Doing More With Less: Lean Farming

Article published on: Jul 14

How lean farming operations can help your business.

In the farming industry, the notion of more is often a good thing. With roots early in history where stocking up an inventory of food was incredibly important, modern day farming can often be a wasteful practice. However, it doesn’t have to be. By implementing lean principles into your farming practices, you can skyrocket your profits and help to be a more sustainable business in today’s world.

What is lean farming?

According to Kanban Zone, “lean farming is a system of tools, methods, and practices used to manage farms based on the Lean methodology. As a refresher, Lean is a methodology that started in the Toyota Production System, which focuses on optimizing an organization’s resources through the elimination of waste and customer value creation.”

With lean farming, you’ll apply principles to help you bring better value, flow and perfection when it comes to your farm operations. The Lean methodology helps to eliminate waste and improve efficiencies, which is great for farms and agricultural businesses in general.

What are the lean principles when it comes to farming?

When it comes to thinking about which lean principles apply to your farm, it’s all about finding ways to minimize excess and waste while learning how to maximize value — and, in turn, profit — when it comes to your business. When it comes to farming, some areas in which to turn towards lean principles are in situations like:

  • Avoiding practices that could otherwise improve marketing
  • Mismanaging an excess surplus or inventory of product
  • Not utilizing labour to the best of your ability
  • Equipment idle time or generally wasting time
  • Having complicated processes at play instead of simpler ones
  • Using transportation that isn’t necessarily needed
  • Spending capital on equipment when changing practices could substitute

Becoming a lean operation involves some strategy and planning to implement, but becoming a lean farming operation can be an incredibly efficient way to boost some profit and sustainability. By implementing strategic production, labour that makes sense, time management, simple processes and transportation only when necessary, you’ll be on the way to a business of lean farming principles in no time.

How can you apply lean principles to your farm?

There are tons of easy and simple ways to begin implementing lean farming principles when it comes to your own farm, starting with a holistic review of your current techniques, methods and tools used. It’s also vital to your success that you simplify down your processes to lower the amount of labour needed to complete your tasks daily. By making lean principles an important part of your business management, you’re telling the world that sustainability is key to you.

Ben Hartman, who wrote The Lean Farm: Better Food, Productivity, and Profits — with Less Work, has spent his life in business learning to become more sustainable with lean practices. Hartman said “first the authorities said you need 500 acres to make a viable living; then they said you need 1,000 acres. Now, if you stick to a mass-production model, you definitely do need to be constantly expanding or you’re not going to make it. That’s the expansive way to grow a farm. There is another way, however, it is entirely possible for a farm to get more profitable by becoming leaner. It’s a matter of more precisely knowing what customers want, when they want it, and how much, and by cutting costs.”

How can grain bagging help with lean farming?

A huge part of becoming a lean farming operation is learning to do less with more. When you think about it, the leaner you make your operations often means that your business will be more profitable. Grain bagging is a great way to start working towards lean farming, and here’s why:

  • Grain bags allow you to have a flexible storage option right on your field, eliminating the need for transportation or elevator rental costs
  • Grain bags allow for you to store your product for the time needed, keeping the product safe and making it possible for you to time market sales correctly
  • Grain bags allow you to get crop off of the fields to avoid weather ahead of time
  • Grain bagging is a great way to consolidate your labour needs

Conor Colgan of Aidansfield farm and research center in Northumberland puts it well: “By looking at your business as a whole ecosystem rather than each process in silos, it eliminates elements that are not adding value to the quality of your delivery. Lean thinking can introduce more predictability into your business and give you the confidence to make management and investment decisions”.