Farm Business Resilience Plan

A Farm Business Resilience Plan helps you:

  • support the productivity and profitability of your business
  • identify and assess risks that will impact your farm business such as drought, natural disasters, production risks
  • identify opportunities to build resilience, improve your business and track progress
  • develop strategies and actions on how to manage risks and progress opportunities.

You need a Farm Business Resilience Plan (or equivalent farm business plan) to apply for drought assistance grants and loans.

The grants and loans are administered through Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA).

Writing your plan

You may already have an up-to-date business plan, or you can write a new plan using templates and checklists from:

Canegrowers offers support to write a business plan through its Business essentials – Farm Business Resilience Program.

You can get help at an industry workshop or engage a professional to help you.

If you engage a professional, you can apply for a 50% rebate of the cost, up to $2,500 through a Farm Management Grant from QRIDA.

Other programs and service providers can help you develop your plan:

  • natural resource management bodies
  • agricultural consultants.

Watch the video on why you need a plan

Video transcript

Hear from other producers

Many primary producers have prepared Farm Business Resilience Plans and accessed grants or loans to make infrastructure improvements and prepare for severe climate events.

Watch these short videos about Farm business resilience planning to hear some of their stories.

Read about producers preparing for drought with property improvements

Saunders Farming 'Plantation' in St George, south-western Queensland, stands as a testament to a rich legacy in the cotton industry. Established over 50 years ago by industry pioneers Alan and Lenore Saunders, the farm has evolved under the guidance of their son, Craig Saunders, and his wife, Sharon.Farmer standing in front of water

In the past 2 decades, the farm has expanded to over 900 green hectares, focusing primarily on cotton cultivation. Craig and Sharon Saunders embody a commitment to innovation, experimentation, and the adoption of cutting-edge technologies to enhance resource management.

With a motto of 'better and easier', Craig takes pride in maintaining an engaged workforce employing modern machinery and advanced farming practices. The Saunders family's dedication to cotton cultivation is underscored by the active involvement of the third generation, with Craig's daughter, Brooke, and her husband, Lucas Wuersching, contributing to the family operation.

The challenge: improving water-use efficiency

Water access, water reliability and variable climate conditions are some of the main challenges facing Saunders Farming.

"Drought is a part of our landscape, and we value innovation and collaboration to help improve our water-use efficiency to take us further through the dry times." said Craig.

Saunders Farming is constantly pushing to improve its water use as it is a limited and expensive resource. Craig realised the Farm Business Resilience Program was the opportunity to convert to bankless flood irrigation, which uses less water to grow more cotton.

Farm Business Resilience Program assistance

Saunders Farming is one of the first cotton growers to use the Farm Business Resilience Program to help fund their conversion from siphons to bankless irrigation.

Craig said when his accountant first showed him the paperwork for the program, he was dubious about taking it on.

"As farmers, we hate paperwork, and when I saw all the criteria, it looked like a bit of effort. My accountant, Dan Chappel from Synergy Consolidated, helped me through the process, and under the program, there was grant funding through the Farm Management Grant to cover his fees."

Irrigation designer Glenn Lyons was commissioned to develop the bankless bay flood irrigation system for Plantation.

The Saunders Farming bankless system sees more than 2 megalitres a hectare of water savings compared to siphons.

Saunders Farming is also collaborating with Padman Stops, developing the infrastructure to successfully take their large-scale flood irrigation bankless system to full automation. Automation to open and shut gates at optimal timing will be a game changer as moving the water on and off the paddock quickly provides the best results.

Eager to share their findings, Saunders Farming regularly hold farm walks to demonstrate how the new bankless system works.

Expert advice delivers increased yields

Glenn Lyons has dedicated his career to improving growers' water use efficiency to deliver better profitability and sustainability in an arid and drought-prone environment. Over the past 2 decades Glenn has become one of the foremost bankless and bay irrigation authorities.

For Saunders Farming, the move away from siphon irrigation to the GL Bays Bankless system is providing fresh opportunities to strengthen their operation by reducing their water use while increasing their yields.

Body of water

Drought Preparedness Grant funding

On completion of the Farm Business Resilience Plan, Craig Saunders accessed the Queensland Government-funded, Drought Preparedness Grant of $50,000 to contribute towards the bankless irrigation system development.

Bankless irrigation systems water the fields from both ends by employing head-ditch inflow and tailwater backup, creating a more uniform crop yield than conventional siphon-fed systems.

Converting to bankless is around $1500 a hectare. For growers to do a normal regrade and reform of beds, they spend about $500 a hectare. So, Craig says it costs him an extra $1000 a hectare for the conversion to bankless.

