Dr Danny Donaghy is professor of dairy systems at Massey University and a specialist in pasture agronomy and physiology.
Tanya Houghton, who took over the role last month, is the company’s first female chief executive.
She says that while she acknowledges the milestone that comes with being a woman in the role, she doesn’t believe it was the reason she was hired.
“I think the board focused on my skills and my leadership style in their decision,” she told Dairy News.
Previously, Houghton has worked as the chief executive of Mole Map New Zealand, and has held directorships with The Pet Foundation in Australia and Animates New Zealand.
“I’m really thrilled and honoured,” she says.
“In the short-term, I want to go back to the basics of the business,” Houghton says of her plans for the company. These include ensuring the company has safe and engaged people, improving customer experience and profitability.
This is a circular goal, Houghton explains, adding that safe and engaged employees lead to a good customer experience which will, in turn, lead to further profitability.
“I’m coming in with fresh eyes,” she says.
In terms of keeping those employees safe and engaged, Houghton says it’s something that, amid the current Delta outbreak, Farmlands customers can get involved in.
“We really need people to work with us through Covid,” she says. “We really need our customers to be understanding.”
She says that customers specifically need to remember and understand that some of the things the rural supplier requests of its customers are to comply with the Government’s Covid guidelines.
This includes things like remembering to wear a mask when going into the store or to pick something up from stores.
She says that Farmlands is “fortunate” because it has been classified as an essential service and is therefore available to customers during Alert Level Three and Four.
However, that can only continue if we pay attention to those guidelines.
“As we’ve seen the last couple of days, Covid pops up,” she says, referring to the recent appearance of Covid-19 cases in the Waikato.
“Our staff members are on the frontlines and they have families, that’s why it’s really important that you work with us.”
Farmlands chair Rob Hewett says Houghton was chosen for her ability to drive change.
"Tanya is a passionate Kiwi, committed to creating environments where diversity and equality, environment, social and governance and the concept of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) are pivotal to the corporte agenda," Hewett said when announcing her appointment.
"She will ensure that these concepts are understood and engaged in to deliver sector leadership and enhanced long-term shareholder value."
Farmlands has more than 1400 staff servicing more than 74,000 shareholders through a network of 82 stores. It has a turnover in excess of $2.5 billion.