs, the bibs, the cones – pretty much everything.

“At our club, there are over 350 players and 70 coaches – so it was essential that we carried out the necessary measures. When CleanShield was released we knew it was going to be a reputable product and it was going to do exactly what it claimed to do.”

CleanShield is alcohol free which has many advantages over alcohol-based products: it kills spores or non-enveloped viruses unlike alcohol-based products; alcohol hand gels and surface wipes can dry the skin causing hands to crack and bleed – but with no alcohol content, CleanShield will not irritate the skin at all and is proven to be effective for up to 45 minutes on hands and 3 days on surfaces after its application.

Furthermore, it can be mopped, sprayed or wiped onto floors, walls, surfaces and equipment providing easy instant protection to any environment where the transfer of germs is a concern. It is ready to use immediately with no preparation or mixing – something which Martin is particularly impressed with.

“CleanShield can be used straight out of the bottle which is great,” he said. “This makes it easy for the coaches at the end of each of the sessions just to spray everything down. It also goes an exceptionally long way which a huge benefit because it is so cost effective.

“In this day and age, you need to take the necessary precautions and keep everyone safe. You need something that will work effectively and not give you any problems further down the line – CleanShield gives you peace of mind because it does exactly what it claims to do.

“I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this to anyone, and I have already. My wife is the Operations & Welfare Manager for Leeds United Sports College and even she has bought some CleanShield. This proves how good the product is, because if I can sell it to my wife – then I can sell it to anybody!”

Please contact Agrigem:

Web – Agrigem.co.uk

Phone – 01522 246491.

Twitter – @AgrigemLtd

Facebook – Agrigem-Ltd

Linked IN – Agrigem-Ltd

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Multi-Seeder a great all-rounder

Multi-Seeder a great all-rounder: Impressed with the versatility it offered, sports ground contractors Bothams Prestige purchased a BLEC Multi-Seeder 2100 almost two years ago, but this year it has been busier than ever!

Its ability to conduct both the initial seeding operation, together with more routine overseeding has paid dividends for co-owner Josh Botham who notes the particular role the dimple seeder has had for renovations on Desso and hybrid sports surfaces.

Multi-Seeder a great all-rounder

Multi-Seeder a great all-rounder

Complimenting an Overseeder and a number of other Redexim machines on their fleet, Josh explains how the size and weight of the BLEC Multi-Seeder was a perfect fit for the variety of work they undertake. “The 2.1m working width of this machine makes is suitable for use on golf fairways and greens, as well as football pitches and racecourses” explains Josh, “and the fact that we now have the flexibility to choose between a disc and dimple seeder means we are well equipped to choose the best delivery method depending on the venue and ground conditions on a given day.”

“We’re lucky enough to work with a number of football clubs at all levels from Premiership right through to those in the lower leagues, conducting both in-season and end of season renovations and repairs. The Multi-Seeder is excellent for this. With the Desso construction of the Sheffield Wednesday pitch for example, the dimple seeding system safely, effectively and accurately saturates the surface with seed – recently delivering germination which the groundsman was really impressed with.”

As well as winter sports, the Multi-Seeder has been busy this year with cricket renovations. “A lot of dimple seeders aren’t heavy enough to penetrate hard clay profiles when it’s hot and dry but the weight of the BLEC machine saw it take this rock-hard ground in its stride.” Should difficult ground conditions demand additional penetration, the Multi-Seeder has the added benefit of an integrated weight mounting frame, allowing suitcase weights to be added if required.

Josh concludes, “Having used a range of Redexim and BLEC machines in the past we knew we would be assured of robust build quality and user-friendly operation with the Multi-Seeder. What you get on top of this is fantastic support when needed direct from Andy O’Neill or via Julian Simpson at Acorn Tractors, who has a wealth of knowledge and friendly advice when it comes to the BLEC range.”

