FARM businesses which are prepared for and embrace change will be able to exploit the opportunities that come with periods of industry 'evolution'.

But speaking at the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM) National Farm Management Conference in London, AHDB chair Nicholas Saphir stressed that farmers needed to 'get on the front foot', as delaying change could cost them dearly.

"There will be opportunities to grow new crops, to grow crops differently or to grow crops for new uses such as nutraceuticals," said Mr Saphir. "For livestock farmers, increases in quality and provenance and innovation will offer potential. However, only around a third of farmers appreciate the extent of change that is coming and are preparing for it. The challenge now is to increase this proportion and get businesses thinking their way to success.”

Central to the development of a farm business capable of competing efficiently in the new post-subsidy and post-Brexit world will be developing the necessary skills – and David Fursdon, chairman of Dyson Farming, warned that the availability of skilled labour will remain a big issue.

“To do well, you will need to look after your staff and equip them for the new ways of doing things," said Mr Fursdon. "This will involve looking at areas such as wages and accommodation but also at how they are trained and what they are trained in,” he added.

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“People working on farms are already mechanics, soil scientists, accountants, agronomists and livestock husbandry specialists. However new technologies that will pave the way to greater efficiency will mean farm businesses will require data analysts, specialist skills in drone operation, robotics, GPS systems and aerial analysis, to name a few.”

He said the optimum mix of skills will allow the effective adoption of precision farming techniques to help drive financial and environmental sustainability. Achieving this will require a combination of more structured training and development aligned with a willingness to recruit from across other industries.