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Collaborative Farming 1 – Bulla Burra

Author Growing Solutions
Branding Ag Excellence
Credits SA No-Till Farmers Association
Video Transcript

After extensively investigating different collaborative farming models both internationally and in Australia, Mallee farmer’s John Gladigau and Robin Schaefer joined forces to create the highly successful collaborative farm Bulla Burra. Oh, the collective farming venture that we created in 2009 and really its two family farms that have come together.

I had a family farm of 2000 hectares. I’m a third generation farmer, we’ve had it since 1956 in our family and and we got together with Robin and Rebecca Schaffer, with their 2,000 hectare farm as well in 2009 and we set up a new company called Bulla Burra and effectively we leased our properties to Bulla Burra and then we went and sourced an additional 4,000 hectares to create an 8,000 hectare farm set up to maximize efficiencyand maximize profitability.

We’re equals as shareholders within the business and we have these different roles, but as a shareholder we sit on the board and we make decisions as shareholders in it for the business, but then on a management level, well then we have our different roles.

The Collaborative Farming Business Model

In being one big business, it’s not only join my businesses that are involved with this collaborative farm. We actually lease and share-farm another, I think, is it five other businesses that work together with us. In order for this to work and especially to bring a couple of businesses together, the systems that we’ve had to put in place, we’ve had to Be really professional in our approach.

We have to have a really professional business structure. It has to be a win win for all parties and so you know, for us to be involved and to have some other people who are involved in our business. They have to be better off than what they were before. We understand our roles really clearly and I think if we had a conflict on what the overalls were, that’s why we have an independent channel who then can step in and take an outside perspective and take the emotion and the personalities out.

Board of Directors and Independent Chairman

The big picture decisions firstly are made by the board. We have a board of directors that oversees the whole operations. We’ve got an independent chairman quite strategic as well. And, so they sort of give guidance to the general direction the business is heading. then I guess you come down a level to the planning and we get together with our consultants, like for example, our agronomists and that sort of thing.

And all of our staff and John and I will sit down with them and planning what where doing and where doing it for the season and that from there, then it goes out to within your area responsibility. So for example, John is the business manager. So he takes care of all finances and finance side of things.

Different Roles and Succession Planning

I’m the managing director so I sort, obviously of haul the rest of it all together. We also have a farm manager who manages the staff and the day to day and sort of stuff. And the major benefits, there’s a number of ones really honestly, I think for certain the improve our financial returns. Lifestyle wise, being able to get away from the farm for holidays and know that you don’t have to worry everything’s happening when you’re not there and things are being managed, you know.

We’ve set it up in such a way that I’m paid a salary so if I remove that part of myself from the business we just employ someone else to my role. Its not all beer and skittles, its a very big jump to make. To really get the full benefits you have to go full in.

There is that perceived lack of independence, you know the, I want to be in control. I don’t want someone to tell me when I should start working in the day or tell me what I should be doing or I don’t want someone looking over my shoulder, and making me accountable. So, it’s not so much a pitfall, but it’s the hurdles. It’s the emotional hurdles that are the hardest.

You’ve got to have someone who sits outside the emotion who looks at it and can say, you know I can see where Robin’s coming from. I can see where John’s coming from. Or can have an objective view from outside. If you have that, and are prepared to work through it, there are no problems. We’ve created a long term sustainable business and as far as succession goes, its fantastic and it’s a win win, for all.

Two farming family businesses join forces.

Farmers Robin Schaefer and John Gladigau speak to us about their collaborative farming venture, Bulla Burra.

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