28 Feb

How To Make Your Farming Dream A Reality

If you’re anything like thousands of people across Australia you probably have squashed farm ownership dreams.
Look at the photos we have here of Tim and Tegan Hicks and their family, it’s so beautiful it makes you sick. But right now if things stay the way they are this photo of a happy family on their own farm will never be a reality. They don’t have the cash. They have the passion, vision, drive and skills, they just don’t have $5 million.
What we’ve realised is that there are actually many ways you can resurrect your farm ownership dreams and we have listed these below.

1. Hope

The first step on the pathway is to actually realise that you could own your farm. Without this hope, you won’t do the thinking or put in the effort needed to make it a reality.
We’re telling you now that you can own your farm; it just might not be that you own 100% of the farm yourself.
You could have a retiring farmer sponsor you onto their farm and set up a vendor finance deal with you – this is what happened all the time in the old days and we need to bring it back.
You could own the farm with an investor or two. There are plenty of people buying farms, but they need your expertise and passion to make it profitable. Why not partner with them?
There are organisations out there that can help you with all of this, as well which we will reveal below.

2. Farm-Ready

Now that you are pumped to have your farm dreams back you need to ensure you are farm-ready. You’ll most likely be farming with other people so you need to impress them with a myriad of skills and passion.
Write down your farm dream. Where is it? What are you farming? What methods will you use? How will you drag yourself out of bed at 4 am? This step clarifies what you’re fighting for.
Make a note also of why you are passionate about owning your farm. What is it inside you that is burning? Describe it and talk it out whenever you meet with anyone – having a burning passion you can describe to others is powerful and you never know what opportunities might come out of it.
What skills do you have and what skills do you need? Undertake an audit and if you don’t have the skills to match your dream, start learning. Jump online and find the courses available for that topic. Reach out to local farmers and ask them to be your mentor. Take a job as a farm manager and work hard to build your skills and reputation.
At the same time, become the real-estate royalty of your district. You should know when farmers are looking to leave the land before they do. At the same time, everyone should know of your passion to be a farmer. This is so that when they are thinking of moving on you, will be front and centre in their mind as the best possible person to hand the farm over to.
Be like an entrepreneur who is constantly hustling. Find as many different angles as you can to get yourself on your farm and pitch your vision and plan to anyone who will listen.

3. Farm Ownership

Now that you are farm-ready and everyone knows it, we can get you on your farm.
This doesn’t have to happen 5-10 years down the track. If you are hustling, you could find a retiring farmer who would back you onto their farm, or an investor who wants you because of your passion and tenacity.
How do you find investors? You can try to Google them or else chat with organisations who do this for a living, such as Cultivate Farms www.cultivatefarms.com.

The ball is now clearly in your court – your dream farm will reveal itself if you are looking and everyone knows you are.

Author: Sam Marwood is the co-founder of Cultivate Farms. They are a social enterprise aiming to rejuvenate regional Australia by making it possible for young people to own and operate their own farm.

24 Feb

Two Innovative Steps Forward for the Australian Farming Industry

It has been generally positive for the Australian farming industry so far this year, and we have seen this with the new export opportunities that have arisen. This is set to continue as new varieties of rice and grapes have been researched and produced. Should their respective trials go well, this will make a huge difference to sales and exports once again for the industry.

Rice

Overall, there are two different varieties of short-season rice currently being trialled in the Riverina. Depending on the results, it could be a big step forward for productivity because there is a potential to multiply the crop by two. After harvesting the winter crop as per normal, the summer rice crop can be planted immediately after so it would work efficiently for all involved. Seeing as though they are late sowing varieties, it opens the door for things that could never be done before.

Although previous and smaller tests have been completed to this point, 2017 will see the first widespread trial for the varieties that have been developed by The Australian Rice Partnership. As well as increasing production, experts have also stated that they take significantly less water to grow. Even though they are planted later than regular rice, they still produce a yield comparable to that of the long-season varieties. Considering the season is shorter and the yield is the same, water consumption can be reduced whilst the ‘tonnes per hectare’ figure moves in the opposite direction.

Grapes 

Moving away from rice, there is also good news for the fruit sector because numerous brand new grape varieties are being grown in Carnarvon, Western Australia. As the main example, we could be set to welcome the ‘Sweet Sapphire’ to the market which is a much longer variety of the fruit; in fact, most are the size of the average thumb. In the development phase of the trials, around 1,700 boxes were filled (from 1,200 vines) which is a positive yield. As a result, around three more hectares have been planted at the location with plans to increase this further.