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GreenMech Arborist 130 a ‘Pocket Rocket’

GreenMech Arborist 130 a ‘Pocket Rocket’: In such a turbulent year, for Roy Brown of R M Brown Tree Services, when it came to purchasing a new woodchipper there was no better time to stick with what he knows and trusts – exchanging his existing Arborist 130 machine for a brand new Arborist 130 from GreenMech!

The Perthshire-based business have been using GreenMech machines for 10 years, with the newest model proving to be a real ‘pocket rocket’.

GreenMech Arborist 130 a ‘Pocket Rocket’

GreenMech Arborist 130 a ‘Pocket Rocket’

Undertaking both surveying and tree-surgery work for a range of commercial and domestic customers, including in the utilities sector, versatility is a must for Roy when it comes to his equipment. “Every day is different and every job has its own unique requirements and challenges so our woodchipper needs to be the right size to navigate residential areas, for example, but man enough to deal with whatever material we need to put through it.”

“The Arborist 130 is a real pocket rocket – it’s the ideal size for us and handles 95% of our tree surgery jobs. With the popularity of log burners, it’s rare these days to be chipping anything much larger than 3 or 4”, but with this machine capable of processing timber up to 6” we’ve got the capacity to chip all sizes and varieties of woody waste and brash.”

Roy exchanged machines like-for-like, in October 2020 through his local dealer Gammies Groundcare, and, having already put the new unit through its paces, has been impressed with the powerful performance. “The GreenMech machines have always proven themselves to be solidly built and well-engineered, with the disc-blades delivering clean, precise chipping. The Arborist 130 has fantastic pull through, the twin vertical hydraulic rollers take in the material really well reducing the amount of preparation work we need to do.”

Roy adds, “As important as the machine itself is the back-up support and technical advice, which from both GreenMech and Gammies has been excellent. With COVID creating challenges for the delivery of the new unit, Gammies really went the extra mile in supplying us with a loan machine when we needed it which really helped to minimise disruption and reaffirms why, when it comes to upgrading equipment, we go back to GreenMech every time.”

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Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege: Scott MacCallum talks with Adam King, Head of Grounds at Radley College in Oxford, and learns that while there is competitiveness to do your best, that doesn’t necessarily mean with each other.

I had a pretty normal school education. I got sufficient grades to go on to do the journalism course that I wanted to take, while I also enjoyed the sporting side of things, playing rugby for the school in my early years.

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege

In fact, I enjoy all sports but, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never been very good – the archetypal Jack of all Trades… You know the rest.

But things might have been different. I enjoy golf, but grew up in a town where the golf club had no professional, so my swing was, and still is, hand built – more Heath Robinson than Rolls Royce. At my school our PE staff were more facilitators than coaches, allowing us access to sport but without any genuine coaching, while our playing fields were sloped to such an extent that I could run 100 metres in around 11 seconds in one direction and 22 seconds in the other.

So, while I’ve always been grateful for the education I received, I am, and have always been, envious of those people who benefited from a private education. And even more so, of those who boarded. Nothing to do with Harry Potter, but these guys had access to fabulous sports facilities, plenty of time for sport on the timetables and coaches to ensure that proper foundations are put into technique, whether that be batting, scrummaging or golfing.

Not so sure about quidditching.

I certainly don’t feel underprivileged, but those thoughts did come flooding back when I spoke with Adam King, Head of Grounds at Radley College, in Oxford, and particularly resonated when he talked about two of the newest additions to facilities, neither of which, funnily enough, require input from himself from an agronomic perspective.

We used to include pictures of well presented pitches on our school prospectus. Now we have pictures of our Strength and Conditioning Unit, which cost close to £1 million, and our rowing tank, which enables the boys to train right the way through winter,” explained Adam.

Strength and Conditioning Unit! What I would have given to have had access to that. I went from scrawny to overweight in the blink of an eye.

Radley is one of only four all boarding boys’ schools in the entire country – the others being Eton, Harrow and Winchester. There are currently 737 boys on roll and this will grow to 750 when the latest boarding house becomes fully operational. Among the Old Boys are Peter Cook, Ted Dexter, Andrew Straus, Brough Scott, Nigel Twiston-Davis and Lord Scarman.

