Australian Fair Food Forum

New farming Co-op Builder launched

Farming Together have been working to help develop farming co-ops and collaborative approaches in agriculture (e.g. they helped guide ORICoop into existence).

They have now launched the Co-op Builder, which is “a step-by-step tool to help farming groups to prepare the essential legal documents required to form a co-operative structure”

At a first glance it looks really clear! Would be interested to hear from anyone who’s been looking at starting a co-op whether they think it meets their needs, or from anyone who’s more embedded in the ‘doing’ of this type of thing as to whether this will help/they would recommend it to others.

@lyb is this what you’ve been working on? Is there more you can add?


Hey Jen, yep this is the project we’ve been working on (a small team from the Business Council of Co-ops and Mutuals) - a few lawyers, an amazing designer / IT person, all co-op lovers.

Happy to answer any questions anyone has about it.

It’s for distributing / trading co-ops only (at this stage) although hopefully there will be more tools on the way… It’s designed for a start-up, so many not suit all needs. The Builder will provide you with a tailored constitution, disclosure statement, sample forms / templates required for formation and further tips/ resources for registering and managing a co-op.

We’ve tried to explain the law in plain English and to make it as user friendly as possible. Hoping that many wonderful new co-ops can get up and running using the tool.

Lyb :slight_smile:


Fabulous resource @Lyb Congrats to all hands that contributed … and for it to be more streamlined for more Cooperatives to be better structured and streamlined from the start!

Great to meet you in Adelaide - and look forward to seeing more foodie and farm Co-operatives emerge here!

We’re looking at setting up a Co-op for Out of the Box and Tess and I were lucky enough to be part of the session that ran through the Co-op Building - awesome work @Lyb and team :slight_smile: We love it. And @Jen we are planning to use it to set up the Out of the Box Co-op :slight_smile:

Hi @Lyb - a fantastic resource! At Open Food Network Australia we are starting to explore transition to a coop structure (we are currently a straight non-profit - company limited by guarantee structure). Michael Deurwaader has just started with us as an intern and is pulling together some basic desktop research to help us think about next steps. Its early days but he has made a start here. We would like to set up as a non-distributing (non-profit) multi-stakeholder coop (probably: workers; enterprise users of OFN e.g. producers and hubs; and individual consumers/supporters of OFN). So Michael’s initial review of coop builder is that its a bit limited for us here. We have been looking at overseas resources on multi-stakeholder coops. Some initial Qs that would be awesome to get some help on are:

  1. Are there any specific examples of multi-stakeholder co-ops within Australia (Michael was only able to find Namoi Cotton and CBH group)?
  2. Does each member-class require designated roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis “first members” of regular co-operative registration? i.e are there specific considerations re establishment phase / first members for multi-stakeholder coops.
  3. Are there any templates for model rules for multi-stakeholder co-operatives in Aust? If not what specific clauses should be added? (this last Q probably a “down the track Q” but any steer now would be appreciated - as you will see in Michael’s notes the "Fairshares" model rules generator is the best thing we have found so far).
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

Hi Serenity!

Only just got your message - at the New Economy conference today.

Will respond soon :blush::blush:

Lyb x

Hi @serenity - glad you like the resource. We are working on the non-distributing version for the co-op builder so it will hopefully be ready for you a little further down the track. A good model to have a look at is Stocksy - I’m not sure of any specific multi-stakeholder examples in Australia but if you get in touch with Anthony from the Business Council of Co-ops & Mutuals, he may be able to steer you in the right direction. Each class of members may have different ways to meet the active membership requirements (that is, there might be several different alternatives under that rule). Have a look at the Co-op Builder for some explanation of this. This will define their roles and responsibilities at a very specific level, however more detailed role and responsibility descriptions can get written into board & member approved policies. There are model rules available under the Co-operatives National Law - perhaps you can check with the Victorian Registry to see if they have any templates for multi-stakeholder co-ops? We will work on including templates for multi-stakeholder co-ops in the Co-op Builder but haven’t developed these specifically as yet… it’s all a work in progress :slight_smile: Cheers, Lyb

Hi to all those interested in the Co-op Builder!

Farming Together have launched even more online resources. There is now a set of training modules dedicated to understanding how co-ops work and how to best use the Co-op Builder, particularly for distributing co-operatives. There is also a 2 part training session on what you need to do to start-up the co-operative business - e.g. what other registrations are needed and, most importantly, how the board needs to start towards understanding how to measure their progress towards their identified goals. These resources are all free at the Farming Together website at

In April 2018 Farming Together also launched 2 further versions of the Co-op Builder for non-distributing (not for profit) co-operatives.

The Co-op Builder accommodates both single and multi-stakeholder groups, just identify who the members/stakeholders are, what they want from the co-op and how they can contribute to the co-op and incorporate these into the primary activity and active membership rules.

An example of a multis-takeholder food co-operative is the Bathurst Wholefood Co-operative Ltd - you can see an example of how they have drafted their rules in the Co-op Builder.

In September - yes, this month, there is yet a further version of the Co-op Builder to be launched by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals. The first one will be for distributing co-operatives, to be followed by non-distributing co-ops in November. This version of the Co-op Builder will not be confined to agricultural co-operatives, but will show how all kinds of industries, producers, workers etc can form co-ops and will have a range of different examples of co-ops as guides. It will be launched on

So keep a look out for it!