Included in the new varieties, consumers may also soon be eating Candy Hearts (sweet, red grapes) as well as Cotton Candy (white grapes). Up until this point, there has been an air of negativity surrounding the grape season in Carnarvon after encountering issues with the white varieties. In addition to being late, the temperature also remained low for so long which caused problems in the sugar levels in white grapes. However, there is now much more positivity with the suggestion of the new varieties.

Summary 

All in all, it looks as though it will be a good year for Australian farmers. If both of these new varieties make it to market, it will improve efficiency and it may just give the country a unique selling point when it comes to both rice and grapes on the world stage.

Source: The Weekly Times & ABC

23 Feb

Many Farmers to Experience Export Boost

As we start to get comfortably into 2017, it has been mostly good news for Australian farmers after new export markets have been opened up for fruit. First, it was blueberry and raspberry growers who were ecstatic at the completion of a brand new quarantine treatment. Normally, the Queensland fruit fly and other such pests have a habit of destroying a significant amount of these fruits each and every year. However, this new treatment should remove the problems of keeping the nutritional value and tastiness of the fruit.

For many years, there have been significant barriers in the export market to New Zealand for Australians but this is just about to change after the former has allowed the new treatment. For the Australian farmers, they have a couple of companies to thank for this development – the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation as well as the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Without affecting the nutritional value of the fruit nor the quality, a low dose of the treatment will be given to blueberries and raspberries to keep the Queensland fruit fly at bay. After extensive research and development, the relevant parties have now found a solution that is safe and will open up the export market tremendously including New Zealand and even Indonesia (who has also accepted the treatment).

However, it wasn’t just raspberry and blueberry growers who were celebrating, as there was also good news for the growers of avocado. After negotiating a deal for many years, news has now been received that Japan will be auditing avocado export packers in Western Australia within the first couple of months of the year. Later in the year, towards the end of summer, Thailand will also be doing the same.

For the avocado industry within Australia, this could be huge news because they are only currently responsible for 2% of the world’s exports of the fruit. Over the last couple of years, progress has been made in both Malaysia and Singapore which is likely to be the reason for Japan’s interest. For the next season, many industry experts are confident that both Japan and Thailand will be added to the list of countries to which they have market access.

For many, the biggest question mark will be surrounding the Mediterranean fruit fly which is perhaps the main pest in Western Australia. However, research has already begun on how to resolve this problem and the findings are expected towards the end of 2017. Ultimately, this will allow the fruit to travel without the problem of pests.

These two pieces of news will undoubtedly lead to a lot of positivity within the farming industry in Australia. As long as the necessary requirements are met, it looks as though exports will be improving in the coming years, which could have a huge impact on the Australian economy.

Source: The Weekly Times

23 Feb

Harvest Numbers & Export Prices Bring Positivity

Bumper Almond Harvest

Trumping the 2015 almond harvest record of 80,000 tonnes, the yield for 2017 is expected to reach 85,000 tonnes, the largest on record. This increase correlates with nationwide almond industry expansion plans to grow Australia’s almond yield to 130,000 tonnes by 2025. Consequently, this saw trees reaching full maturity throughout several orchard plantings. However, production levels in South Australia also helped this increase.

Almond producers in South Australia make up around 19% of Australia’s total almond harvest. The bulk of the almond orchards in South Australia are in the Riverland region coming from 110 growers that had an excellent growing season in 2016. Last year brought a cooler and wetter climate translating to optimal growing conditions that helped boost total numbers to 16,000 tonnes. Not only will this increase help the nation’s economy, it is also predicted to bring $150 million to South Australia.

Export Prices Boost Citrus Industry

Due to a boost in export prices, citrus growers in Queensland are boosting the numbers of export variety crops.

Despite production levels falling by around 30% in 2016, the prices put a positive spin on the season. The demand, driven by a shortage in supply in both Thailand and China, and a high-quality final product, saw export prices increase towards the end of the year and into 2017. Just recently, a number of growers within Queensland have been working together to come up with brand new strategies for the export market. So far, the results have been largely positive with profitability improving all around.

