The Farm Management Unit

A montage of sheep, crops and money

About Us

The Farm Management Unit (FMU) was established in 1979 with the aim of developing excellence in the subject of farm management at the University of Reading. The FMU provides a focus for farm management activities building upon the interdisciplinary strengths at Reading through fostering research collaboration across the University alongside excellence in teaching to produce high quality, policy relevant research and employable graduates. Outreach activities are also important in ensuring that our research is addressing issues of relevance to policy and practice and that our teaching is relevant and up-to-date.

The FMU has a number of specific objectives:

  • To co-ordinate research and consultancy activities in areas relating to the management of farms and agricultural land;
  • To provide a focus and brand for outreach activities which seek to engage with professionals and organisations working in the farming sector;
  • To review and develop teaching curriculum in farm management and related areas.

Farm Management Unit Organisation

Director of the Farm Management Unit

Dr Yiorgos Gadanakis (Teaching)
Lecturer in Agricultural Business Management. Main areas of interest cover the analysis of agricultural production systems, technical and economic efficiency analysis, and the relationship between agricultural systems, the environment and social capital. His main area of teaching is in Farm Business Management.

Steering Group

Associate Professor Peter Dorward
Senior Lecturer in Rural Systems and Management, specialising in facilitating innovation and the spread of improved practices.

Associate Professor Simon Mortimer (Research)
Senior Lecturer in Environmental Land Management and Assistant Director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research specialising in ecology and management of agricultural systems and evaluation of interactions between agricultural and environmental policy including assessment of agri-environment schemes.

Professor Julian Park
Professor of Agricultural Systems and Education, Faculty of Life Science Director of Teaching and Learning, specialising in sustainable farming systems, land use change and technology transfer.

Professor Richard Tranter (Outreach)
Director of the Centre for Agricultural Strategy, specialising in rural land use and farm economics and structural issues. He has studied farmer decision making extensively.

Mr Richard Crane
Head of the Agricultural and Food Investigation Team at Reading, and more widely Rural Business Research Operations Manager with responsibility for delivery of the Farm Business Survey to Defra. Has extensive expertise in farm and horticultural production economics and business management.

Crops

Research

The FMU provides a forum to foster strategic thinking and leadership on the development of research relating to farm management at the University of Reading. The scope of the research activity is focussed on the economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainable farming systems linked to the major research themes of the University relating to food security, climate change and diet and health. More specifically, the areas of research that staff engage in include:

  • Impacts of, and response to, policy and market change
  • Metrics at the farm level: farm technical efficiency
  • Impacts and management of livestock disease
  • Crops and genetic modification
  • Biofuels and renewable energy
  • The environmental sustainability of farming systems
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Farm extension and knowledge transfer
  • Farmer decision-making
  • Entrepreneurship and diversification of rural businesses
  • Succession, new entrants and rural depopulation
  • The interaction between farming and consumer choice

Additionally, the FMU administers the Edith Mary Gayton bequest which stipulates that funds should be used in the field of agriculture and management. As part of this bequest funding is provided to post graduate research students in areas central to the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development's research strategy. Currently available studentships are advertised on the University's Graduate School pages.

FMU publications

Current EMG funded PhD projects

George Vittis

Doctoral student in Agriculture, Edith Mary Gayton doctoral research bequest
Department of Food Economics and Marketing, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development University of Reading

Year of enrolment 2014 - Expected date of submission September 2018
E-mail: g.vittis@pgr.reading.ac.uk

PhD research topic: "Spatial Planning and Rural Development for a Sustainable Agricultural Sector" Supervisors: Associate Professor Simon Mortimer and Dr Yiorgos Gadanakis

George Vittis' research seeks to develop the agricultural sector in England sustainably while taking into consideration the spatial parameters of agricultural production. More specifically, the study attempts to deliver equal importance in all three dimensions of sustainability (Environment, Economy and Society) aiming to a holistic approach. Since the PhD candidate started his research he has studied the issues both qualitatively and quantitatively. The qualitative methods regard the exploration of relevant literature along with underlining research gaps that have emerged in this debate indicating the directions for the future work. The quantitative techniques include the use of datasets derived from the Farm Business Survey. These datasets provide information relative to economic and physical performances of farm businesses across England. Datasets in turn are exploited with the use of Geographic Systems Information (GIS) for projections and further study of patterns and aggregations. Future work will include mathematical analysis of data in order to quantify and optimize the trade-offs between the three pillars of sustainability and finally use spatial techniques in order to enhance productivity in areas with high potentials and preserve the environmentally exhausted land.

