BHBC program

Show Me the PROFIT

Our BHBC program is an innovative tool for the West Australian horticulture industry. Its success as a pilot program in WA has seen the concept snapped up on a national level. Due to local demand, vegetablesWA and Planfarm are running it for one more year for all horticulture businesses (not just vegetables) – so you have one year left to extend your profit margins with this heavily subsidised advisory project. Here we meet the incoming project lead Sophie Alexander.
SOPHIE Alexander joined Planfarm this year to lead the Building Horticulture Business Capacity (BHBC) Program delivery team. She is excited to hit the ground running in a project that is designed to empower West Australian growers to drive better business outcomes. “Planfarm are highly experienced farm management consultants,” says Sophie. “I’m looking forward to leveraging our firm’s extensive knowledge and my own background in finance, agrifood and governance to support horticultural enterprises.” Sophie, who holds a Bachelor of Science (Horticulture) with Honours, an MBA and is a GAICD, is looking forward to getting out on farms to meet with growers.
“The BHBC program is such an innovative tool for the West Australian horticulture industry and has the potential to really impact lives and the strength of the industry as a whole,” she says. Here we ask Sophie for the lowdown on the program.

How would you define the BHBC Program?

Growers work incredibly hard working in the operations and management of their business. Our team of farm management consultants work on farm with growers to understand the efficiency of their business. We investigate production and financial metrics to assess the performance of their business activities. We work on a one-on-one basis to leverage this information to guide growers to achieve their business goals.
Pictured Sophie with the team from Ellement Produce: Ben and David Ellement.
“ [It] is funded for one more year, so there is limited time to take advantage of this heavily subsidised advisory work 

BHBC Snapshot

When does it start?
When do I need to sign up?
Before the end of September.
What does it cost?
It’s heavily subsidised, so we are asking for an admin fee of only $1500; you will receive upwards of $12,000 worth of business consultancy.
Are there limited places?
Yes, we only have 15 new places.
How do I register interest?
Email Sophie – sophieA@
Is it for me?
It’s for all horticulture businesses – regardless of size and crop.
Will people know my business?
It’s completely confidential, unless you state otherwise.
How can it help me?
By increasing profit margins, ensuring you are in a position to do what you want to do and weather any economic storms.
Can I read more about it?


Maureen Dobra, Loose Leaf Lettuce
We have several parts to our business. We have two farms for our growing, and we have our processing side, our administrative section and we have our transport section. With our accounting system, we now know how much money each area is costing. And that’s something we’ve done with the BHBC. If we ever want to sell any part of our business (or all of it), we can say to the person: this is what this does, this is what this costs, this is potentially your income. We really benefitted from the program. Even for a small grower who may be doing cucumbers, or may be doing zucchinis, some beans and tomatoes, it helps you to work out your accounting system, how much each of the lines cost and how much money they make. Then you can see how much your income is, in relation to your expenditure, so you can really see how your business is going.
David Ellement, Ellement Produce
It helped us to better understand the impact of the various crops – the profitability or lack of profitability or the performance of individual crops rather than the business as a whole. It broke it down into turnover per acre and profitability per acre of each crop. This data helped us to target our investments going forward: do we need to put more into one area? Do we have to cut costs in a certain area? Once I started understanding aspects of the business better, it made me run my excel spreadsheets and accounting program more efficiently. I’ve always run excel spreadsheets in everything I have done, but through the BHBC Program we added more data and more information. It put us in an even better position to make informed decisions. It’s a great program of which to take advantage, and any business will take away something.

What is the most exciting aspect of the program?

I’m looking forward to working with growers to build an awareness of the drivers of profitability and productivity within their business. This information helps create sustainable enterprises that achieve growers’ goals, and become resistant to shocks that impact their livelihood. They often tell us they benefit from having someone external to the business to support informed decision making on a confidential basis. In this program, growers have access to around $12,000 of business management advice for only $1500. It’s a great opportunity.

How do growers make the most from the program?

We recommend that growers engage as soon as possible to ensure they can access the subsidised services. Engaging early with the program enables growers to apply the practical insights ahead of the next season.

How important do you think these types of funded services are for the horticulture industry?

Industry funding enables growers to source bespoke support to create sustainable and resilient farming operations. Leveraging independent advice and confidential aggregation of data across a group of similar growers helps identify common trends and challenges to help guide future industry investment.

What are the big learnings to be had from being a part of this program?

The program gives growers insight into their current productivity of their farm. This baseline data enables us work with growers to create a plan to meet their business objectives.

How many people can be part of the program?

We are seeking 15 new growers to be a part of the program. We’re keen for previous participants to continue their journey with us.

Why is now a good time for growers to step into this type of initiative?

The project is funded for one more year, so there’s limited time to take advantage of this heavily subsidised advisory work.

What are you most excited about in leading this program?

Getting to know our local growers and their businesses and building a relationship as we work together to achieve their goals and drive the development of the WA horticulture industry.

How it Works

Analysis showed that during Covid the five major operational expenses increased – fertiliser and chemical costs 70% higher, fuel costs 50% higher, insurance 40% higher and wages at least 10% higher. The result was an estimated increase to operational costs of more than $60,000 for the average participant in the program. The program helped those participants retain profitability by:
• Optimising labour efficiency through business specific metrics and identifying/addressing areas of the business lacking efficiency
• Assisting with sales strategies through monitoring pack-outs and shed options
• Feasibility assessment for the investment into capital – return on investment
• Farm lease and purchase analysis to assess risk to equity and potential upside to production and business profitability
• Monitoring input costs and questioning expenditure on inputs based on benchmarking and knowledge of businesses and markets.
The project was invaluable to weathering the Covid storm and its fall-out. It has the capacity to dig deep into your business, work out how you can build profit and build on the success of your business to date.