In the face of rising costs, how can farmers keep their expenses low without negatively affecting output?
The answer to this question is to adopt a lean farming model that takes into cognizance every aspect of the farmer’s crop or production process, farm cycle, available resources, and workers.
What is the Lean Farming Model?
The Lean Farming model is simply based on cutting out waste and excesses as much as possible while increasing efficiency and profit for the farmer.
A farmer can only adopt a lean farming model if they understand that any activities that do not directly provide value for customers need to be cut out.
The major focus of the lean farming model is to cut out waste and increase quality. Highlighted below are ways you can cut out waste in your farm operations:
Excess Production: refers to when supply exceeds demand. Producing more than what is necessary, especially for products with a short shelf life will most likely lead to wastage of the product, which invariably wastes the effort, time and money that has gone into production
Inventory: buying equipment you don’t need simply because they are on sale will lead to clutter and having several tools that serve the same purpose will lead to workers underusing the tools.
Add-on services: eliminate add-ons that increase your spend.
Storage and Transport: can you move your products faster? If that is the case, you can cut out storage by arranging that final product processing coincide with pickup dates.
Changing suppliers: Constantly changing suppliers will probably cost you money especially if it’s on a contract basis. Before you make the switch to a new supplier, make sure you do a test run to be sure you are getting the best from them.
Producing before marketing: this is one of the common mistakes farmers make. Because food items sell doesn’t mean people will line up after harvest or production, to buy from you.
You still need to actively seek out customers, and not just customers that will buy once but customers that will buy over and over again. By getting your off-takers first, you can avoid waste because items will move quickly.
Poor seeds: Go for high-quality seeds that will sprout a good harvest. Poor seeds lead to poor harvest which is a waste of your farm cycle.
Traditional farming methods: traditional farming methods like bush burning waste a lot of resources (trees and soil nutrients). By using modern farming methods, farmers can reduce waste and put their resources to better use.
The 5s that guides the Lean Process include:
You know you won’t be making use of those old tools with broken handles, so there is no point storing them. Some farmers have tools they’ve stopped using for years and it’s just gathering dust.
The first step of the lean process is aimed at decluttering your warehouse, workspace or farms. Items that are not in use take space and may even hinder your productivity.
Set in Order
The next step after decluttering is organization. Every minute you spend sifting through tools (especially small hand tools) is a complete waste since it does not speed up your operation process.
I know a clean farming space is not what readily comes to mind when you think of a farm but it’s important that you keep your farm clean.
There are several units for farmers including the packaging unit, production unit, the processing unit and it’s important that these workplaces are clean, airy and free of dust.
Get rid of dirty plastic, overflowing bins, empty spray cans, used pest bottles and either place them on shelves or dispose of them.
To maintain the lean farming model, you need to standardize tasks. You can use visuals to indicate what tasks need to be done when and by whom.
Now that you have standardized your processes, there is a need for you to keep the systems in place and continually work on improving them. Inevitably, some things may disrupt the processes you set in place, for example, a customer may request that their product arrives at a loading station by 12 pm which may mean that workers adjust to meet demand.
While some farmers have started using the lean farming model, others are far away from implementation as a result of internal factors like:
- Crude tools
- Untrained workers
- Poor management practices
And external factors that are beyond their control, such as:
- Unfavourable weather
- Delayed funding
- Government policies
With lean farming, farmers can be more sustainable and meet customer’s demand, on time.