Australia

Ceres Agriculture, Australia

About the farm

Started in

2000

Personnel

105 staff

Livestock

100,000 cattle (annual production)

25,000 Merino sheep

Area under cultivation

30,000 ha, including 16,000 ha arable land and 14,000 ha pasture

Soil type

Sandstone- and basalt-based soils

Annual rainfall

600 to 700 mm, depending on the region

Machinery

4x LEXION 740

2x LEXION 770

3x AXION 950

1x AXION 930

2x AXION 810

1x ARION 630C

1x ARION 620C

About Australia

Population

Approx. 23.6 million

3.1 people per km² (per 247 acres)

Total area

770 million ha (1,902,711,437 acres)

Area under cultivation

385 million hectares (951,355,718 acres)

Number of farms

Approx. 123,000

Over 70% of farms have less than 500 ha (1,235 acres). 100 farms have over 500,000 ha (1,235,526 acres).

We’ve worked hard to develop a sustainable business.

 

Mark Mason is a sixth-generation Australian farmer and worked as an agronomist for many years before starting the Ceres Agriculture business in 2000 with Australian businessman Garrick Hawkins. At the time, the business had one farm and two employees. “Over the last few years we’ve worked hard to develop a sustainable business, although we weren’t thinking of anything as big as this when we started,” he admits, explaining: “It quickly became clear how big it would need to be to run smoothly. Economies of scale is one way of remaining competitive at a global level.” Sustainability is also essential – both environmentally and economically – because: “We operate in a very difficult environment in a country where we don’t get subsidies, in fact there’s only a diesel rebate, so we have to be fit, competitive on a global scale.” Mason knows that it is possible to approach agriculture with the view that you will operate a low-input system with very little investment and without doing anything new. “Our view has been the opposite to that, because we need a good cash flow to pay our staff,” he explains, describing the conviction that has led to the creation of a business of the current size.

"When we’re choosing equipment our main concerns are quality and reliability. We get both of these from CLAAS."

 

But the emphasis on quality at Ceres Agriculture doesn’t stop at producing first-class beef. To work efficiently while guaranteeing high quality, many things have to come together at the right time: the people, the machines, the soil and the weather. Mark Mason and his team have the machines completely under control. “When we’re choosing equipment our main concerns are quality and reliability. We get both of these from CLAAS.” The company uses nine CLAAS tractors and six CLAAS combine harvesters. With regard to the tractors, Mark Mason points out that reliable equipment is essential, particularly during the winter crop harvest when they work twenty-four hours a day for eight weeks at a stretch. The same is true at sowing time, when the tractors pull 18 metre Morris disc or tined seeders and 11 tonne Air Carts. But operator comfort is also important, because as Mark Mason knows, “when the guys are sitting in the machines for long periods of time, being comfortable helps them to stay alert and avoid problems.” Another challenge for agriculture in general and machinery in particular is the weather. During the summer the temperatures often soar to well over 40 degrees Celsius, which is very hard to deal with. But CLAAS machines are up to the job. Mark Mason also sees enormous benefits in terms of fuel consumption. “Compared with other machines on the market, they are very fuel-efficient, and that’s very important in a business that uses three million litres of diesel a year. Particularly when you look at the hours we put on the tractors: our planting tractors do about 2,000 hours a year. If we can save a bit of fuel, it has a big effect.” As well as reliability, efficiency and comfort, service is another extremely important factor when choosing machinery. “A lot of what we do is time-critical. A couple of hours or a day out of action can easily cost us tens of thousands of dollars,” says Mason. And even though the company has its own mechanics, they can’t repair everything. Then he can rely on Jeremy Matthews from dealer WJ Matthews in Moree – which is still an hour by road from the farm.

"I’m very proud of what our staff achieve. Without them, we wouldn't be where we are today"

 

Ceres Agriculture currently has 105 full-time employees spread across the cattle, sheep, cropping and logistics operations, administration and accounting. But, as Mark Mason explains, it’s not easy to find good staff. “We’re relatively isolated here, a hundred kilometres from the nearest town.” But he offers his staff good conditions. A feeling of responsibility, passion and a team atmosphere: these are the characteristics that mark out the Ceres team. “I’m very proud of what our staff achieve. They work extremely hard and are very committed to the business. Without them, we wouldn't be where we are today,” says the boss with conviction. So it’s no surprise that the company values are care, quality and respect. “A day when we produce something that we can be rightly, justifiably proud of, something that people want to eat, that’s excellent work,” explains Mark Mason, adding: “I think there’s something fundamentally rewarding about growing food. It’s hard to beat.” You can sense that he finds his work fulfilling. He enjoys the challenge and doesn’t like sitting still. He is convinced that farmers in Australia need to be flexible and adaptable. He certainly is. And his vision: to leave a sustainable and profitable business.


Picture gallery


Making-of – Behind the scenes