“Sports plays a major part of what the boys do here,” said Adam, merely confirming my long-standing jealousy.

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege

“They are out four afternoons a week, plus Saturdays and when we are playing against our big ‘rival’ schools there can be 24 rugby teams out at the same time. It’s a great sight.”

With everyone on site including the teaching staff, who all live in school houses, retaining a school bubble is easier than for some.

“We are a campus school, spread over 800 acres, so we don’t have the same worries that Eton, Harrow and Winchester, for example, have of boys walking around the town. We are in one massive bubble and with so many sports on offer – touch rugby only at the moment; football, cricket, hockey, athletics, tennis, golf and rowing it means that the boys are nicely spaced out and can enjoy what they are doing,” said Adam, who has been at the school since 2000.

During the March to June lockdown Adam’s regular staff of 19 was reduced to four to enable essential work on the gardens and grounds to be carried out, and two greenkeepers to maintain the school’s nine hole golf course, which has its own membership of 350.

“In many ways it took me back to my days back in 1989 at Stowmarket Golf Club, sitting on a tractor pulling a set of Lloyds gangs. Tranquil times, with no phone, no interruptions. It was quite surreal, but quite pleasant at the same time,” he recalled.

“Then it dawned on us that the boys weren’t coming back for the summer term and that we were, therefore, not going to have any cricket, and the mood went the other way. Everyone got a bit down and the implications of what was happening began to hit home. It was a really odd summer.

“At times we were wondering where it was all leading and whether the boys would be coming back in September.

“We are in a much more fortunate position now and, as a school, we are the fullest we have ever been. We only have 10 or 12 of our international students who are currently distance learning.”

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege

Staff gradually began returning and the Grounds Team had a full complement by mid September, when work on cricket pitches began in earnest in preparation for matches later in the year.

“The Old Boys played a Twenty20 last week against another school and there are another few fixtures planned for the next few weeks,” said Adam, speaking the day after the Prime Minister had announced further restrictions which could stretch well into 2021.

“Our plan was to go to play touch rugby until half term in October and then go to rugby after half term at the beginning of November.

What we’ve heard now is that that is probably not going to happen and we will continue to play touch rugby or go to football or hockey.

As a school we are very keen that every boy does something every day – we can’t have them sitting around their boarding houses,” said Adam, whose advice to anyone new to school groundsmanship is to get involved with the school as much as possible. He himself coaches cricket and football.

The pandemic came on the back of a period of weather which had had Adam bemoaning the wet weather of last winter and spring.

“We are always in the hands of Mother Nature and she was working against us but ironically she then worked with us for a long time. We had a hot dry spell in April to May. It was a Godsend. If there had been a flush we would have been in all sorts of trouble trying to keep on top of things with our reduced numbers. Then there was a flush in August which was brilliant which got everything up and running.”

It is possible to give the weather credit for doing its best to assist there are many more elements which have gone towards the improved standards that can be seen at schools up and down the country.

I do wonder what Jim Arthur would be thinking now, with all the technology that is available. Things have move on massively in the last 20 years and we are lucky to have all the tools in the tool box that we need to create the top sports surfaces we want for the boys to play sport on,” said Adam, who name checked the Koro and Primo Maxx as two of the significant developments in recent years.

That ability to produce surfaces across a range of sports is one of the things which marks a top school and university groundsman out from the crowd. Radley is just completing a five year deal with Toro for machinery while what can’t be done with the machinery in house – Koroing is carried out by ALS, who have been working at the school as long as Adam has been there.

“Being multi skilled is what keeps us all in the job but you grow into some of those skills. For example, cricket and rugby pitches were easy, but I didn’t know much about astro pitches when I started. You grow into those roles.

“The nice thing about the groundsmen on the circuit is that there is competitiveness to do our best but not with each other. Some do great jobs on much smaller budgets than I have, and probably do a better job but ultimately everyone is always judged on the cricket season,” said Adam, who added that he and his Deputy would visit other grounds two or three times a season to watch games and share thoughts and ideas with fellow groundsmen.

