Brian Redrup: Skilled, disciplined and committed people make farming successful

14 September 2018

Today’s farming is, as any business, a struggle for competitive advantage. Therefore, a modern farm manager has to know how to market products, plan the production process, and recognize and take advantages of business opportunities. Brian Redrup, the Farms Director at the British agroholding Velcourt and one of the keynote speakers of the upcoming 9th International Large Farm Management Conference, shares his opinion about the components of successful farming.

Please, tell us a few words about your company.

Over the past 50 years, Velcourt has significantly expanded its service portfolio and has become one of the leading providers of agribusiness solutions and advisory services both in the UK and abroad. The list of services provided by the company at the national and international levels includes farm management, agronomic consulting, meat and dairy business advisory, business project planning and implementation, farm inspections on various aspects and so on.

Which factors, in your opinion, drive success of an agricultural company nowadays?

With regard to our company, four generic components of success can be named.

First, people. We carefully select our personnel. Our employees have to be committed and have an understanding of the business models that we are working with. Our customers consider Velcourt to be a reliable and valuable partner.

Second, technological advances and innovations. Our R&D team provides access to innovations and new knowledge to be applied in the agricultural sector.

Third, financial discipline. We understand the financial problems of the farming industry and aim to deliver the best service in this respect.

Fourth, cooperation. We actively collaborate with our customers to understand their needs and offer the best tools to ensure the highest productivity of their businesses.

In addition, our company has 35 years of experience in many foreign markets. So our understanding of agricultural issues in different part of the world is very deep and helps to provide advisory services based on our own experience.

What does it take to build a highly effective and efficient team?

Our corporate structure in the UK provides a clear strategy and centralized management of our R&D centers, procurement, logistics and marketing, allowing farm managers to focus on their core competence - production.

Even overseas our recruitment standards remain the same. Our International Farm Management Team has been formed based on its rich complementary experience in diverse markets and projects. Our experts regularly visit production sites and constantly pay attention to the needs of international clients.

We are always looking for the best personnel, and our own training system helps us to attract the best candidates. We do our best to ensure that our employees work as a single team through regular contact and exchange of new knowledge.

Apart from our structured training scheme, all staff participates in on-going trainings. An important element of this are the ‘in-field’ agronomy days held throughout the year where everyone comes together to discuss (and, where appropriate, to question) the agronomic strategy, and to share and feedback successes and failures through the season.

What latest innovations have been implemented by your R&D centers?

All production costs are constantly under the independent control of our R&D department in order to optimize the choice of products and to analyze the benefits of all new active ingredients and products. We do not feel confident if we rely solely on commercially biased harvesting recommendations.

We thoroughly test and explore the latest technologies at the farm level. Examples of core technologies that are currently being tested include the use of drones and satellite data for differentiated soil fertilization, correction of seed placement during sowing and control of the introduction of herbicides and fungicides; use of the latest crop technologies to reduce the amount of seeds during the cultivation of oilseeds in order to minimize seed costs; and use of crop simulations to inform crop rotation and management decisions in sugar beet and potato cultivation.

How do you get insights into efficiency of your farms?

We use internal and external benchmarking. All farms are internally compared to each other in terms of productivity and financial performance. The farms’ figures are further compared with respective indicators of industry leaders based on independent third-party data.

Based on your international experience, what is the difference in technology implementation between the UK and other countries?

In my opinion, the main difference is that in the UK, where smaller units with fewer employees and smaller farmland areas dominate the farm structure, the need for control and monitoring technologies is less critical than in emerging and transition economies. Technologies such as telematics and fuel control systems are rarely used in the UK. Instead, the main function of technology in the UK agriculture is to improve productivity and increase crop yields or to use resources more purposefully to reduce costs. In particular, our company has introduced reliable stock control systems and recording systems forfield recording on its farms.

Thank you for the interview.