PGG Wrightson (PGW) ended a bumpy year with record profit, a “transformational” sale of its grain and seed business and many changes of board and management.
The Paeroa sale yard is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Beijing where Peter Moore spent a significant amount of time in the seven years prior to joining PGG Wrightson (PGGW) to head its Livestock division in August this year. But it's a transition he is clearly reveling in, saying he could not resist the opportunity to return to an industry he understands.
"I grew up on a sheep and beef farm in the Waikato. While having farming in my blood I did take a diversion in becoming qualified in risk management but always returned to farming firstly with AgResearch, running their research farms and abattoir, and then with Fonterra in Asia and South America where I led the development and operation of their global farming business in China and Brazil. The opportunity to return to New Zealand to work with PGG Wrightson, one of the country's heritage farming organisations, was hard to resist.
"PGG Wrightson is a really good business; it is grass roots and close to farmers by virtue of the personal nature of the business and the fact that it is represented in every region of the country."
Three months into the role Peter Moore said the fundamentals of the livestock business haven't changed to what they were 140 years ago.
"The livestock business is about relationships – about building trust on farm and following that through with superior service at every point of contact. But the way we work with farmers is changing, thanks to technology, and the old notion of 'one size fits all' no longer applies."
Technology is enabling an evolutionary change in the way the livestock business transacts, Moore says.
"A significant number of our farmers are happy to continue with the status quo, selling or buying stock in the paddock with one of our agents or at the sale yards, but a growing number also want to be able to do business via the internet.
"We want to provide a level of service which keeps pace with the latest technologies and innovations but which is tailored to the individual needs of each farmer. This will see all PGG Wrightson stock agents provided with tablets so they can ultimately do-away with docket books and record every step in the sale or purchase of stock as it happens."
Moore says the first roll-out of the tablets will occur before Christmas to around one-third of PGG Wrightson's agents with the rest of the team in early 2015.
"As with any change, there will be agents who love it and others who will need to see the benefits before they fully commit, but I'm confident the ease of use and improved transparency and consistency will win the entire team around and, just as importantly, our farmer clients will see the benefits."
The tablets will, according to Moore, complement PGG Wrightson's online selling service, Agonline, and the on-line Livestock Quotes which are starting to prove popular with a growing number of farmers.
"We work hard to understand and meet the requirements of all our farmers – whether that be transacting on the farm, at the sale yards or even helping them bypass the yards and sell direct to the works. It all comes down to understanding their needs and providing the best way to deliver a great outcome."
The stock and station industry has appeal as a career option for young people, says Peter Moore, with PGG Wrightson regularly fielding enquiries from a range of people including university graduates and school leavers, and even some farmers wanting to enter the industry.
"We offer a training course which is accredited to the Primary ITO and also have a course for auctioneers but there is only so much training you can do in the classroom; in this business you need to understand farming and farmers and we're fortunate to have agents who have been with us for 30+ years. Their experience and insight is invaluable in guiding the next generation who will represent PGG Wrightson.
"The strength of PGG Wrightson's livestock business is the 260 people driving up farmers' driveways every day nationwide. There are around 500 to 600 stock agents, excluding meat company buyers, in New Zealand and around half of them work for PGG Wrightson so we are out there, on a lot of farms talking with farmers, every day of the week."
At the end of the day Peter Moore says the livestock business is the food business.
"New Zealand is in the business of food and when you consider that total food/farm production in 2050 will only feed 44 million people out of the world's estimated population of nine billion you realize what a fantastic opportunity exists for New Zealand agriculture. I'm committed to ensuring the PGG Wrightson's Livestock division plays a leading role in delivering that objective.
"When I first went to China seven years ago there weren't too many steak restaurants in Beijing – now there are a lot and they're full of Chinese people, not westerners - this is just one example of how eating habits are changing and how and where the demand will come from. The potential is limitless for New Zealand farmers and the organisations which support them. It's great to be part of that future."