Bush Agribusiness

"We outgrew spreadsheets and doing manual processes so we needed an ability to store and interrogate our data accurately with confidence."

Ian McLean



The Australian Government Coat of Arms. White on a navy blue background.

TEXT: Small Business Digital Taskforce. Bush AgriBusiness Pty Ltd.

A middle-aged man has short dark hair. He wears a blue and white striped business shirt and stands in a small paddock surrounded by tall gum trees. A small herd of brown cows graze on the withered, dry grass behind him.

TEXT:  Ian McLean Director Bush AgriBusiness Pty Ltd


Ian McLean from Bush AgriBusiness Propriety Limited. I work in the pastural industry, predominantly the extensive pastural industry across northern rangelands of Australia.


Ian walks across the dry grass with a brown-haired man who wears a white business shirt. They stop and share a grin as they talk and watch the cows grazing nearby.


I'm from an agricultural background, and I started accounting, enjoyed accounting at university, and what I'm doing now is bringing the two together. Sort of management accounting and applying management accounting to agricultural pastoral businesses, to help them understand and improve their business performance.

My customers are extensive pastoral businesses across northern Australia, small family operations, large family operations, and also some corporate operations. Depends where you are, and how much rain you've had. So those that are in production are doing very well, but there's quite a few that... are looking down the barrel of another failed season.


Three brown and one white cow stand together on the dry grass. Ian talks to the brown-haired man nearby.


One thing we do is a lot of business analysis or benchmarking of individual businesses, groups of businesses, and... ...We've had challenges in how to best store and interrogate that data, so one thing we've done is had a specialised database developed for us, so that was quite a process, a very worthwhile one to go through that, to identify what we needed, how best to do it, and go through that, and that's been a couple of years, and we're still going through that, but at the end of it, we'll have something that will help us do what we need to do a lot more efficiently and better.

The reason we did the database is that we outgrew being able to do things manually within a spreadsheet. The amount of data we were getting, and had to be able to store and interrogate accurately and with confidence lent itself to having something specialised develop that was able to do that accurately and efficiently, and enable us to do even more with it than we could previously.

It's something that I'm quite passionate about, quite often, people have systems where they're only getting the bare minimum amount of it, and there's a lot more potential in these systems than is being utilised, so if we're able to help them set that up, not just how we can get more data, but they can get more information themselves to be able to use, then it becomes back to technology being a tool. It becomes a more effective tool for them that they're getting more out of.

What I do is primarily concerned about understanding the individual business and how it's performing, and optimising that. Following the individual animals through the supply chain isn't something that I look at, but I do think that is an area where there's a lot of potential for individual businesses to better collect, analyse and interrogate animal data either an individual or mob basis to better understand their business and make better informed decisions.

In terms of technology, my ideal business is being able to effectively utilise technology as a tool to better service clients, and remove duplication in data. One of the issues we have is a bit of duplication in different data sources. Trying to take that out and be able to give them insightful information back that they can use to make informed decisions with a minimal amount of hassle both sides, but keep in mind that, and it's something that I'm big about for myself, and recommending technology to clients that it is still a tool.

It makes your own processes more efficient, you can add on that. It's not a silver bullet. And one thing, is there is a perception out there that technology can be a silver bullet, which I don't think is the case.


Ian and the brown-haired man stand up close to the cows, hands on hips as they talk. One of the cows has ventured into a small, steel-fenced pen with a corrugated iron shelter alongside it.


We have integrated clients that have cattle on grass, and cattle in feedlots, and we're working with them to be able to use data across those enterprises, but at the moment, it's just within the business, but in the next 10 or 15 years, that's a big potential area for the industry if we can have good, simple, robust software and systems there to do it. Not too many bells and whistles, just something simple that works is what we're after.


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