Meet the Farmers

What is the maximum profit potential of your farm? – Understanding Maximum Sustainable Output

This episode was produced in association with Nethergill Associates, a farm consultancy based in Devon.

For more information on Nethergill Associates visit

For further description and definition of ‘Maximum Sustainable Output’ click here. 


00:27 Ben introduces the show.

03:02 Chris Clark introduces himself.

03:47 Brian Scanlon introduces himself. 

04:19 Chris introduces Nethergill Associates as a consultancy.

05:44 ‘The problem’ – struggling farm profitability and declining nature value – why did Chris want to focus on tackling these big problems. 

07:42 Does the farming sector perhaps not look outside (to other sectors) enough? Brian comments.

08:25 Is it possible to put a figure on the maximum profit potential of a farm business? What does profit mean?

10:19 Brian explains how the size of the farm is the critical limiting factor in profitability currently.

10:40 Energy – why do we need to focus on this?

12:34 Farmers as energy producers.

12:55 Mindset shift – seeing nature as a stakeholder in your farm business.

16:02 Natural capital and how maximum sustainable output interacts with it. 

16:20 Free issue energy. 

17:20 Brian explains productive variable costs and corrective variable costs.

19:15 What are Chris and Brian doing on the ground on a farm in calculating MSO?

24:31 Going beyond farming – does MSO have wider applicability?

25:54 ”The energy that goes into other inputs cannot be recovered” says Chris.

26:28 Profitability – the culture in farming behind it. 

28:18 ”Profitability is fundamental for food security” says Brian.

29:00 The Less is More Report and where Nethergill Associates has come from. 

31:32 MSO is about all farms, not just upland farms, but how does this relate to the uplands? Does this approach offer a more democratic approach?

32:29 The concept of the managed landscape. 

33:42 The maths on how variable MSO is. Can it be improved over time?

34:30 Food security.  

37:50 Brian discusses yield. Husbandry v additives. 

38:48 Contract farming and profit shares. How does MSO work with this? 

42:36 The direction of profitability. 

43:10 Wider benefit in terms of economy, ecology and community. What are the benefits for everyone else? What is the relevance for policy makers?

46:58 Message for the public and message for farmers. 

48:56 Ben rounds up. 





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