Rabobank: “Business Skills Are Vital to Future Success in Farming”
Farmers’ business management and leadership skills will increasingly become the key determinant in running successful agricultural operations in Australia, Rabobank CEO Peter Knoblanche has cautioned the industry.
Rabobank’s two annual Business Management Programs – the Farm Managers Program for up-and-coming farmers and the Executive Development Program for experienced farm business owners or senior managers – are designed to equip primary producers with the building blocks to take their business to the next level.
Knoblanche, who heads one of Australia’s largest agricultural banks, said traditional farming skills had been “relegated to a given” for the country’s current and emerging rural entrepreneurs, as they navigate an increasingly complex, volatile and competitive – but also potentially much more rewarding – market place.
“Those skills are a given. The best operators and those who will succeed and thrive into the future are those who are also exceptional business people and leaders. Being a good farmer is not just about growing and managing your crops or livestock well. As farmers are well aware, it is a very complex industry which involves everything from cutting-edge financial management through to commodity hedging and other risk management strategies to supply chain management, consumer research and marketing, the use and application of ag tech, human resource management, governance and sustainability management – to name just some of the elements.”
Speaking on the opening of applications for this year’s Rabobank Business Management Programs, Knoblanche said Australian farmers were increasingly recognizing the importance of investing in and developing their own strategic business skills and other capabilities. A recent survey undertaken by the bank had shown that nation-wide, more than two thirds of farmers reported that upskilling through education and training had an important role to play in better managing their farm business, with the majority having an appetite to further develop their knowledge and skills in business planning and management and emerging technologies. Knoblanche said approximately 70% of those surveyed indicated upskilling through education and training was important to improve management of their farm business. This was across a range of commodities and farm sizes, but more recognized among farmers with operations generating gross incomes of USD500,000 and above. While in commodities, the strongest interest was shown to be among cotton and beef and sheep producers.
KangarooIsland seed potato and lamb producer Peter Cooper (pictured), graduated from the Executive Development Program (EDP) in 2017. Recognized as a future leader in the potato industry, Cooper took out the prestigious Rabobank Potatoes South Australia and Ruralco Industry Award in 2016 which included a scholarship to attend the EDP. Cooper said the opportunity to attend the program had come at the optimal time, as his business had recently gone through a period of change and while he knew the direction they were heading in, it was important to formalize that planning. “
“The program forced me to get my plans down on paper, it showed where I had holes in my information and the bits that weren’t as comprehensive as they needed to be.” Cooper came to the program following a period of substantial expansion and diversification. Starting the seed potato business in 2009 on returning to his family’s farm ‘Parnlee’, he has since grown the business to now produce 1000 tons of seed, which are sold primarily to Mallee and Riverland potato growers. He has also succeeded his parents on ‘Parnlee’ and has purchased a neighboring property. Following such a period of change, Mr Cooper said the opportunity to step outside of his business could not have come at a better time.