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Farm business futures

Our Farm Business Futures research team is focussed on building the resilience and productivity of farm businesses and agricultural industries through:

  • Identifying the key pressures on, and opportunities for, farm business operators.
  • Developing the financial knowledge and capabilities of farm business operators.
  • Increasing adoption of profitable and sustainable food and fibre production practices.

Major projects

Co-operative business model case study: Norco (3,739KB)

For the past 120 years, Norco's members have collectively come together for the common purpose of having their milk produce marketed.  This iconic Australian farmer owned dairy co-operative has grown and reinvented itself many times over its long history, making it a potent example of truly resilient and sustainable business.  This case study provides insights on 'how Norco works' and details key elements of its business model and growth strategy.

The following five lessons come from Norco's experience and can be applied to other co-operatives

  1. Owner members require an economic imperative to join and stay in the co-operative.
  2. A co-operative is more than just a business model that provides economic benefits to its members.  To be sustainable, a co-operative must also provide social benefit.
  3. Strong governance is needed to protect members' assets and for business sustainability.
  4. Australian farmer owned co-operatives have a positioning advantage.
  5. The life cycle of a co-operative is a continual evolution that demands agility and commitment.

Investigators: Professor Julie Cotter and Dr Chris Noble

Understanding Australian attitudes to rural industries, communities and land uses (173KB)

This project, undertaken in conjunction with the University of Canberra, comprises a series of surveys to determine public attitudes towards the roles of agriculture and rural communities in contemporary Australia.  The researchers measure the strength and distribution of agrarianism in relation to demographic characteristics and responses to a range of policy and farm practice issues.  Funding body: Australian Research Council.  Any project enquiries should be directed to

Understanding Australian farm business performance

The project provides an integrated approach to increase foundation knowledge by understanding the characteristics of sample of farmers in the top 25% in their industry. Currently, farmers have limited means of comparing their current management practices and farm performance with other similar enterprise. The lack the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of their management practices in order to inform changes that can improve performance.

The research will provide key performance insights into the key farming systems surrounding animal industries both intensive and extensive, cropping industries including mixed animal and cropping, and horticulture. The objective of this research is to gain key insights into the interrelationships between management strategies, practices and characteristics of farmers and associated farm business performance for a cross section Australian agriculture.

Investigators: Assoc Prof Geoff Slaughter, Rod Glass, Dr Christopher Noble
Funding Body: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC)


Improving farm productivity and competitiveness in the Australian macadamia industry

This project examines how the Australian macadamia industry can continue to develop and grow sustainably into the future. A key part of this project is financial and agronomic benchmarking of farms as well as the refinement of investment appraisal and farm management software from previous research by the joint project partners.

A key goal of the research is to refine objective planning and management tools such as the Financial Planner for Macadamia and MacMan(TM) software to assist existing stakeholders and potential investors to objectively assess and improve the financial and operational performance as well as the sustainability of farms in the industry.

Investigator:Assoc Prof Geoff Slaughter
Funding Bodies: Horticulture Australia Ltd and Australian Macadamia Society  

A marginal abatement cost analysis of livestock emissions mitigation options

This project analyses the practice options examined as part of Meat and Livestock Australia's (MLA) National Livestock Methane Program (NLMP). A broad marginal abatement cost analysis of the practice options examined under the NLMP program will be complemented by detailed financial analysis of those GHG mitigation options that appear to present the greatest opportunity for both financial returns and emissions mitigation to the livestock industry. The analysis allows a comparison of the expected financial returns and emissions mitigation for a range of GHG mitigation options, thereby assisting with decision making about opportunities to mitigate emissions on farm and in future research by industry that captures both productivity and emissions opportunities.

Investigators: Professor Julie Cotter, Rod Glass
Funding Body: Meat and Livestock Australia

Increasing the knowledge and adoption of energy saving initiatives amongst farming enterprises in Western Australia

The Farm Energy Project focuses on providing Western Australian agricultural producers with information about increasing energy efficiency in their enterprises. The Project comprises of both interactive workshops and online content. The project also includes the development of a marginal abatement cost curve tool to analyse energy efficiency options for Australian grain, sheep, beef and horticultural producer and testing of the tool with Western Australian producers.

Investigator: Rod Glass
Funding Body: North East Farming Futures

A Marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) case studies

The Carbon Farming Initiative has been developed to provide an opportunity for Australian farmers to undertake greenhouse gas abatement projects on farm, and to generate revenue from the sale of carbon credits generated by such projects.Using a paired case study approach, this project proposes to develop marginal abatement cost curves (MACC) for specific farm enterprises so that comparisons can be made between similar farms within a geographic region, and between different production regions.

Investigator: Professor Julie Cotter
Funding Body: Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA)  

Improved useability of greenhouse gas emissions abatement decision support tools

The Improved usability of greenhouse gas emissions abatement decision support tools project is a joint venture by USQ and the Australian Farm Institute. The project has received $300,000 in federal funding from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Carbon Farming Futures Extension and Outreach Program. They are creating an online tool to allow cattle and sheep producers to assess the financial viability of a range of greenhouse gas abatement measures. It’s hoped this tool will help farmers weigh their options – which measures are cost effective and which are not. It will also help to identify opportunities to increase profits through the government’s Carbon Farming Initiative.

Investigators: Professor Julie Cotter, Assoc Prof Geoff Slaughter, Rod Glass
Funding Body: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry  

A draft national quality of governance standard for sustainable management and use of forest biomass in Nepal

This project aims to provide a practical solution to overcoming inconsistencies in the governance of climate change mitigation through sustainable management and use of forest biomass by creating a common method for evaluating institutional performance, including on monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV); and create and test a quality-of-governance standard relevant to projects at the national level.

Investigators: Dr Tim Cadman, Assoc Prof Tek Maraseni
Funding Body: Institute for Global Environmental Strategy (IGES)   

Postgraduate research students

We currently have postgraduate students completing a number of higher research degrees in sustainable agribusiness.