What is Farm Excellence? Ten things you need to know

How can Farm Excellence help you? Tim Isaac, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Director, explains how the platform works and what you can get out of it on your farm.

Tim Isaac

Knowledge Exchange Director

1. What is Farm Excellence?

Farm Excellence is our wide-reaching platform of on-farm activity. It is how we deliver information to and collect feedback from levy payers, both physically and digitally.

The platform includes all six sectors – Beef & Lamb, Dairy, Pork, Cereals & OilseedsHorticulture and Potatoes – and consists of four areas of activity:

  • Strategic Farms or Centres
  • Monitor Farms
  • Discussion groups
  • Technical events

The Farm Excellence platform features a network of inspirational farmers who open their doors to others to learn, share and create new ideas. This helps farmers and growers drive innovation and increase productivity.

2. What are Strategic Farms, Strategic Centres and Monitor Farms?

Monitor Farms and Strategic Farms or Centres are host farms and demonstration sites providing locally representative case studies for you to follow in real time.

This means the topics they cover are directly relevant to you, so you can observe practical improvements and then quickly apply the learnings to your own farms and businesses.

The two types of host farms/centres are slightly different in what they cover:

  • Strategic Farms or Strategic Centres deliver sector-specific improvements, with a focus on technical performance
  • Monitor Farms deliver whole-farm improvements, with a focus on business performance

However, there is cross-over between the two as they increasingly form part of an integrated network.

3. What are Discussion groups and Technical events?

Discussion groups (or Pig Clubs in Pork) are more detailed discussions in smaller groups. These cover a range of business and technical topics and benchmarking, where participants have access to our benchmarking tools, such as Farmbench.

Using physical and financial figures, strengths and weaknesses can be identified and discussed in a confidential setting, alongside experts who really understand the detailed workings of farm businesses.

Technical events may be one-off local events, part of a roadshow, or even national conferences. These take place throughout the UK.

4. How does Farm Excellence work?

The platform provides relevant hubs for like-minded farmers and growers to share information with each other and industry experts. These are independently facilitated with the common aims of improving productivity, competitiveness and sustainability.

All Farm Excellence activity is ‘farmer-led and farmer-driven’, so the topics of meetings and the practical demonstrations are based on demand from those who attend. For Monitor and Strategic Farms/Centres, this is usually decided by a steering group to ensure it is what levy payers want in that area.

The meetings use AHDB specialists, tools and resources, plus industry experts, depending on the theme. The agendas are set around the business objectives of the host farm, topical issues or seasonal challenges.

Each host farm has a dedicated AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager who plans, manages and delivers events and webinars on those topics.

5. How big is the Farm Excellence network?

There are almost 100 host farms throughout the UK from across the different sectors – so on-farm meetings are easily accessible to most levy payers.

In addition, we have more than 200 discussion groups and an even bigger number of technical events that fill in any gaps. We also work in partnership with a number of other organisations who run events for farmers and growers.

When you attend a Farm Excellence event, you benefit from all the network activity, not just that which takes place locally. To support this, we also offer exchange visits between farms and groups in different parts of the country, as well as overseas through study trips. The network is further enhanced digitally through our webpages and virtual events which can be accessed at a time that suits you.

6. How do I attend an event?

Explore the map on our Farm Excellence page to browse host farms by location or sector. Each host farm has a profile page where you can find out what they aim to achieve.

Sign up to join a webinar or register to attend an event to discuss the topical challenges facing farming businesses, learn from other farmers and to join the debate.

You can also contact your local Knowledge Exchange Manager to find out what is happening near you, or use our Keeping in touch form to sign up for updates about the latest research, market intelligence, disease alerts, invitations to events and news on consumer marketing campaigns.

7. Who attends events?

Most Farm Excellence events are attended by levy payers. More open events will also attract members of the trade, consultants, agronomists and vets. However, the closed benchmarking groups are only for farmers and growers who have entered their data.

Typically, Monitor and Strategic Farm/Centre events can attract anywhere between 20 and 100 people, with between three and six meetings per year. Discussion groups are much smaller at around five to 15 people, meeting from once a month to once a year. Technical events can range from small breakfast meetings for a handful of people up to conferences of 200-plus.

The events take place throughout the year, but typically fit in with the seasons of each sector.

8. What if I can’t attend an event?

You can follow the progress of host farms and centres you’re interested in via their profile pages, where reports and case studies are published.

Our webinars also give you the chance to listen to meetings from the comfort of your home and at times that fit around a busy day. We also create podcasts that can be listened to on-the-go, and we often publish articles in the trade press.

9. What will I get from Farm Excellence?

Farmers and growers tell us they attend events to improve their technical knowledge and to keep up to date with the latest research and market information.

We know that the ability to share and discuss locally relevant information and experiences is a big attraction, as it helps give you the confidence to try new things in your own businesses.

Specifically, our survey research revealed:

  • 98% of levy payers reported one or more positive business outcomes as a direct result of attending Farm Excellence events
  • 92% of levy payers stated that changes made would have a positive impact on costs, productivity or profitability

10. What do others say about Farm Excellence?

Check out the following testimonials from some of our host farmers and steering groups:

“The most valuable part of the programme is the fact that it’s farmer-led. A farmer led programme means that we can look at the subjects directly affecting us without influence from others saying that you should be doing this or you should be doing that.”

Tom Bradshaw, Colchester Monitor Farm

“The legacy of the programme is being able to focus objectively on the business. It’s taught me to step back from the business and know my cost, and have an unemotional look at the business.”

Hereford steering group

“It’s a good way of keeping connected, and looking for something to challenge you and what you’re doing on the farm.”

Russ McKenzie, Huntingdon Monitor Farm

“It’s given me the confidence to go and do stuff.”

Brian Barker, Stowmarket Monitor Farm

"Opening ourselves up to external challenges as a strategic farm will help keep us focused and challenge us to do better, as well as giving us the opportunity to speak to other farmers who are looking to improve."

Phil Kinch, Strategic Dairy Farmer, Oxfordshire

×