Future-proof your farm!
This article appeared in Farmers Guide in January 2022.
Future proof your farm based business, through automation, economy of scale & diversification
Automation has long been coming to replace casual labour. But thanks to the imperfect storms of Brexit and Covid, plus a stronger pound making European seasonal labour better off working in the EU, that casual labour has disappeared overnight. Suddenly, automation is not a choice but necessity.
But some farmers have discovered labour shortage isn’t a crisis – it’s saving them money. A pumpkin farm we support in Norfolk annually paid over £30,000 for 80 workers to hoe crops but when those workers vanished, the farmer invested £28,000 leasing a mechanical hoe mounted on a tractor. It did the job consistently perfectly – and has saved £30,000 not just this year, but next year and the one after that.
Another client packs and wraps 500g trays of leeks and asparagus for a supermarket. One gram under and the supermarket penalises them, but every gram over is a gratefully received giveaway. Judging numbers of stems to make the weight was done by eye – but those human eyes have gone. The farmer leased a machine to select, pack and wrap – and found human error resulted in such a large giveaway the machine paid for itself in one year. It’s time to automate.
The pool of casual labour has gone – but farmers are finding leasing the latest tech is more economical and cost-effective. Review your casual labour requirements, research newly available machines, crunch the numbers, price up a machine on a leasing plan and see if it’s better. I think the results may make you wish you’d switched years ago.
Reaching an efficient economy of scale through automation
Intelligent funding for this dairy farmer (picture above) in the southwest has allowed the herd to double from 750 to 1500 milkers within 2 years into a barn style system using an automated rotary milking parlour. The cows are kept inside on sand, milked 3 times a day and all of the farmland is used to grow silage and maize. Very clean, very happy cows and very efficient.
Rural Asset Finance’s Head of Legal and Compliance, Andrew Carrier told Farmers Guide about how fast and efficient it’s secured loan process is: “Financial services is a fast-moving environment and delivering reliable, accurate service levels for our customers is key. At Rural Asset Finance we work with customers to combine a rapid lending decision with a streamlined, faster conveyancing process than the traditional legal conveyancing market has offered in the past.
“Three weeks is optimal, from customer enquiry to paying a loan secured on agricultural property, taking into account a valuation inspection and report followed by independent legal advice before a customer signs a mortgage. Three weeks is still pretty tight but a question-and-answer session directly between our in-house legal team and the customer means we save time, avoid misunderstanding and we get to the centre of any issues which may hold up the lend.
“This takes pressure off the independent solicitor by presenting them with a bundle of information ready to check and advise the customer on, rather than a list of questions. We have found this is usually more cost-effective for the borrower as we focus on what is important to the lender, and on completing the loan. A typical equipment refinance takes 3-5 days.”
Farm-based project diversity and innovation are the new lifeblood of UK agriculture. They secure your farm’s future, by providing additional revenue streams and building on the fantastic goodwill farmers have generated this past year.
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