All the guys are pulling hard to produce the best surfaces they can and it is fantastic for the industry.”

Honour and a privilege

Honour and a privilege

It is an industry, however, that Adam feels is not supported as well as it should be.

“We’ve never been well supported by the organisations and we’ve always had to fend for ourselves, but I could talk about that for two weeks,” said Adam, who added that a notable exception was ICL who host an annual Schools’ Seminar.

As an explanation, Adam points to the fact that other sectors have a much higher profile with the top football and rugby groundsmen having their work seen on television on a weekly basis during the season.

“Whereas here, nobody sees our work apart from the boys, their parents and ourselves. That said we don’t crave that sort of exposure.”

Adam considers himself extremely privileged to be working at such an extraordinary place, a place where work on the sports surfaces has to be combined with maintaining the grounds of the numerous properties in the Radley portfolio.

The summer is the time when many staff come and go and we have to ensure that their gardens are neat and tidy, so it is a major project for the gardening team. We’ve just finished laying 3,000 square metres of turf around the new Boarding House.”

Variety is very much the spice of life and Adam is grateful to his superb team – many sportsmen in their own right – who, in addition to being skilled gardeners, greenkeepers and groundsmen, contribute to a great team spirit.

Looking ahead Adam see the industry flattening out over the next five year.

“I can’t see companies investing millions in producing a new machine at the moment because they are not going to sell too many,” said Adam, while acknowledging that the move towards hybrid and electric will be maintained.

Despite the pandemic, and the uncertainty caused, Adam sees a great future ahead for the school, while I’m hoping to do some sort of Benjamin Button so I can go back and enjoy all the benefits of being a boarding school boy.

A tried and tested combination

A tried and tested combination: The Bishopton, Renfrewshire based dealership, Hamilton Ross Group, has recently supplied a customer with five Muthing MU-FM160 flails fitted to their Kubota F3090 tractors.

For the company Ground care Manager Jamie Gardiner said, “The combination of the Muthing MU-FM 160 flail on the Kubota F3090 power unit has proved very popular with our customers. This fleet deal proves how effective the equipment is for large scale operations, even in the toughest of environments on the West Coast of Scotland”

A tried and tested combination

A tried and tested combination

Simon Richard, UK Agent for the Muthing range says, “The restrictions on movement during these difficult times will leave some challenging areas when we eventually get back to cutting grass and the MU-FM 160, for power units up to 40hp, is the perfect combination for the widest range of contractor and local authority grounds maintenance tasks. The well balanced Muthing rotor, with specially formed flail lugs, protects against damage from obstacles and the self-cleaning roller with well-rounded edges preserves both soil and turf. The optimised distance between the outer rotor circle and the roller guarantees perfect contour following and even quality of cut. Market leading reduction in foreign object deflection make it the flail of choice when working safely in public areas”

For more information visit www.slopemower.co.uk

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Rigby Taylor a Soil Scout reseller

Rigby Taylor a Soil Scout reseller: Data collection and interpretation are critical for making good agronomic decisions on Turf, use of in situ sensor technology developed by Finnish company Soil Scout provides a particle and cost-effective method to achieve this objective.

Peter Corbett, Business Development Manager for Rigby Taylor says “We are excited to be taking on the Soil Scout product in the UK. We see this technology as a step forward for our customers and Agronomist to work off real data to make better more timely and sustainable decisions. This data combined with our agronomic knowledge, Turf products and access to the latest Rain Bird irrigation control equipment provides an unbeatable combination.”

Rigby Taylor a Soil Scout reseller

Rigby Taylor a Soil Scout reseller

Soil Scouts International Sales Manager, Adam Sedgwick, says ” to have a company with the Professionalism, and reach of Rigby Taylor is a massive coup for our relatively new business. We are there alongside them now, to offer full backing and support with the solution we provide, to a company with such high acclaim in the UK”

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