Twenty-five farmers from five continents and 12 countries have been given a crash course in New Zealand’s primary sector after partaking in this year’s Rabobank Global Farmers Master Class.
The 10-day tour, which was established in 2012, aims to bring together leading farmers from around the world to address global food security.
The master class finishes in Queenstown on December 6 and includes farmers from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands, Peru, the United States and Zimbabwe.
After initially meeting in Auckland, the group spent most of their first week in Waikato before heading to the South Island.
So far, the tour has included strategy sessions with Fonterra and Zespri leaders as well as discussions of global trends. The final stop before heading to the South Island was a tour of LIC, just out of Hamilton.
The tour included five NZ farmers, including Bay of Plenty dairy and kiwifruit farmer Rory Bragg and north Otago sheep and beef farmer Grant McNaughton.
Bragg said the tour so far has felt at times like a blur because of the amount and quality of information being presented.
“Everyone here has the same growth mindset, everyone’s at a similar point in their business where they are at a certain scale and they have the opportunity to launch it more. They’re really diverse businesses and everyone’s facing similar challenges.
“It’s been 10 days of pretty intense immersion.”
The challenges facing the farmers include sustainability, trade, geopolitics and economic issues such as interest rates. However, Bragg said, it has also given him huge confidence in the future of global primary production.
McNaughton said he has looked at what he can take from the tour to move his business forward.
“It’s been a customised environment that fosters learning – both off each other and from presenters.
“It’s a really good environment to learn and grow.
“You learn about operational excellence, you learn about customer focus – all of the participants have different areas of expertise. There’s been a whole heap of really insightful learnings.”
For Bragg, it was the opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with industry leaders such as Fonterra chair Peter McBride that was the most valuable.
Kenyan cut-flower exporter Richard “Kiki” Fernandes said the tour has been awesome, involving as it does a diverse group of farmers from all parts of the globe and primary sector.
“Talking to them on the one had was really interesting, sharing experiences and also understanding New Zealand’s agriculture.”
Fernandes said the farmers have common challenges around agriculture’s perception, environmental sustainability and finding labour.
“What’s impressed me is how organised New Zealand’s agriculture is. It’s smart – you know what you’re doing.”
He was also impressed by how open farmers are to sharing their knowledge with each other.
“If you look at the dairy industry, you’ve taken a commodity and you do it really well. You’re a global leader.”
The participating farmers were handpicked based on selection criteria that targeted innovative, environmentally progressive and passionate decision makers willing to share ideas, learn from others and invest in a sustainable future for agriculture.
It is the sixth Rabobank Global Farmers Master Class staged around the world and the second to be held in NZ, with Aotearoa having co-hosted the event alongside Australia in 2016.