However, there is a downside to this and this has been the slow market at home. On the domestic market, prices were low and this counterbalanced the success seen elsewhere. According to one citrus grower, the first half of the season was one of the worst on record. Although we can’t quite predict the future of citrus fruits in Australia just yet, many are expecting further decreases this year with a potential fall of 15%. Therefore, it is mixed news for citrus fruits but at least exports are keeping the sector remaining positive.

Source: ABC & Adelaide Now

16 Dec

“Marge, The Grains Are ‘ere”

The ABARES December crop report was released early this month to summarise and assess state crop yields, projections and seasonal conditions. Throughout most cropping areas in Australia the seasonal conditions this year during late winter and spring favoured high yields.

Rainfall:

Above average rainfall was seen across most regions in the eastern states during September. Whilst for most this provided ample soil moisture and ideal conditions for grain development, for others it produced waterlogged crops and a not so ideal growing environment. Across the media, one would assume Western Australia had above average rainfall due to high crop yields, but they had average rainfall. The key was it was well timed and adequate to assist in grain development. However, like the eastern states, some parts of WA were also adversely affected with harsh frosts damaging grain growth.

Rainfall Outlook: December 2016 – February 2017 is predicted to be drier and warmer than average which will assist harvest (Bureau of Meterorology)

Winter Crop Production:

The ABARES have reviewed their September Australian crop report forecasts and now predict that total winter crop production will be 14% higher than originally thought.

  • Forecast total winter crop production: 52.4 million tonnes 
  • Each state has higher production forecasts
  • Total winter crop production is set to rise 32% for the 2016-2017 period

Winter Forecast Productions:

  • Wheat – 35% rise to 32.6 million tonnes (record high)
  • Barley – 24% rise to 10.6 million tonnes (record high)
  • Canola – 22% rise to 3.6 million tonnes (third-highest on record)

Summer Crops:

A rise of 15% is predicted for the total area planted to summer crops totalling 1.4 million hectares during 2016-2017. This is due to increased sub-soil moisture and an increased supply of irrigation water.

  • Area planted to grain sorghum is set to fall 31% to 471,000 hectares in 2016-2017 (lowest in 24 years)
  • Area planted to rice predicted to quadruple to 90,000 hectares, however, this may be restricted due to a late harvest in southern NSW

Summer Crop Forecast Productions:

  • Total summer crop production predicted to increase 21% to 4.6 million tonnes in 2016-2017 period
  • Cotton – 64% rise to ~1.0 million tonnes of cotton lint & ~1.5 million tonnes of cotton seed (forecast numbers is a reflection on predicted doubling of planted area during 2016-2017)
  • Grain sorghum – 29% decrease to ~1.4 million tonnes
  • Rice – 916,000 tonne rise, triple the rise predicted of the last season

Source: ABARES

14 Dec

Tasmania Continues to Build Trading Partnerships with China

Amongst other things, Tasmania has a particular problem with gorse plants becoming a noxious weed and they can normally be seen wherever you turn along the Midland Highway. Over the years, this evergreen has caused many problems for farmers and has spread ever since it first arrived with Europeans. With just 800,000 hectares of land in Tasmania, the infestation is said to have reached 100,000 hectares this year, which is well over 10% of the available land.

As you can see, this is a major problem but two local businessmen believe that they have found the solution by harvesting the gorse and then selling it as fuel to China. Essentially, Mr Boland and Bennett think that it can eventually replace coal for the barbecue market. In China, barbecues are a popular method of cooking and the gorse plants can be harvested before then being converted into biomass fuel.

Already named ‘Gorse Power’, the two say that it is nearly smokeless when burning and are so confident that they are already building a factory at Conara. In total, 20 people will be employed to transform the gorse into ‘barbecue bricks’. As mentioned previously, the supply is almost limitless at the moment and, because it is a marketplace solution, the federal government isn’t going to have to spend millions of dollars just to have the problem solved.

After the gorse bricks have been created, they are predicted to cost less than coal and this green alternative could see interest in China as well as at home. Every year, people are choosing greener alternatives in everything they do and this could be the next step for this. If all goes to plan, the factory is set to be completed in 2018 and exports to China could even begin the same year.

Fresh Milk

For the market within Australia and the economy as a whole, this could be great news but the positives spread even further. On weekly flights, it has been announced that fresh milk will be leaving Tasmania for the Chinese market. Since Van Diemen’s Land Farms (VDL Farms) is owned by the Chinese company ‘Moon Lake Investments’, this plan will see 10 million litres of VAN Milk reach China after leaving Hobart Airport.

