Hi @Charlie_Showers, it sounds like an awesome idea! I’ll chip in some thoughts that come from my experience being embedded in an agricultural contracting family business (haymaking, seeding, fencing, spreading, etc) where my partner is one of the main workers and also the mechanic, and from running our own Farm Excavation earth works operation within that family business. These are probably a few of the things I’d think about when setting something like this up:
Making the most of depreciation for someone in the business has made an epic difference to our set-up. Our excavator was able to be fully depreciated in the first year (as it just squeaked under the $20k mark), which was a huge boost to the business.
Getting insurance to dry-hire out our machine was too expensive to justify unless we were trying to keep it working all the time. Instead we just have insurance that covers hiring it to the family business, and their insurance then covers much more of the liability stuff that we couldn’t justify.
Depending on how similar your area is in terms of what’s growing, there’s likely to be a lot of competing demand for the machinery at exactly the same time (e.g. in our case hay season). It’s really challenging to keep on top of who gets priority, and certainly around here to fit everyone in for hay season there are jobs that start at 1 in the morning, that get shifted around at last minute’s notice because of rain in one valley, etc. which is possible because it’s being overseen by a manager, I wonder how to manage this in a more distributed set-up.
One person can easily cause a good few thousand dollars damage to equipment in just a couple of hours if they’re not on the ball or not experienced. For a lot of ag machinery, there are also now very few parts suppliers, so there can be a reasonable delay in getting that fixed - how do you balance those types of user error costs alongside just maintenance/use costs of things wearing out quickly (which they do)? How do you manage that someone wanted to use that machinery next, but it’s now out of action for a week, and that was the week to get the hay in/seed in the ground/etc?
Our trucking cost for shifting the excavator is around $2-3 a kilometre (I can’t remember off the top of my head!), which can add up pretty quickly, it’d be interesting to figure out what the optimal range for this sort of set-up is!
Sorry if any of that is telling you stuff you already know, isn’t quite what you want to know, or comes across as nay-saying - I certainly don’t think it’s an unachievable idea, just those are some of the elements I’d consider! While we don’t have a co-op set-up by any means, I would say that locally there would be quite a few of us who are all aware of what each other has for machinery and find ways to hire it to each other and not duplicate purchases. Hope something within that was helpful!