Simple Steps to Starting Your Small Farm Business in Australia

WHS Policies & Compliance

If you are looking at starting your own small farm business in Australia, you may be feeling overwhelmed – Where do you start? What do you need to do? This article will provide you with the essential information regarding small scale farming in Australia. It contains guidance and advice on topics such as choosing your niche, registration, insurance, health and safety, marketing and so much more.

Starting your own farm business in Australia is easier than you may think.

Australia’s expansive landscape, mild climate and rich natural resources provide for an exceptionally diverse landscape.

And with a sizable “buying” population (just under 26 million) the opportunities to embrace farming as a second-career or even start a profitable side-hobby are immense.

This article provides the key steps to getting you started on your small farming enterprise in Australia.

Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

Step 1 – Decide on the type of farm you want to establish

Everything starts with an idea and the type of farming you want to go into.

Do you want to build on existing expertise – transforming your hobby into a money making venture or you have absolutely no clue? Maybe you want to offer a farm produce you think is missing in your area?

Think about what you can offer that your customers would really love to buy – in the end, this is what makes businesses successful.

You might have an obvious business idea from the beginning or have several. Remember that it is never good to have too many on your plate, especially if you plan to run the farm business on your own in the beginning.

Regardless of scale. Budget, or location, the options before you are many. So, first of all, you need to decide on the type of farm you want to start.

The most common areas are:

  • Crop production.
  • Poultry farming.
  • Livestock farming.
  • Fish farming (Aquaculture).
  • Horticulture (garden crops).
  • Bee keeping (Aviary).

Each farming specialty has its own characteristics and profitability. The best advice would be to focus on what your market wants.

Step 2 – Make a business plan

A business plan is important for many reasons. Above all, it serves as a tool to concretize your goals and how to achieve them. It also forces you to examine the market and your main competitors, making it easier to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

The business plan can also be an important document if you plan to apply for financing during the start-up phase.

Below are some points that your business plan should include:

  • Business concept
  • Market Analysis
  • Marketing plan
  • Strengths and weaknesses

Step 3 – Choose a Site

The process of starting an agricultural business begins with finding a plot of land, the size and type of which depends on the type of activity chosen.

To choose the right location for your farm, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Look for a location near major cities (market).
  • If possible, avoid proximity to industrial layouts.
  • Possible connection to the power grid is a plus.
  • Check for on-site water supply or other reliable alternative.
  • Ensure the size is adequate for intended use.
  • Consider your budget of course.
  • Land should be ecologically and environmentally safe for use.

Step 4 – Register and secure licenses for your farm

Every business must be registered and your farm shouldn’t be an exception.

Register your business on the Business Registration Service website to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and register for the Goods and services tax (GST).

Before you operate a farm in Australia, you would require a licence or permit. These are managed by the respective state, territory and local governments.

You might require any of the license or permit below (depending on your agricultural activity):

  • Water usage
  • Clearing Vegetation
  • Waste disposal
  • Handling of livestock and animals
  • Fencing, and building property or other structures
  • handling, storage and use of chemicals or dangerous substances

To discover more information about permits and licenses you may need, check the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS).

Step 5 – Obtain Financing 

Starting a farm requires money. If you have the capital, then great!

If, on the other hand, you do not have enough capital, you can always apply for various grants.

Examples of grants in Australia farmers can access include: concessional loans from Regional Investment Corporation or help through the Farm Management Deposits Scheme.

You can also apply to banks, lenders or start a crowdfunding campaign.

Step 6 – Make a budget

Having secured funds, preparing a budget is a must if you want to spend smartly. You need to know how much it will cost to run the business in order to figure out what you need to earn to break even.

Take into account the costs of insurance, labour & marketing. If you need to invest in equipment and premises, you should be extra careful with your budget, especially if you’ve had loans or any other form of borrowings.

Step 7 – Build the farm and Purchase equipment

The next step is building the farm. This includes the premises and preparing the production facilities. Of course, sometimes you can find land with existing buildings that can be used for sale, but their cost is usually high. So most of the time, an entrepreneur has to bear the cost of equipping a farm from scratch.

Make provisions for:

  • Housing for animals (if you rear any)
  • Utility rooms
  • Facility for handling farm products
  • Storage
  • Barricades and access control.

Additionally, the peculiarity of agricultural work requires the use of certain devices. It should be noted that you can not do without equipment at all.

In general, if you want to start a farm you might need:

  • A mode of transportation
  • Power plant
  • Irrigation system
  • Special lighting equipment;
  • Drinking bowls, feeders, water tanks;
  • Feed preparation equipment
  • Basic agricultural tools.

In the initial stages, most equipment can be rented and as the business develops you gradually acquire ownership of heavy machinery or equipment.

Step 8 – Employ staff

To begin with, most start-up farmers tend to work on their own and with the help of family members. However, with development on-farm tasks would increase significantly, which makes it necessary to recruit qualified professionals, and labor.

Step 9 – Meet WHS requirements and take out insurance

There are WHS requirements specific to the different states and territories that you as a new farm business owner is required to satisfy. They include, but not limited to:

  • Workplace noise management.
  • Standards for Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing.
  • Occupational safety signage.
  • Safety standards for handling substances.
  • Electrical safety practices.
  • Animal handling safety practices.
  • Biosecurity measures.

Also, when you start your own business, you need to take out insurance, both for your business and perhaps for yourself. If you have employees from the start, you must have insurance for them also.

The following are compulsory insurance for Australian businesses:

  • Workers’ compensation insurance (if you have employees).
  • Public liability insurance.
  • Third party personal injury insurance (if you own a motor vehicle).
  • For farmers, Farm insurance.

Others are:

  • Workers compensation insurance ( to cover for work-related accidents or illness).
  • Business interruption or loss of profits insurance.
  • Building and contents insurance.
  • Goods in transit insurance.
  • Liability insurance.

For more information on WHS Policies and Procedures check this detailed guide  by Kirialign

Step 10 – Market your small farm business

Now you get serious use of your Market analysis from the business plan. You have also budgeted for marketing.

The next step is to find out relevant information about your customers, what goods they buy and make sure to optimize it and stand out from the rest.

You can reach your market through various marketing channels including print media, social media, Pay per Click (PPC) advertising and so on.

Even if you don’t have a product to sell yet, put out good content and sway public perception to your advantage using good branding and marketing.