Mickey Daly’s hands-on approach has seen him build a sophisticated contract-farming business and a highly motivated team in less than five years.

But he doesn’t shout about his achievements – he’s a cool, unruffled businessman with a strong commercial approach.

Agriserve is owned by the in-hand farming business of entrepreneur John van Geest, with Mickey in day-to-day charge. He has been responsible for considerable business growth since Agriserve was formed in 2002.

Mickey Daly

The company provides contract farming, agricultural contracting services and machinery hire to its parent business – JL Farms – and others, up to 30 miles away from its base near Spalding, Lincolnshire.

In the past five years, the area farmed has more than doubled, with investments in land, facilities, machinery and people. Mickey has managed not just the day-to-day operations, but led the marketing of Agriserve services, agronomic policy and the establishment of new contract farming agreements. “One word sums up our business approach – flexibility,” he says.

Under Mickey’s leadership, Agriserve’s contract-farming acreage has grown by 80% while its contract services business has swelled by 120%. Coupled with this, the low-unit-cost business model has gained 778 contract-farming acres in the past year.

Mickey Daly

“I believe in giving people responsibility for their own jobs, rather than telling them what to do,” he adds.

But while he can delegate effectively, Mickey is still the man on the ground, making things happen. “I’m still very hands-on. I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he says.

“With our cost structure, we can identify the acres where we can make a profit – that’s what we’re in business for. We can identify areas where we can expand without great capital investment.

“We make excellent use of management figures, and use our financial accounting to inform and allow business decisions.”

The rapid growth of Agriserve is a remarkable achievement for any agriculturalist, but Mickey Daly is not from a farming background. “I went to school in the middle of Leicester,” he says. But weekend work baling hay and involvement with Young Farmers Clubs led to a spell at Brooksby-Melton Agricultural College.

Mickey Daly

A farm management career took him through established estates and to Australia, but Agriserve has clearly given him the chance to flourish. “I could see the business opportunity, and could see the future lay with a business and would offer greater opportunities for expansion,” he says.

A fundamental focus of Mickey’s highly successful approach is on detailed cost management. Accurate invoicing and detailed allocation of actual versus budgeted costs means he can identify and act on individual areas of performance.

A clean, well-maintained and well-looked-after machinery fleet reflects the team’s pride in what they do. The principal machines are an STX 500 Quadtrac, a John Dere 8520T and five other Deeres. A Vaderstad 6m drill, a 24m self-propelled sprayer and a 580 TT Claas Lexion combine mean the firm is well placed to tackle the acres before it.

Mickey Daly’s calm, hands-on approach and careful eye for opportunities mean Agriserve is well placed for further, profitable, expansion.

Farm facts

  • Agriserve
  • Contract farming 1100ha
  • Agricultural contracting services
  • Machinery hire
  • What the judges liked
  • Well-maintained kit and highly trained staff
  • Careful, considered approach
  • Flexibility key