East Anglia: Cambridge boffins help farmers stay on top of the crops

BOFFINS at Cambridge University have come up with an online tool to help farmers predict their future margins.

The Farm Business Survey projection calculator, devised by Rural Business Research at the Department of Land Economy, enables farmers to estimate future profits on the basis of futures market prices.

The site, which is free to use, shows Farm Business Survey (FBS) results projected to one to two years ahead and is based on sound historic data as well as forward market prices.

It can be applied to winter wheat, winter or spring barley, winter oilseed and dairy.

“Really we just want to raise awareness that it’s free, and it’s completel anonymous,” explained research and communications officer Mark Bieri.

“The data is based on our visits to just under 2,000 farms every year and essentially we have built up the tools around that data which is collected.”

The projection calculator is the latest addition to FarmBusinessSurvey.co.uk, joining region reports, FBS benchmarking, and Data Builder.

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Together, they form a detailed and independent source of information on the physical and economic performance of farm businesses in England.

“Farmers waned not just to look back, but also to look forward,” explained Mr Bieri.

There were other benchmarking tools but often these relied on information from larger farms rather rather a mix of large and small, he said.

“A lot of the biggest farms are involved, so we think they are not representative of average farms. We take account of farms across the industry and not just big producers,” he said.

“Essentially, we thought it was the next logical step in what we do and it was pretty much based pm de,amd because we were very much aware the FBS was based on historic surveys and farmers wanted to know what’s around the corner.”

But he added: “There are always inherent risks in predicing the future, but we use the current market futures prices which are updated at least once every two weeks. It’s useful as a business planning tool to see how much leeway you’ve got.

“Obviously, you can only do so much, but it gives you a snapshot of where you are standing at the moment.”

The FBS is funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and is anonymous. It is collected through universities and colleges who go out and visit the farms.

Rural Business Research runs its own FBS workshops.

The purpose of these is to introduce farmers to the Farm Business Survey and its internet data tools, and to provide a hands-on teach-in session which has included a preview of FBS projection calculator.

The Farm Business Survey and the on-line tools can be accessed via:www.farmbusinesssurvey.co.uk

The direct link to FBS projection calculator is: www.farmbusinesssurvey.co.uk/FBS-Projector