New ways of farming that increase the financial yield per acre can bring other benefits, such as being more eco-friendly and sustainable. Currently, British farmers are not competitive with the Netherlands, which is the world’s second largest global exporter of food after the US. However, while US food exports are almost twice the value of the Netherlands, the Dutch produce this from 0.4% of the land area of the US!
Thinking differently and exploring cost-effective ways of achieving improvements should help British farmers compete through the use of the world’s most efficient agricultural technologies or by specialising in niche markets. Here there is a demand for short to medium term funds to begin a phased approach to adopting new agricultural technologies.
Let’s take a potato farmer on the Dutch-Belgian border, who’s high-tech also allows him to monitor two drones – a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air – that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. This ‘precision farming’ means these fields reliably produce more than 20 tonnes of potatoes per acre, compared to a global average around 9 tonnes per acre. Elsewhere, large scale greenhouses have a per acre yield of ten times an outdoor acre, while cutting the need for chemicals by 97%. While British planners may have something to say, the largest Dutch greenhouses can cover up to 175 acres.
Many farmers in Britain would understandably shy away from the cost of setting themselves up in this manner, but with a post-Brexit world likely to mean British farmers having to be more competitive, it’s now a good time to start getting ahead of the curve.
Depending on the soil type, non-food crops being encouraged by the government may provide interesting niches for use in industry, pharmaceuticals, neutraceuticals, personal care products or bio-fuels, as opposed to conventional food production. Many of these crops have doubled in price over the past couple of years.
UK Agricultural Finance is an enthusiastic supporter of farm diversification and is experienced in financing short-term opportunities, that the high street won’t consider until they are well established.
By: Vanessa Drozdov