21 June 2002

HOWLATEST FARMINGIT

CAN DOTHEBUSINESS

Royal Show for business

THE agricultural industry has adopted information technology with enthusiasm, and the Agribusiness Centre at grid ref J14 is an obvious destination for anyone who wants to be up-to-date with the latest software packages and computer solutions for the farm office. Many of the leading IT companies will be at the Centre offering programmes to help with subjects as varied as crop management, dairy herd records and traceability.

Another important venue for those who see a day at the show as a business opportunity is the Rural Business Development Area. This years theme for farmers and landowners is helping to maximise profitability through the most efficient use of land and other resources, and the area provides an opportunity to meet specialists from a wide range of businesses including banks, financial services and consultants, co-ops, machinery rings, IT specialists and accountants.

Diversification is an attractive business option for some farmers, and this is the discussion topic in Hall 2 at grid ref L21 where representatives from a range of organisations will be available to discuss the opportunities for adding new income streams to existing farm businesses.

Hall 2 is also the location for a major new Royal Show feature called Towards Tomorrows Countryside. According to the RASE this is the start of a long-term campaign to raise awareness and stimulate discussion among farmers, rural business communities and the general public about improving the countryside and rural lifestyles through sustainable development.

This years exhibition will open the campaign by looking at farming, tourism, food, rural communities and the environment – five of the fundamental issues for those who live in or have an interest in the countryside. As well as interactive exhibits, practical ideas for coping with problems of rural development will be presented by bringing together examples of "real life" practical initiatives from around the country. These will include businesses based in rural areas as well as organisations that can offer advice based on their own experiences.

In a special business orientated feature for arable farmers at grid ref Q14, accountants Grant Thornton will be looking at some of the potential pitfalls for those involved in restructuring a farm business. The scope of the feature will extend to farm business tenancies, contract management agreements, share farming, whole farm contracting and machinery syndicates, and advice will be available to help farmers investigate the possibilities while avoiding some of the hidden pitfalls that can threaten some restructuring plans.

Farmers are sometimes accused of being good at marketing but less efficient at purchasing their business inputs, and there are some useful guidelines in this years Cost of Purchasing feature, also on grid ref Q14. A joint investigation by the RASE and Deloitte & Touche Food and Agriculture Group suggests that few farmers buy on price alone, but some appear to spend an excessive amount of time chasing the best deals in order to make marginal cost savings.

Stoneleighs future

FUTURE plans to turn Stoneleigh Park and the Royal Show Ground into a new National Centre for Rural Enterprise or NCRE have been described as the RASEs boldest long-term project, and the proposals will be on display at this years show to attract visitors suggestions and criticisms.

The plans include a suggestion of how Stoneleigh Park might look in five years time plus a glimpse of ideas for the 2007 Royal Show. Major developments in the proposals include an International Livestock Centre providing technology transfer and training plus a comprehensive marketing and technical showcase for everything from breed societies to equipment and research.

The proposed International Equine Centre will offer the most up-to-date facilities and resources, and a new Rural Education Centre will be a year-round resource placing food, farming and the countryside at the heart of the education system. Destination Stoneleigh Park will provide year-round visitor attractions with food, countryside and plant themes, and the Rural Science and Technology Business Park will provide an opportunity to cluster together relevant businesses that could benefit from working in close proximity.

Above: Wondering about sharing machinery with your neighbours? Come to the Royal for advice.

Left: Thinking about converting a redundent barn into offices or light industrial unit? Or some other form of diversification? Come to the Royal for business development advice.