The demands on agriculture have led to challenges from all sides, from the changing weather conditions to adapting to new technology.
Incubator schemes for businesses can create communities of practice for entrepreneurs just starting out, but how can both new and established farms gain expertise and benefit from similar approaches? FoodBev spoke with Susannah Bolton, the director of knowledge exchange at AHDB, to find out more about curated programmes that can improve approaches to agricultural business.
Running a business as a farmer can pose challenges. Setting up Strategic Farms, AHDB’s answer to a farming incubator scheme, was an answer to solving these.
“Farmers face huge challenges running their businesses,” Bolton says. “They need to increase productivity whilst complying with regulation and challenges posed by volatile prices, pests, diseases and the weather.
“They are communicated at from all sides, with many people trying to sell products and services, but what we have found is that farmers learn best from each other and where we can build a community of trust around our strategic farms, we see more and more people recognising that they are a valuable source of information and debate.”
Programmes like these can offer farmers an opportunity to network and learn from other individuals in similar situations.
“They give farmers the opportunity to share ideas and discuss with their peers. They can benchmark their performance and at the same time receive valuable guidance on how to improve.”
As well as entrepreneurial expertise, agricultural hubs like Strategic Farms can guide companies on how to improve processes to enhance the environmental sustainability of farms.
“Undoubtedly,” Bolton continues, “good business management and good environmental management go hand in hand. Our strategic farmers are testing ideas that will increase productivity and reduce environmental impacts.”
In terms of business approaches, common themes begin to emerge in regard to pitfalls for farmers.
“I think we can see that managing risks in farm businesses is a common challenge for all farmers, trying to weigh up different risks and trade-offs.
“No year is ever the same as the previous one, so it can be very hard to plan and manage those risks at the same time.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019