Sustainable Intensification Project

SI Metrics and Benchmarking

Science, Policy and Practice note: Benchmarking Sustainable Intensification

Conventional benchmarking used in farm management compare the physical with the financial performance of farms. Generally, the goal is to simply maximise the amount of an output for a given level of input within a single growing season.

However, if the objective is to maintain or increase output in ways that are more sustainable, such approaches need to take into account the wider consequences (positive and negative) of agricultural production. If these are not recognised, farm performance may be seen to be underestimated where, for example, some current output is sacrificed in order to preserve soil quality for a subsequent crop.

A key objective for the SIP is to develop improved methods and indicators that farmers and advisers can use to measure economic, environmental and social performance of farms or farming systems. A convenient way to measure such performance is farm efficiency - how does a farm's actual output compare to its potential output for the input levels that are currently used?

Making farms more sustainable is a dynamic process. Performance over time can be measured using the economic concept of 'productivity', the ratio of output produced to input used. This enables us to evaluate whether farms are becoming more efficient, or whether technological possibilities (such as precision farming techniques) are shifting potential performance over time. Improvements to efficiency or productivity are both potential routes for SI. The SIP will adapt these measures to better reflect sustainability goals, as a basis for generating integrated SI metrics.

From Economic to Environmental and Social Benchmarking

The SIP project has extended the FBS Business Benchmarking site to develop a sister “Sustainable Intensification Benchmarking Tool”. We have drawn on methodologies and protocols from other SIP work to make the SI Benchmarking Tool accessible to farmers and advisers without the need for reams of detailed farm records. This exciting new benchmarking service allows farmer and advisers to compare their SI performance across a range of environmental metrics and social indicators, in addition to their economic performance. There are four main SI areas covered by the system:

➤ Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions

➤ Nutrient Balances

➤ Land Use Diversity

➤ Social Indicators

Each of these four main components has either local or global landscape implications that are of importance in achieving SI. GHG emissions are of global importance, while nutrient balances and land use diversity typically have greater impacts within the local landscape. Social factors impact across different scales, from the farm business to local and national levels.

Using Our New Benchmarking Tool -

Match your Farm to Similar Businesses The SI Benchmarking Tool allows you to compare your SI performance with a unique set of comparative farms that are very similar to your own – both geographically and with respect to the activities and enterprises on their farm. This is achieved by the benchmarking tool searching the FBS data set to find the farm businesses that are most closely matched to your own. Using the SI Benchmarking site you can:

➤ Chose to compare only part of your farm’s SI performance (e.g. GHG emissions)

➤ Compare a wide range of SI performance metrics across the four main areas

➤ Obtain instant summary feedback results as soon as you start entering data

➤ Enter some data and save this so that you can return to it later

➤ Highlight areas of good performance, as well as areas for improvement

The new SI Benchmarking Tool is available at