Richard Duchesne

“I do like the technology side of things” says Richard Duchesne, who farms at Stanningfield near Bury St Edmunds. “I just missed the technological revolution because of my age, but I like to keep as up to date as I can.” This year, that has meant beginning to use MyFarm, Frontier’s web-based business management tool, and Richard is suitably impressed with the results.

“You can do everything on it, that’s what’s so good about it; I can track my sales and invoices on there, and I can pick up all the information in my account,” he states. He uses it in conjunction with the MyRecs app which runs on an iPad and gives quick and easy access to his crop records and application data. “That’s brilliant” he says, “It really reduces the amount of paperwork that I have to do.”

And paperwork is something that has been rapidly increasing over the years as legislation has increased and Richard has expanded his business. “I originally came here as a tenant, and eventually in 1996 the landlord let me take the farm on. We had just over 70 hectares then, but we’ve gradually acquired more land and with our contract farming we’re currently looking after about 360 hectares. On top of that we do a bit of contract spraying and a total of 1200ha of combining.”

Richard Duchesne
Richard Duchesne

Frontier agronomist Neil Leech services both Richard’s own farm and some of the farms where he sprays. Richard comments that MyFarm has simplified communication and administration. “Previously I had to print off the plans that Neil had sent me and then take all the sheets with me into the sprayer. Once I’d finished the job I would come home, transfer it into a spreadsheet on the computer, then print that off and send the invoice out to the customer. Now, we do it on the iPad. It’s easy to fill in because a lot of it is pre-populated and then I just sync it when I come home, go on MyFarm and print it out. It is so much easier.”

An unexpected consequence of this easy data transfer is that Richard has become more efficient with his invoicing. “I can print it straight off and do the invoice at the end of the month and it’s away,” he explains. “When I’m working with paper, my sheets are sometimes left in the sprayer, or they are somewhere between the sprayer and the office, or I’ve left them in the kitchen and then I don’t get round to producing the invoices very quickly. It keeps me a bit more organised and I need as much help with that as possible.”

" Neil is often here doing agronomy, but when he isn’t, there is someone on the end of the phone all the time which is very important if I have a question. I always feel like I am being looked after. " - Richard Duchesne

It also means that farmer and agronomist can share information, even when they are not in the same place or working on the same job. “Neil knows right away if I have done something or not” explains Richard. “So, for example, if he has made a recommendation about a particular programme, but I haven’t been able to follow that for some reason, perhaps I’ve been spraying for someone else and haven’t been able to do my own fields until a few days later, he can adjust for that. He doesn’t come back to me with the next part of the programme assuming that I did it on time. I think that has great potential.”

Furthermore Richard uses SOYL’s variable rate P&K service, and again he is able to access all the relevant data. “MyFarm is making it much easier for me to move in the direction that I want. Day to day it is helping me, and it is going to help me more as it continues to be developed in the future. For me, farming is a constant learning curve and I’m always trying to improve my farm, using new technology and ideas to achieve more.”

He found that getting up and running with MyFarm was a relatively small outlay. “I had to buy an iPad, but that is always useful for looking at Facebook during the day” he adds wryly.

Although technology plays a significant part on the farm, people are still at the heart of Richard’s business. The relationships he has with his Frontier contacts are an important part of why he trades with the company. “I really like all of the people that I deal with,” he says.

Richard also values the security of dealing with a company which has a strong financial position. “When I sell £20,000 or £30,000 worth of my wheat to a company, I don’t get paid for a month. If the business goes bust during that time I’ve lost all that money. I want to feel confident about the companies that I work with. Equally, because of the relationships Frontier has with its suppliers, you know that the products they provide are going to be the excellent quality that I expect and require. At the end of the day, Frontier is a company that I trust.”

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