The online benchmarking tool, Farmbench, is becoming more popular with farmers to help engage with farm management systems

The online tool has now been introduced into third-year agricultural students at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Julie Clark, knowledge exchange manager for AHDB’s benchmarking and farm economics team, delivered a series of workshops in February on how to use Farmbench, to students at SRUC as part of a study module on farm management systems.

She visited SRUC’s campuses in Edinburgh, Ayr and Aberdeen, and said: “Farmbench is an easy to use online benchmarking tool that helps to identify where strengths and weaknesses lie within a farm business.

“It has established itself as the market-leader amongst other farm benchmarking tools and staff at SRUC were keen to give their students an introduction into how it is used, why farmers find it useful and what analysing numbers can tell you.

“I used mock reports and feedback from farmer sessions to demonstrate its practical application across a range of different farming sectors. I wanted to show how the data you input into the programme supports evidence-based decisions that improve individual profitability and productivity on farms.”

Julie was invited to take on the challenge of becoming a guest lecturer by Heather Kerr, a lecturer at SRUC’s Ayr campus.

Heather said: “Benchmarking is increasingly being used by farmers and we wanted to offer our students an introduction to using this important business tool as part of their farm management systems.”

Around 45 students took part in the three-hour Farmbench workshops and the feedback was very positive with students expressing an interest in using it on their farms.

By comparing results anonymously to farms with similar enterprises, Farmbench helps farmers improve individual business performance and manage many of the challenges facing the sector, such as price volatility. It is designed to evaluate the performance of farming enterprises, by comparing agreed performance indicators with neighbouring, local or national farmers.

Many farmers already do this informally by discussing yields and output prices with other producers; however, Farmbench allows users to make an objective analysis of performance and explore the full impact on the bottom line.

You will then be able to discuss and share best practice with others through Business Improvement Groups, before making evidence-based decisions to improve individual profitability and productivity.

At present, Farmbench is available for beef, lamb, dairy, combinable crop, potato and sugar beet enterprises. Funded by the AHDB levy, it is providing the service and support for free.