At first, this milk will leave once a week but, if the plan proves to be a popular move, could soon be increased to three flights per week. For VDL Farms, this could be a huge deal but it also brings excitement and opportunity to local producers of seafood, vegetables, and fruit. If there is demand for it within China, all parties involved have revealed plans to expand their milk product lines as well as introducing yoghurts and more products for China.

With these two pieces of news, it seems as though the future looks bright for Tasmania and it remains to be seen how successful each idea will be. If they go well, it could mark the beginning of a long and beneficial trading agreement between Tasmania and China.

Source: ABC & ABC

 

14 Dec

Research and Development Boost for Agriculture

In modern history, the trends within agriculture research and development (AgR&D) are changing. For over fifty years, the patterns of R&D have been followed and noted across the world so that trends can be spotted and future predictions can be made. Therefore, we can now say with certainty that middle-income nations are investing more money than high-income nations; this is the first time that this has happened in what we can call ‘modern history’.

Along with this huge piece of news, the figures also show that spending within the private sector is very quickly catching up to that of the public sector. Sadly, low-income countries are seeing the gap widen as they have done for so many years. When it comes to R&D in agriculture, it takes a lot longer to take effect than it does in any other industry so this positive news comes as a result of R&D that took place many years ago. According to some experts, the R&D that we see now will have an impact for those in 2050 and beyond.

In years gone by, much of the research for food and agriculture would come from government agencies and universities but this is also changing and is now being spent on fertilisers, informatics, crop breeding, pesticides, as well as food technologies. Over the past few years, AgR&D is dramatically changing and it will be interesting to see just where the industry can go.

Student Research and Development Cooperation

Within these R&D changes, we have recently seen a brand new project which will involve the cooperation between high school students and the Department of Agriculture and Food of Western Australia (DAFWA). Currently, there is a problem with snails in broadacre crops and these high school students have been tasked with finding a solution.

As members of a coding club, the students will now be focusing on removing weeds and snails through advanced technology rather than video games. In modern day agriculture, one DAFWA officer has said that tech-programming is vital and this project is just the first step of this. With programming, the future could hold programmes, apps, and mobile phone gadgets that help with many factors within the agriculture industry.

Immediately, concerns were raised as to their experience in agriculture but these were soon removed. Recently, some experts have praised the move as DAFWA has spotted a problem and found a unique way to deal with it. In fact, it could even be a benefit that they have no experience because they will look at the problem with a unique perspective.

Source: ABC & Comment

 

14 Dec

Lack of Women On Agribusiness Company Boards?

In recent years, we have seen many industries advance when it comes to naming women on boards and it looks as though progress will continue to be seen in future months and years. However, the biggest agricultural businesses across Australia are still behind with less than 18% of the people on boards being women. In a recent study, this small percentage was seen when assessing the 22 biggest companies that have over $200 million listed on the ASX.

Of the same 22, there are just two female chief executives to be found whilst no companies have hired a female corporate chairperson; Blackmores and Bellamy’s Organic have both been praised for appointing Christine Holgate and Laura McBain in the positions of Chief Executive. Furthermore, A2 Milk and Fonterra have appointed Julia Hoare and  Pip Dunphy in the position of Deputy Chairperson.

Worth nearly $1 billion, the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) and three of their biggest competitors have boards consisting of no women at all. When compared with the biggest 200 companies across Australia, this is a vastly different outlook since the numbers here have been improving year-on-year. Considering all sectors and industries, it is now thought that one in every four directors is a female with many companies having a 50/50 split including AMP, Woolworths, Mirvac, and Nine Entertainment.

Just recently, the AICD set a target for women directors at 30% within all listed companies by the time 2019 begins. At this point, with two years to go, around 25% of companies in the top 200 have met their target. However, only four out of the aforementioned 22 have done the same in agriculture. With this in mind, there is clearly a lot of work still to do if the targets are to be reached or is this slow progress due to the gender balance in agriculture?

The most recent Agriculture Labour Market figures state that 70% of the workforce is male and only a 30% female. So is the Australian agriculture industry behind when compared to other industries in appointing females to the board or do we just need some perspective?

