The Agriculture Sphere is aimed particularly at new Houses and those of low status. It is subsidized by the Imperial Government for Houses with a status of less than 20. However, Houses with a status of 50 or greater will pay an additional Agriculture Subsidy Tax from their income in order to maintain this subsidy system. For this reason, agriculture is not recommended as a sphere of activity for those Houses with status of 50 or above. Full details of the subsidy system can be found below.
The Agricultural Operations screen is accessed by clicking the 'Agriculture' link that appears on your HQ page if you are operating within this sphere of activity. This screen displays all your agricultural facilities, and allows you to manage these.
Farming profits are affected by three main factors - the type of planet farmed, the market price of water there, and the market price of foodstuffs. The first two factors influence the maintenance cost of each farm, with the price of foodstuffs determining the basic income of a farming facility.
Farms require an appropriate environment and a supply of water. On airless or frozen planets, the environment is particularly ill-suited for farming and maintenance costs will be very high, due to the requirement for artificially-created environmental conditions. On these planets, most foodstuffs are imported. High water prices will also drive up the maintenance cost of a farm. Note that building farms on a planet stimulates the demand for water and is likely to drive up the trade price of water on that planet, and hence increase farming maintenance costs still further.
You may build farms on any planet within your operational range (see Technology). There are three sizes of facility available. Note that the maintenance costs are the average for a temperate world, and may be much higher on inhospitable worlds or planets where water prices are very high.
The actual cost to build any facility is influenced by the distance of the site from your homeworld and the competence of your sphere leader. Maintenance costs are likewise affected by your leader's competence. Also, build and maintenance costs are reduced on poorer planets, and increased on richer worlds, due to differences in labour and materials costs.
To build a new facility, go to your Agriculture Operations screen from your HQ, and click on the 'plus' sign to the right of the Agricultural Facilities heading. This will open up a new row for you to select the planet and farm size, and name your facility to help distinguish it from others of the same type. Submit the new details by clicking on the green tick at the end of this row. Alternatively, you may go to the planet where you want the facility constructed, click on the 'View Facilities' link, and then use the link in the top right hand corner of the screen to build your facility. Once you have ordered the construction of a facility you must wait for it to be completed, which will take some time. To view the facilities you currently have under construction, you can follow links both from the Agriculture Operations screen and any planet's 'View Facilities' screen. This will also tell you how many game days remain before completion of the facility.
From your Agriculture Operations screen you can also upgrade an existing facility to the next largest type, by clicking the 'upgrade' icon which appears to the left of each facility's type. You can also dismantle a facility using the red cross icon, should you have no further use for this facility. In this case, you will recoup around one third of the original cost of building the facility, once dismantling is complete. Additionally, you can always rename any facility simply by clicking on the existing facility name, which will make it amendable. Submit your new name by clicking the green tick that will appear alongside the input box.
Note that if you click on the planet name of any facility, you will be taken to the planet information panel for that planet, from where you can view the current trade prices.
If your House has a status of less than 20, you are entitled to farming subsidies that will ensure the profitability of your farms until your status exceeds this level. These subsidies are paid for out of the Imperial Taxes collected by the Emperor, and the Agriculture Subsidy Tax levied on established Houses operating within the agriculture sphere. The subsidy levels are as follows, for a starting House:
If your House has a status of 50 or more, then you must pay Agriculture Subsidy Tax on all your agricultural facilities. This assists the Emperor with paying the agriculture subsidy to low-status Houses, and is compulsory and unavoidable. The amount charged appears as a separate deduction in your treasury, and is not deducted from the actual income of each facility. The amount deducted for each facility is as follows:
Because of this additional tax, Agriculture is not suited to well-established Houses, and you may wish to close down this sphere and branch out into a more profitable area once you reach 50 status.
As seen in the Rulebook
Agriculture is a sphere designed especially for new players. Established Houses generally avoid this sphere due to the subsidy tax, making for a relatively open market. Even if there are other Agriculture houses in your area, any farm you build will be guaranteed to make a profit - for a while. Building on planets with low water prices and high foodstuffs prices will still increase your profit margin, though.
It is generally recommended to open a second income sphere and devote oneself to it as soon as possible, while gradually moving out of Agriculture. Heavy competition can make Agriculture unprofitable as soon as your subsidies run out at status 16, and unless your profit margins are very wide, it will be very unprofitable to keep it open by 50. Plus, you're giving the emperor more money! Don't do that! (Interesting fact: the emperor can make Agriculture profitable past 50 status since he's paying himself Agriculture subsidies).
While you are in agriculture, here are some tips:
Just like Geology and Technology, you're factories will be making money daily roughly equal to the price of foodstuffs on a planet, and just like all other facilities in Imperium Nova, you pay a base maintenance cost for each facility, modified by Planetary Wealth (the richer the planet, the higher the maintenance) and distance from HQ (the farther away from your home planet, the higher the maintenance). Farms are also subject to increases in maintenance based on Water prices on a planet, and by Terrain type. Temperate and Arid worlds recieve no additional penalty, but Marine planets experience a 10% increase, Frozen a 50% increase, and Airless a 100% increase in maintenance costs.
All together, this means that your best Agriculture planets will be poor, temperate and arid planets with High Foodstuffs and Low Water prices, as close to your HQ as possible. A few other notes: Arid planets tend to have both high foodstuffs and water prices (raising both income and maintenance), Marine planets tend to have low Water prices (lowering maintenance), and frozen planets tend to have very underdeveloped economies and populations (meaning lower income and maintenance). Airless planets should just be avoided completely, unless there's something like a 50 difference in foodstuffs and water, which is unlikely.
Obviously, since Agriculture is dependent on two different commodities, it synergizes well with Mercantile to try to move goods around to maximize your prices. It's also a good (if masochistic) sphere to enter into to wean yourself off of Agriculture as you approach the big five oh.
Also, like any other sphere, only build tier 3 facilities: Mega Farms. They are more cost effective than other farms. Period. You may find smaller facilities useful for testing uncertain markets, but that's about it.