Build business resilience at Cereals 2018

Business resilience will be key in the coming years and the Cereals Event will have plenty of advice on offer when it returns to Cambridgeshire this June. Here, five Cereals’ exhibitors offer their top tips to help farmers make the most of the peaks and ride out the troughs, which lie ahead.

According to Alex Bragg, Savills’ head of food and farming in the East, farm businesses will have to adopt the most efficient, productive technologies and farming systems to thrive post 2020. “It is not necessarily about scale; there will be some businesses operating across substantial acreages but there are also opportunities for smaller, niche, highly automated units,” he explains.

There will be plenty of automated technology to see at Cereals, from Harper Adams University’s Hands-Free Hectare demonstration to drones and remote management software – all of which can help farmers both today and in the future.

“Irrespective of the type of business, one of the major risks is the availability of trained, motivated and forward-thinking staff,” adds Mr Bragg. “In order to attract the best people some businesses will have to adapt current practices.” It will also be important to have a competitive edge. “Farming businesses that can market themselves and their produce better than their neighbours will be in a stronger position post 2020.”

In recent years, diversification has been on the increase, and Giles Turton, associate at Cheffins land agency, reckons it will continue to be a good way to minimise risk and volatility. That could be through growing specialist crops – which will be on display at Cereals – converting buildings to let out, or strategically selling high value parcels of land for development.

“From a farming point of view, share farming is another way to minimise risk,” he explains. “By pooling assets – such as joining a machinery ring – farmers and landowners can make their capital and resources go further and help to bolster a smaller scale business. Part-contracting and benchmarking are also important elements of this tactic and certainly appear to be increasing as farmers prepare for changes to subsidies ahead of Brexit.”

Simon Claydon, general manager at farm co-operative Samco, agrees. “It is especially prudent during this time of economic uncertainty to pool resources and co-operate, helping to reduce costs. Using group buying power and employing intelligent, considered strategies will maximise market opportunities.”

It is also important to prepare for short-term hiccoughs and long-term succession, to protect the business and ensure continuity when things go wrong, says Nigel Wellings, founding director at Farmers and Mercantile. This may include drawing up a business plan in case of the loss of a key worker or partner, taking out crop loss insurance, and being meticulous over health and safety.

Of course, protecting machinery against theft is also vital, warns Amanda Cornwell at financial services firm Scrutton Bland. “The cost of downtime to your business when a piece of kit is lost due to theft or damage can have a severe impact.” It’s therefore worth exploring the different security options available – many of which will be on display at Cereals 2018.

“When thinking about resilience, it’s easy to focus on the physical crop – which is of course important,” says Jon Day, Cereals Event director. “But it’s just as important, if not more so, to look at the business aspects. From strategic financial management and succession planning to risk mitigation and targeted investment, Cereals can help you get the most out of your business in the years ahead.”

For more information about this year’s Cereals Event visit: http://www.cerealsevent.co.uk/

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