Source: Labour Market Information Portal & The Australian

 

30 Nov

Australian Almond Boom Continues

Just recently, we saw Australian almond producers make claims that were rather surprising for the industry and many who take a keen interest in almond production. After going through a period of stability and very little growth, producers of almonds based in Australia are have been claiming to be experiencing tremendous growth. Contrary to previous industry comments, many speakers at the Australian Almond Conference have stated that this growth has not been overestimated.

According to an analyst within the market, Vernon Crowder, the growth here in Australia has been phenomenal and is set to become even better in the years ahead. By the year 2020, 83% of the almonds produced will come from California but this is something that has been occurring for a very long time. However, Australia will be in second place supplying around 8.5% – an increase from just under 7%.

Although it won’t have a huge impact on the market itself, Australian producers are now seeing record prices partly thanks to the shortage in production in California. For a long time, Spain was second in the list of producers but Australia has leapfrogged them due to significant plantings of Olam and Select Harvest in the Riverina coming into commercial production.

In terms of consumption, the market in Australia has grown significantly over the past decade and now sits as one of the highest in the world when it comes to ‘per capita consumption’. Although there are many reasons why, one of the largest seems to be the availability of information nowadays. As we learn more about what ingredients can do for us and how we can stay healthy, more people are seeing the health benefits of almonds as well as various products that contain the nut. Although almond milk has been growing in popularity of late, this is not thought to be the reason behind the rise as a litre of almond milk only contains one almond.

Furthermore, there is more good news for almond producers as experts believe that they have found the secret to increasing pollination – hive protein supplements. For beekeepers, pollinating almond orchards is a huge role and so research was carried out to find a way of improving the health of honeybees.

Essentially, there are three different roles within a hive. As well as the baby bees, there are the ‘nurse’ bees that look after the babies and the foraging worker bees. When in the hive, the babies give off a pheromone that suggests that it needs feeding. As a result, the foraging bee will head out and collect pollen. If there is no brood in the hive, the demand for pollen drops. Therefore, this additional protein allows bees to live longer and they become more effective as a colony and the foraging bees pollinate more frequently.

In recent years, we have seen the demise of the honeybee as their lifespan has reduced. As carbon dioxide levels increase, pollen is losing its nutritious value too so this is the beginning of an overall effort to save the bee colonies and allow them to become as efficient as they once were. In addition to this added protein supplement, researchers are also looking for ways to tackle the ever-growing varroa mite issue.

Source: The Weekly Times & Queensland Country Life 

30 Nov

Call for Agricultural Investment Now Answered?

Over the years, we have seen various different methods of raising funds within a business. More recently, there has been a substantial rise in businesses being funded by crowd-funding websites and this could be an answer to farming troubles if the Federal Government were to relax the funding limit laws currently in place.

In a recent report, we saw that debt for Australian farmers had risen to around $60 billion in the last quarter-decade alone. At the same time, the proportion of gross income being used to service this debt had remained near-enough the same – on average, this is about seven cents in every dollar of income. Therefore, the problem is only getting worse and the time for solutions is getting closer and closer.

With new options being explored, such as crowd-funding as mentioned, we could now have the answer in the shape of super funds. In the past, the agricultural business was seen as far too risky, volatile, and the rewards were often too low for Australian superannuation funds. Despite this history between the two, there could be evidence that opinions are now changing and key farming figures believe this to be true.

Since the share market is flat and the interest rates are low, many super fund managers could now be re-examining their stance when it comes to the agricultural industry. Above all else, Inghams’ -Australia’s largest chicken producer – decision to float in November for over $1 billion proved to be a key turning point. Not only did they do well, AustralianSuper took an opportunity to buy a $100 million share and Australia’s largest super fund also has an option to invest further in shares later down the line.

With revenue of $2.3 billion and around 8,000 employees within 340 farms, Inghams is perhaps showing the potential that other farms have. As opinions continue to change towards the agricultural industry, there is a new optimism for companies looking for investment going forward. Furthermore, it should also be noted that the success of Inghams wasn’t just seen in Australia. After floating, they received funding from locations all around the world and super funds are now said to be having a ‘serious look’ at the agricultural industry.

Although this is largely good news, there is a little concern for some as they believe that there is a limited time for which this door will stay open. According to the Chief Executive of Thomas Foods International, Darren Thomas, Australian producers have around three to five years before investors go through with their plans of looking towards South America and Africa. For Hugh Robertson, stock broker at Bell Potter, it is ‘about time’ that Australian agriculture is taken seriously!

Source: The Weekly Times & The Australian