Ben and Yvonne Lee weren’t born into farming but have taken it up with vigour.
It’s about people doing business with people, says Smallwood, who has had a 30-year career in agribusiness and along with his wife owns a 550-cow dairy farm in Wairarapa.
He is signalling “an open-door” approach to leadership, planning to get out in the field with staff and invite farmers to connect with him one-on-one.
“I know farmers like working with our company and our staff; we’ve built a great working relationship,” he told Dairy News.
Smallwood plans to experience this first-hand.
“A lot of CRV’s success to date is the result of the passionate staff that work here, which is evident in the strong relationships our team has with our farmer customers.
“I can see that the CRV team truly values the reputation it has amongst farmers as a trustworthy partner who listens and understands their farming business. It’s crucial our customers know they can rely on us to work with them to achieve their herd improvement goals, using genetics and data.
“As the newest member of the CRV team, I’m looking forward to getting out in the field, supporting our team and finding out what matters most to our farmer customers.”
Smallwood started his new role last month, following the appointment of Angus Haslett as head of CRV Ambreed’s Dutch parent company, CRV.
Smallwood is only CRV Ambreed’s fourth managing director in the company’s history.
He says he is focused on working with the CRV team to continue offering industry-leading innovations and great products to the company’s farmer customers.
“We want to deliver our products and services to farmers in a way they value and love, so that their businesses benefit, whether that’s through increased production, healthier cows or technology to help them farm better.
“I’m looking forward to helping CRV realise its true potential as one of New Zealand’s leading genetics companies.”
Smallwood points out that CRV Ambreed is more than just an animal breeding business.
Over the years, it has invested in technology and research such as LowN Sires and herd recording software, myHERD – innovations changing the way farmers approach their herd improvement.
He notes that today’s discerning customers have food safety, animal welfare and sustainability on the top of their minds.
Smallwood says technology developed by CRV Ambreed, in collaboration with industry stakeholders, is designed to help farmers become more sustainable and further improve their animal welfare credentials.
He says genetics is playing its part, helping farmers deal with animal welfare issues.
For example, use of CRV Ambreed sexed semen gives farmers more heifers, greater value replacements and fewer bobby calves. The management of bobby calves by the industry has come under scrutiny in recent years.
The company also launched myHERD, a new herd recording application, which replaces CRV Insight. It allows dairy farmers to consolidate their herd recording and farm information on one platform. CRV Ambreed runs myHERD on the FarmIQ platform.
“We are not developing technology ourselves but in partnership with groups like FarmIQ, other industry players and the Government.”
James Smallwood has worked around the world in a variety of leadership positions, which have given him a deep understanding of the primary industries.
Smallwood’s most recent role was based in Melbourne as general manager Australia and New Zealand of ABS Australia (part of global company Genus PLC), providing animal breeding supplies and services to the Australian and New Zealand dairy and beef industries.
Under his leadership the company recaptured its number one market share position in both beef and dairy, after the successful development and implementation of a business rebuilding strategy.
Smallwood was born and bred on a small dairy farm in the Wairarapa. He and his wife have expanded this to a 550-cow operation over the past twenty years. They have also recently developed a dairy beef unit in partnership with their long standing sharemilkers.
He has also served as director of entities including DataGene and Ovita Limited, and has completed the Fonterra Governance Development programme. He has chaired several boards and committees both in the industry and in the wider Wairarapa community.