10 April 1998

Software puts LEAF on your computer

A SOFTWARE version of the LEAF integrated farm management (IFM) audit could help growers pursue higher market standards and ensure their farms are in tune with todays consumer demands.

By going beyond the requirements of existing assurance schemes the computerised audit could help growers in the marketplace, says Tim Berry of potato packer MBM. "While it wont necessarily gain growers a premium, it will secure a place in the market. Buyers are starting to expect if not demand it."

David Bolton of farm business consultant Andersons echoes that view: "Integrated crop management and the LEAF audit are a part of becoming customer focused."

The package covers all aspects of farm management. LEAF chairman David Richardson describes it as a one-stop shop for integrated farming. Developed from the four-year-old paper based LEAF audit, the software promotes integrated farming practices which are commercially viable and environmentally responsible, says LEAF co-ordinator Caroline Drummond.

Supplied by LEAF on two computer disks, the package runs on Windows, is simple to load and aimed at farmer users, says John Tzilivakis, part of the team responsible for the development of the programme.

Using self-assessment the system guides the farmer through his business decisions, checking the farm against integrated farm management principles and providing supporting information.

Robert Campbell who piloted the package on his 405ha (1000-acre) farm in Cleveland endorses the point. "It is very simple to use."

When completed, one disk is returned to LEAF which collates the data and reports back on how the business compares with other farms using the package and against IFM principles. Suggestions to improve environmental management practices are made and prioritised.

"The report tells us which stepping stone we are on along the path towards integrated crop management and where we need to go next," says Mr Campbell.

The package highlights codes of practice where appropriate, allowing growers to navigate to the exact section they need to refer to.

Mr Campbell has used the system to check his management against codes of practice where he did not before. "I will sleep easier at night. You wont get caught out if you use the package."

As a management tool, Mr Campbell says growers should focus on the decisions behind the yes/no answers. "It would be possible to complete the audit in three-quarters of an hour, but to get the most out of the package two or three hours are required."

The package costs £20 + VAT to LEAF members, £50 + VAT to non-members. &#42

New leaf software tells farmer Robert Campbell exactly where he is on the path to integrated crop management and meeting future consumer demands, says project co-ordinator Caroline Drummond.

AUDIT ON DISC

&#8226 LEAF standards go beyond current assurance schemes.

&#8226 Software package eases use.

&#8226 Reduced paperwork.

&#8226 Whole farm principles.

&#8226 30 mins to 3 hours to do.

&#8226 Business benchmarks.

&#8226 Suggestions for improvements.

&#8226 Includes advisory info such as codes of practice.