“My name is James Thorp, of A.G. Wright and Son (Farms) Ltd, Ely, Cambridgeshire. We are now in our second year with JVFG. Why did we do it? There are several reasons and benefits.
We’ve always analysed the numbers in the business. It’s not something that we have just started. With JVFG we have found the system to get the benchmarked analysis that our business needs.

James Wright, A.G. Wright and Son (Farms) Ltd, Cambridgeshire

With JVFG we are getting very valuable information to help our decision-making, says James Thorp.

One size of benchmarking may not fit all

Our problem in looking for a benchmarking system is one of scale. Also, we are a very diversified business. So when we were looking for specifics to help our business we could not find a model that suited. When we came to JVFG consultant Jamie Gwatkin, while he did not promise he could do everything, he explained that JVFG is the model with the right comparisons, the right people, the right mix of machinery to match what we want to achieve: to look hard at our costs and bring them down.
We have root crops, we’re farming on the edge of a major conurbation. We have very different soil types from sand to heavy clays.  We are very spread out. All that makes it a really diverse business but mainly its diverse in cropping. Most JVFG members have combinable crops but we have potatoes, onions,maize in the cropping as well.

Benefits from the start

As relative newcomers to JVFG we have only one full year’s data set so far. Next year is the nervous year! However, from what we have put in so far, the results we have had back are pleasant. It’s been a good year until now regarding work rates and costs. As we all are all late crops following root crops if we get a wet year you would see our work rates reduce.

Target set

What do we most want to feel we have got right? Labour and machinery: just making sure the have the right level of labour and machinery for our hectarage, our total fixed costs are correct. lt’s fine while the men and machinery are in the field and utilised but it’s making sure we have things at the right level for when it’s not being used so that each piece of kit is not costing us too much.
I think the answer on how right we are will be revealed when we get our first full set of results back. The guys in JVFG who are getting the most out of the benchmarking are the ones who have been in it the longest, inputting really accurate data.

Listening to results and strategies from others

Can we draw relevant lessons, when we are being compared with other, different businesses? Yes, we can can. Because we get the full picture every season. It’s not just the information in each report during the year that counts it’s the discussion which brings out the truth in the figures and makes them site-specific or relevant across all businesses. It’s not just the figures, the graphs and the charts that are put up, it’s the conversation around the room that is so very very valuable.
If you get sent the figures in isolation I don’t think they would make very much sense at all but with consultant Jamie Gwatkin on hand to elaborate, and with the discussion around the table with other JVFG members, you get very valuable information to help your decision-making.”