Ed Barnston  -  Estate Management - Benchmarking Success

Worshipful Company of Farmers
Savills UK

After commissioning from Sandhurst I spent six years in the army half of which was serving with Commando forces operating worldwide.  At that time I met Kate from New Zealand and I left the army to get married and we moved to Auckland.  Whilst overseas I retrained and became an investment manager working for ABN AMRO and Investec.

We now have two boys, William and George, and we returned home to England in order so Kate and I could take over the running of the family estate.  Barnston Estate comprises 1,800 acres with multiple farms, forestry operations, renewable energy interests, a business park, residential lets and land development which provides local housing and employment for 200 people. The latest project is a 60 point rotary parlour and dairy expansion which will create one of the most technologically advanced and efficient farms in the country.  The estate now produces in excess of 16 million litres of milk a year.

In addition, I sit on the national council for the Country Landowners and Business Association to try and shape DEFRA Policy to promote business in the rural economy, am a governor of the Oldfield Educational Trust overseeing the management of six Cheshire farms, and am also a school governor for an independent day school for 500 children. 

I’m enormously grateful for the support from my generous sponsors ‘The Worshipful Company of Farmers’ and ‘Savills’ for their input to make my endeavours possible in the first place.

Land values in the UK have appreciated enormously over the last 15 years partly through a favourable tax environment and generous subsidies.  Brexit brings an end to subsidies and will replace it with ‘public money for public goods’, acting as a catalyst to spur innovation in this seismic shift of government policy.

To continue to survive and thrive as a rural sector, land managers must adapt to impending change by divesting poor performing assets and reinforce successful ones and diversify into new projects.  Measuring success is necessary to making strategic decisions (‘fail to manage, manage to fail’).

My aim is to create a comparative analysis tool that offers vital insights to formulating evidence based decisions for diversified rural estates.  This will account for the quantitative aspects (ROCE, profit, cash flows etc.) and the qualitative aspects (carbon footprint, community contribution, enhanced biodiversity etc.).  The output will be to enhance the ‘triple bottom line’ and where possible reduce risk and volatility.