However, the cost of the Plantation New Development Drought Preparedness Grant Project blew out considerably due to rain delaying the earthworks and diesel and freight prices skyrocketing. The total cost of the finished product was more than $300,000 as the contractor who levelled the field was operating in wet conditions and used 50% more diesel and more time to shift the dirt.

The cost blowout saw Craig going to his bank to source the funds needed to finish the project. But even with the additional costs in mind, the Drought Preparedness Grant reduced the cost of the project to the business by 17%.

Reaping the benefits

Craig Saunders says the new bankless system delivers precision irrigation times, increases yields and machinery efficiencies, and reduces labour requirements and water use.

"We can grow more with less, which positively affects our local environment and communities. The neighbours have been looking over the fence during this current dry time of limited water supply."

Realising Saunders Farming is now producing better crop yields with less water, the neighbours asked Craig if he had any spare paddocks to grow forage sorghum for them.

"They picked the right year. Usually, I wouldn't have country available, but being dry, we did. So, they put their water into my dam, and I'm growing their sorghum."

Craig has never grown sorghum in his life and is enjoying the collaboration.

"I think it's pretty neat how this project has created unexpected opportunities. I'm getting to grow a crop when I normally wouldn't have been able to, and my neighbours are getting more hay for their shed. So, the project has supported more than 1 business in building their drought preparedness."

Another unexpected bonus of the program was the need to address succession planning.

"While challenging at the time, it has opened up some crucial conversations inside our business."

Advice to other growers

"The Farm Business Resilience Program is a fantastic tool for farmers to really look at their operations and think about what they could do better to survive the next drought.

"I would recommend farmers finding an accountant or industry support to help guide them through the application process."

Watch the video about bankless irrigation delivering water-saving efficiencies to St. George cotton growers.

Growcom's Farm Business Resilience Program (FBRP) is assisting horticultural growers to identify gaps in their current farm management systems and develop plans that support growth and aid in mitigating the impacts of future droughts. Farmer standing in fiend crop with machinery in background

Using Growcom's best management practice platform, Hort360 growers can easily undertake a gap-analysis and develop their resilient plan using the inbuilt template. Financial assistance is also available through QRIDA.

Greg Lester and his brother Wayne are co-owners of Morton Vale Farms in the Lockyer Valley. The business grows a mixed range of crops, from seasonal pumpkins, melons, vegetables, and corn as well as lucerne hay production under irrigation.

The issue

Like many farm businesses, their farming area is spread across a number of blocks up to 2km apart and until recently the Lester's farm only had a single hard hose boom irrigator. In drier times, the existing boom irrigator must be moved from paddock to paddock creating significant delays in water application damaging the soil health and increasing crop stress.

Following a few good years of rain in the Lockyer Valley, the Lester brothers knew from experience that a dry spell could be just around the corner. Greg also knew that he needed to take steps to strengthen the long-term viability of the farms' drought resilience now if the business was to flourish during drier times ahead.

The FBRP process, facilitated by Southern Queensland Resilience Officer Brock McDonald through a short series of workshops, enabled Greg to think through their business operations from a broader angle and clearly identified the current irrigation infrastructure as a major risk to future business security in drier times.

The solution

To enable the business to irrigate more efficiently during lower rainfall periods, it was necessary to duplicate the existing irrigation infrastructure, removing the need for the hard hose boom irrigator to be moved large distances between paddocks.

Building on the existing capability and integrating the latest technology in efficient irrigation, Greg designed and specified a new hard hose irrigation system with a turbine propellor drive capable of irrigating a 62-metre-wide strip with a high level of accuracy. The boom has a mixture of sprinkler styles to optimise the evenness of the water distribution, whilst preventing the wheels from bogging.

The farm sought funding from QRIDA under a Drought Preparedness Grant and successfully received a 25% rebate of the eligible costs, making the acquisition affordable and boosting the long-term viability of the business.

The outcome

With the new irrigation infrastructure, the farm can now apply the right amount of water across the farm sooner during drier conditions. Maintaining soil moisture at optimum levels during a crop's life leads to the best available yield outcomes as well as using less water overall, reducing off-farm water costs and improving environmental outcomes.

The Farm Business Resilience Program

Greg reflects that although he knew there were a number of risks to the viability of his business, he hadn't spent the time to think about his business as a whole.

The FBRP provided both the mechanism and the support needed to enable Greg to really understand what was needed to build resilience into his farming business. Like many farmers, he's not comfortable with a lot of paperwork activities but Greg strongly recommends that other growers invest the time to complete the FBRP with the assistance that is on hand from the Growcom team.

A secondary benefit for Morton Vale Farms is that the FBRP triggered thoughts about the longer-term plan for the farm within the family. The next task that Greg will be tackling is to develop a succession plan with the next generation over the next few years.

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