Development of an organic conversion planning tool (OrgPlan)

AERU and the Institute of Rural Studies at the University of Wales Aberystwyth developed this software, known as OrgPlan, in collaboration with Rothamsted, SAC (The Scottish Agricultural College) and Elm Farm Research Centre.

It works on the basis of building conversion scenarios from a number of resources that can be customised by the user. These include a farms database, an enterprise database and a rotation designer. The farms database contains farm details including current cropping, livestock and a farm inventory. The enterprise database contains information on inputs and outputs (economic and nutrient) for agricultural enterprises in conventional, conversion and organic situations. The rotation designer allows the user to develop rotations using the crop enterprises. These rotations are analysed against a set of rules based on the avoidance of nutrient and pest problems. This facilitates the construction rotations that satisfy these rules and are thus are more stable in terms of fertility and pest pressure. The rules include interval between crop types, cropping sequence and the proportion of crop types in the rotation.

Conversion scenarios are created by selecting a farm and an enterprise database and then construct cropping and livestock plans over the scenario duration (up to 15 years), utilising any rotations created in the rotation designer. Additionally, fixed and variable costs are set over the scenario and a farm inventory can also be set over the same period. This inventory can account for any additional investments that are required for conversion. As the scenario is constructed, statistics are graphically displayed for each year of the scenario, for example areas of crops or gross margins. The software also calculates profit & loss and cash flow reports and nutrient and forage budgets for each year. Thus any potential economic, nutrient or forage problems can be easily identified and the conversion plan amended to avoid them. Once a viable conversion plan has been created the software provides facilities to print reports or export data to a database or spreadsheet. There is also advisory support in the form of HTML versions of the organic standards and the Organic Farm Management Handbook (produced annually by University of Wales Aberystwyth and Elm Farm Research Centre).


Dr John Tzilivakis



University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2017.