market freedom

10 December 1999

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market freedom

By Louise Impey

A COMPUTER should be considered as an essential piece of farm equipment, especially when it comes to marketing, according to one Suffolk grower.

Producing onions and potatoes for a number of outlets, including supermarkets and processors, Brian Rutterford reckons computerised crop records have given him the confidence to sell to any part of the food chain and have expanded his market options.

"Since we have been able to demonstrate professional record-keeping with full traceability there have been no disputes with customers and our produce has been readily accepted for specific markets," he says.

Full records for all crops have been kept for the past 12 years, but they were only computerised four years ago when more detail began to be requested.

"For some contracts we may have to show proof of the last five years of cropping. And the current crop records have to go way beyond pesticide use. Even cultivations are scrutinised."

Farming 750ha (1850 acres) at Lakenheath in Suffolk, Mr Rutterford uses Farmade Multicrop software. After training and help with set-up, the system was operational very quickly.

He now finds that having all the records in one place makes meeting requests for information far simpler, and says that an added benefit is that his agronomist can also input relevant information. "We are also a member of the Assured Produce Scheme, so we are adding water and waste management records to the system as they are developed."

Cropping at Undley Hall also includes sugar beet, winter wheat, winter barley and linseed. "We are keeping full records on all crops, although they do not tend to be examined in the same way as vegetables. But it helps to maintain marketing control."

Mr Rutterford estimates that going computerised cost the business about £3000. "It is not a big expense for the flexibility it has given us.

"There is no doubt that we are now seen as being more professional in our approach, even if the actual information we supply to our customers is much the same as it was before."

Regular program updates are received from system supplier Landmark, so any new legislative requirements are met in full. &#42


&#8226 Essential farm tool.

&#8226 Aid crop marketing.

&#8226 Improve management.

&#8226 Constantly expanding.

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