Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Farmbench?
Farmbench is a business tool that covers Cereals and Oilseeds, Potatoes and Beef and Lamb enterprises and will allow all farmers to enter their costs in one go. This allows users to get a better understanding of their whole farm costs and detailed enterprise data.
How does benchmarking work?
Farmbench allows you to evaluate business performance by comparing agreed performance indicators against a group of your peers. Many farmers already do this informally by discussing yields and output prices with other producers, however Farmbench allows you to explore the full impact of these on the bottom line.
The ultimate aim of Farmbench is to allow a group to discuss and share best practice in all areas of their businesses, before making evidence based decisions to improve profitability.
What will I be able to measure?
The basic principle of benchmarking is that if you can measure it, you can manage it.
Broadly, there are three categories of performance indicators:
- Financial (e.g. sales, costs and margins)
- Technical (e.g. utilisation of fertilisers or animal health products)
- Production (e.g. outputs such as crop yields or progeny sold per breeding animal)
How will I receive my Farmbench data?
There are a number of ways that AHDB report Farmbench data back to producers.
- If you are a member of a discussion or monitor farm group, you will receive group reports and can take part in a feedback meeting organised by your Knowledge Exchange Manager and Regional Benchmarking Officer.
- The AHDB national sector reports (like the Stocktake) will also continue to be published annually which allows producers to compare their figures to the national data set grouped into top, middle, and bottom third.
- Crucially, all Farmbench users will be able to access reports at any time using the website comparing their performance against an average of at least 15 other similar businesses. You can select different criteria e.g. £ per hectare, £ per kg/tonne, £ per head
How will my data be used by AHDB?
The principal purpose of the data is for AHDB to produce benchmarked figures to feed back to producers through discussion groups or individual reports.
In addition, AHDB uses the aggregated data to support its national market intelligence publications such as the annual Stocktake report and to inform our strategic recommendations to the industry. Other than individual reports for Farmbench users, AHDB will never display your data without your expressed consent and it is anonymous or included within an aggregated sample.
Can my consultant/advisor upload my information for me?
Farmbench will allow you to give access to your data as “consultant” in the 'my businesses' section of the website, provided they are a registered user and have the correct permissions on their accounts.
I benchmarked using Cropbench+ and/or Stocktake+, will I still be able to access my data?
Historic Cropbench+ reports will be transferred into Farmbench to allow users to compare their performance against previous years, however due to the additional functionality of Farmbench, comparisons may not be entirely like for like.
Any other required access should be discussed with your Regional Benchmarking Officer.
The data in Cropbench and Stocktake will be held by AHDB and old records can still be accessed via your Regional Officer.
I have questions/want to know more about benchmarking, who should I contact?
I want to take benchmarking further, what can I do?
Once you have registered an account on Farmbench you can enter your data and view your reports. You can also try the following:
- Get involved in a discussion or monitor farm group near you
- Attend an AHDB event focussing on a particular topic which you wish to improve
- Make use of the Farmbench budgeting tool to set objectives for future business performance
I see real value in benchmarking and I’ve been participating for years. What’s new and better this time round?
The whole farm approach of Farmbench makes it much easier to allocate 100 per cent of your fixed costs. The system is much more intuitive and farmer friendly than our previous tools allowing our farmers and growers to take ownership of their data to make informed decisions and get results.
I already know my costs. I am not sure how participating is going to help me?
You know your costs, that is a very good start. But, how do you compare to your peers or international competition?
The group discussion and learning in a peer-to-peer environment is what it is all about. Getting into the detail and drilling down into what is behind the numbers is where the real best practice messages are drawn out.
I’m really nervous that a buyer is going to get access to my (our group) figures and use them in contract negotiation.
A data authorisation form is signed between AHDB and the farmer. We follow the stringent data protection rules. Your personal data will never be shared and group reports exclude sensitive areas such as rent and finance/borrowings.
All you are going to do is show how the top growers differ from the bottom growers. This is bad for the industry’s reputation.
Farmbench is about finessing and fine tuning individuals cost of production so they can make informed decisions for their future as a sustainable business.
Sometimes these will be a reality check. Very often this informs succession plans and crucial decisions for all family members in the farming business.
Unless we as an industry can recognise our strengths and weakenesses we are unable to improve and develop. Our ability to be progressive and competitive is much more important to our reputation.
I’m worried that I’ll be shown up for some poor practice – I’ll then be disowned by my group.
The only way you would be disowned is if you were dishonest about your costings. If figures highlight high costings, that could you could improve, this can only be advantageous to you and your business.
I’ve worked hard to get a commercial advantage and I’m worried that I’ll be sharing it with competitors.
The rules are defined by the group and with consensus of the individual members from the outset. Specific commercially sensitive information such as contracts and rents, we advise, are not shared or discussed within the group environment.
As an agronomist, I’m already helping my clients through GateKeeper and other software. How does this benefit me?
Farmbench is free to use as part of your levy and is a cost analysis and comparison tool rather than accounts or management package. The added value is the group discussions and interaction. You will receive dedicated support from AHDB facilitators staged over a number of sessions as part of continuous improvement.
I don’t like group work – I’m very secretive about my business but I do like to see how everyone else is doing from time to time.
Unfortunately discussion groups are not for everyone. This format works on trust, open learning and sharing experiences. It has to be give and take.
Sounds like a lot of data-entry to me; how are you making this easy to complete?
Please watch our farmer video stories for more information on how Farmbench can help you and your business grow.
Can I use Farmbench outside the UK?
Farmbench is available for anyone in the world to use, however it is not currently supported by AHDB outside the UK.