Business development · 14 January 2016

Farming: Experts hail entrepreneurship as answer to sector woes

Lower subsidies and difficult market conditions could make life tough for UK farmers

Agricultural experts have called on the UK farming community to be more entrepreneurial in order to rescue the struggling sector, which is increasingly facing challenges and setbacks.

In a new report entitled “Entrepreneurship: A kiss of life for the UK farming sector?” industry experts advised that farmers should do more to engage other businesses, try new ideas and be open to innovation and make better and fuller use of farm resources.

Finding farming to be far less profit-oriented than other sectors of the UK economy, the report concluded that the sector needed to take more risks and be less concerned with mere subsistence and survival, should it be able to survive setbacks like the foot and mouth crisis or the most recent flooding.

Commenting on the report, co-author Muhammad Azam Roomi of Cranfield University said: “It is clear that farmers need to aspire to be successful business people. Even those who do not see themselves like that at all could learn to become more entrepreneurial.”

Identifying some of the sector’s growing challenges, the report demonstrated that lower state subsidies and increasingly difficult market conditions is pushing UK farming into potentially hard times.

“It is clear that the agricultural business faces immense challenges,” added director of agri-food at Cranfield University, Leon Terry. “We need to see more future-focused farms in the coming years as they seek to build robust and sustainable business models.”

Another of the report’s co-authors, Graham Redman, said that despite the obvious challenges, current conditions provide farmers with many opportunities. “Farms are remarkably strong places from which to develop entrepreneurial businesses.“They have valuable resources, most of which have been relatively inefficiently deployed, and often have a strong capital base,” he said.

At the Oxford Farming Conference earlier this month, environment secretary Liz Truss hailed entrepreneurship as being fundamental to the future progress of UK farming. Describing farming as “no sunset industry cut off from the modern mainstream”, Truss added, “we have the land, the technology, the entrepreneurial flair and the fantastic food to lead the world.”

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.