WA scholar on business quest

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

WA's newest broadacre Nuffield Scholar is on a quest to discover new and innovative ways to restructure and expand a family farming business.

According to Mingenew farmer James Dempster, traditional family farm businesses may need to think outside the box to be viable in the future.

Through the prestigious Australian Nuffield Scholarship program, Mr Dempster will investigate ways to expand and restructure the family farm, with a focus on external investment opportunities, advisory boards, collaboration and integration.

Mr Dempster is one of two West Australians who received the award, and will travel for four months throughout 2016, to countries including the US, UK, Canada and South America.

"My study topic is looking at ways to expand the family farm without just relying on this land purchase option," he said.

"Expansion through buying or leasing is risky due to capital outlay, diminishing terms of trade and climate uncertainty."

Using the GRDC-sponsored scholarship, Mr Dempster will research ways to link the experience and skills of local farmers with external sources of capital.

"I want to discover how we can facilitate that link, and what the family farm can do to promote itself as a business partner to the outside investor," he said.

"I'm also interested to look at farm structures that are based on corporate principles, where the business changes from a family structure into something more along the lines of a farm advisory board, so it's not just the single farmer making the big decision.

"I believe there are also opportunities to spread risk geographically, such as collaborating with a farm in a different climatic zone."

In partnership with his parents and brother, Mr Dempster manages a 6000ha mixed crop and livestock property, with 4500ha of wheat, canola and lupins in rotation, and a self-replacing Merino flock for wool and meat production.

Nuffield Australia chief executive Jim Geltch said Nuffield now had more than 350 scholars in Australia, who through their scholarship global study tours had significant insight into global agricultural product systems.

WA's second successful applicant, Steven Davies, will investigate the development of socially responsible and economically sustainable wild-catch seafood and aquaculture industries in Australia.

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