Production – Science – Profit
It was a pleasure to be invited to present a paper at the National Conference on Biological Farming
Systems in Rotorua recently. The Conference endeavoured to cover an extensive range of current
practices and ideas that could be classified as ingredients in what is called modern biological farming.
There was a group of dedicated company people wanting to help farmers improve their lot. Presentation
time was restricted with limited time for questions, which meant that in the two-day programme over forty
subjects were covered. Only a handful of these papers were from scientific research organisations, and the
general feeling at the Conference was that conventional science was ignoring the real value and potential
of biological farming.
The majority of presentations described company products used on farms and invariably reported the
results in production terms. But producing more is not necessarily profitable – ask any successful business
person. We need to assess the huge range of alternative practices and knowledge accumulated in the
past decade in terms of their profitability so that we can evaluate their true contribution to the business of
The word “profit” has been one of the most frequently used words in farming publications in the past few
years but accurate measures of profit are missing from most farm businesses in this country. No other
industry in the developed world evaluates its success in production terms. It is simply not compatible with
best business practice and not sustainable.
It was not until the penny dropped in the early nineties that I adopted the practices of my business advisors
and the food giants of the world and started to measure farm businesses in the same way as the producer
of a can of baked beans. The farmers I have worked with over the past decade or two have improved their
bottom line results by 10 – 40 % per year by adopting the daily profit concept and using the innovative
So let’s measure farming in business terms just like any other industry or producer. Let’s make sustainable
farming sustainably profitable, and make that the key focus to growing more quality food for our