Duncan Farrington: Spreadsheets, not muckspreading

Duncan Farrington has been doing some financial planning
Duncan Farrington has been doing some financial planning
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Sometimes I just have to spend a few undisturbed days in the office with my head buried in spreadsheets trying to plan for the future of the business.

As well as being vitally important, I do enjoy trying to workout the best way for all the pieces of the jigsaw to fit together.

Firstly I will be updating my whole-farm environmental policy.

This document is all about what we stand for and looks at everything from water resources and wildlife, to staff and the machinery choices we make on the farm.

It is a true record of where we are as a business, as well as putting some targets for the following year.

I update this annually, following discussions of what our ambitions are for the year.

Then there are the cashflow forecasts that need completing for this year and next, a vital tool to help give an indication of where and when the money is going to come from and what we will have left to invest.

Farming, like any other business, does not have a crystal ball, particularly when it comes to predicting future weather and commodity trends, but it does give me an indication to start planning around.

Business planning is a combination of strategy, mixed with plenty of compromise, a bit of aspiration and a realisation that not everything can be done at once.

For example, over the past couple of years the farm has had to cut back its shopping list drastically due to a poor harvest two years ago.

The tractor we recently bought I wanted last year but couldn’t afford.

Now I am looking at the investments required for the next two years and trying to prioritise those, while trying to keep the business agile.

Our 14-year-old combine harvester is a crucial piece of machinery.

A wheel recently departed from the rest of the machine on the road and the combine ended up in the ditch.

Thankfully no serious damaged was done to people or machine, but this brings home the fact that we need to look at replacing this over the next couple of years and at about £500,000 for a new one, I will be looking for another used machine.

For this year, one of the things near the top of the list is a solar power system to go on the oil factory roof.

This ticks many boxes both financially and environmentally, so as long as I can get the figures to work, it should become a reality over the next few months.