GOOD record keeping and analysis is key to running a successful farming business and marketing grain, according to consultant Linda Eldredge.
The director of Eldredge and Associates is a Nuffield Scholar and passionate about turning around farming businesses.
The mum of two farms at Clare and consults for a range of clients from the Pilbara to the eastern seaboard.
She advises on strategic decisions, land buys, setting three to five-year budgets, cost capital and systems to manage decision making in the field.
"I help farmers keep good records so they can make the best decisions, and I help them understand some of the tools available," Mrs Eldredge said.
She recently released her Nuffield report on the potential benefits of low-cost, cloud-based technology to Australian agriculture.
Mrs Eldredge said she would meet clients up to four times a year depending on the business but nowadays kept in touch more regularly through the cloud.
"The key is having a tool that is easy to maintain and that at any time anyone can look at," she said.
"You can set up tools which are very tactile, everyone can see the information quickly and see what the impact of a decision is on the business.
"I've got a really good tool I developed for my clients called Graintracker and it helps people monitor and record their fiscal contracts, swap positions and their contracts at harvest and post harvest - what they sell the grain for.
"It is just a recording tool but it helps people understand how important it is to take positions before they put something in the ground to price-protect."
Mrs Eldredge said it was important to understand risk and set up good records that were continually analysed and understood.
She said she had started using Dropbox with clients, which was being well received.
"Because that is a cloud-based tool, it means we can manage files like Graintracker, the three and five-year budget remotely, and I can make a change or they make a change and we all can see it," Mrs Eldredge said.
"That sort of technology has revolutionised consulting because it means I can keep in contact more with clients and them with me.
"It's a flow of communication and putting it in such a way that it is easy to record so you don't over-engineer it and it is easy to analyse."
Mrs Eldredge said farmers were starting to love analytics as they saw how easy it could be.
"Regular checking doesn't happen in a standard business and it could be that their recording system might not be great or they don't commit to it or they are too busy," she said.
"Using some of these cloud-based-tools is really great for managing that communication.
"As businesses we have to get a bit smarter to make it easier."
Mrs Eldredge said with so many apps out there, setting them up could be overwhelming, so it was important to only use tools that gave you an edge. "When I start working with clients I say 'we are going to master one tool this year and probably two next year and maybe we will commit to three tools'," she said.
"So it could be the five-year budget, three-year budget, which banks love and that has all the pricing mechanisms for grain and for sheep, and the Graintracker.
"Then there are other tools such as machinery calculators that if we need to we can pull them out the draw and use them."