Konstantinos Iliakis

Doctoral student in Agriculture, Edith Mary Gayton doctoral research bequest
Department of Food Economics and Marketing, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development University of Reading

Year of enrolment 2014 - Expected date of submission September 2018
E-mail: k.iliakis@pgr.reading.ac.uk

PhD research topic: "Decomposing sustainable capacity change at farm level or arable farming systems considering the short and long-term impact of changes"
Supervisors: Professor Julian Park and Dr Yiorgos Gadanakis

Konstantinos focuses on the restructuring process of the English agricultural sector and the building capacity of the farms towards sustainability. In order to provide a traceable approach to the assessment of sustainable agricultural performance in compliance to the FADN reporting framework, data on cereal and general cropping farms have been derived from the Farm Business Survey dataset. By constructing indicators that account for farm heterogeneity and managerial competence the study aims to account for the farm-specific use of natural resources and provision of human welfare services. Literature relevant to the production analysis, technical efficiency and ecosystem services has been reviewed to provide a theoretical analysis framework that pivots on the competencies built at farm-level and to form indicators of the environmental impact of the agricultural activity, as well as, of its contributions to the rural community. These indicators will be employed in the production analysis and assessment of sustainable performance of the farms with respect to changes in their operating efficiencies under the regulatory and support interventions of the European agricultural development policy.

Recently Submitted PhD projects

Fedra Vanhuyse (2016)

Doctoral student in Agriculture, Edith Mary Gayton doctoral research bequest
Department of Food Economics and Marketing, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development University of Reading

PhD research topic: The impact of management practices on financial performance: evidence from Farm Businesses in England

Supervisors: Professor Richard Tranter and Professor Alison Bailey

The aim of this research was to assess the impact of management practices on the financial performance of farm businesses in England. In addition, it sought to provide insight into the financial performance of the sector. Four farm types (Cereal farms, Dairy farms, Less-favoured Areas Grazing Livestock farms and Lowland Grazing Livestock farms) were selected for this research. First, using the ratios from the DuPont Expansion model (Return on Sales, Asset Turnover, Compound Leverage Factor, Return on Assets and Return on Equity), the results show that Cereal farms consistently perform better than Dairy farms, LFA Grazing Livestock farms and Lowland Grazing Livestock farms, both for the period 2008 to 2013 and in 2011/12, with the exception of Asset Turnover, where Dairy farms achieved the highest performance due to stock management practices, and the duration of the production cycle. Farming does not seem to have issues with liquidity, and the level of indebtedness is low overall. However, low profitability is an issue, which is not necessarily due to cost control, but to falling revenue. Second, management practices, defined as planning, organising, leading and controlling, taking into account the environment to achieve organisational goals, was found to have positive effects on individual farm financial performance, both for all farm types as well as per farm type. In particular, formal planning and benchmarking have positive, statistically significant effects. Highly performing farms (in financial terms) apply management practices more on the farm compared with the lowest 25 percentile of farm businesses. In addition, regression models were estimated to assess the effects of these practices in relation to financial performance. The results showed that increasing in size will also lead to better financial performance for all farm types.

Professor Maurice Maloney, Memorial Lecture 2013

Outreach

The Edith Mary Gayton Memorial Lecture

Edith Mary Gayton was an agricultural graduate of the University of Reading in the 1930s. Little is known of her later career and life, but in his will her husband made a bequest to Reading in her memory stipulating that the funds should be used in the field of agriculture and management. The annual memorial lecture is one use of these funds. Details, when available, are publicised on the main University events page. The most frequent themes have included farm management, agricultural policy, marketing, finance and science.

Other activities

On an ad hoc basis, other activities aimed at regional and national businesses and organisations in the agricultural sector take place. Farmers Evenings to showcase research at the University Farms have been a frequent event, and University staff have also delivered talk to local non-farming organisations and interest groups.

The FMU also has close links with the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM), nationally and locally through the IAgrM Thames Valley Branch.

Students on a farm visit

Teaching

The FMU provides a forum for the development of farm management teaching in the School of Agricultural, Policy and Development within the wider management subject area.

Particular attention is paid to ensure grounding of curriculum with the changing demands of employers. Opportunities for enhancing the exposure of students to professional situations through visits, case study work, placements, and final year research projects at undergraduate levels are encouraged.

Undergraduate programmes

BSc Agricultural Business Management

BSc Agriculture

BSc Environmental Management

Postgraduate programmes

MSc Rural Land and Business Management

Farm Management Unit Publications

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Things to do now

Contact us

Dr Yiorgos Gadanakis

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