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New CEO for Agriseeds

New CEO for Agriseeds

For immediate release

Well-known New Zealand agribusiness executive Murray Willocks has been appointed CEO of one of the country’s most successful plant breeding and marketing companies, effective 1 July.

Agriseeds, based in Canterbury, employs 36 staff and has annual sales of NZD $22 million. It markets 23 pasture and forage varieties in New Zealand, and offshore. Since 1997 it has been a subsidiary of the Royal Barenbrug Group, the leading grass seed marketing organisation in the world.

Willocks joined the company as marketing director in 2002, and will take over its leadership from managing director Selwyn Manning, who helped found the firm 20 years ago.

Manning will continue his existing role as managing director of Barenbrug Southern Ltd and will continue as chairman of its operating subsidiaries New Zealand Agriseeds and sister company Heritage Seeds in Australia.

Murray Willocks says the sheer quality of both its products and its people are what first drew him to Agriseeds five years ago, and these remained his prime motivator when deciding to accept the new role.

“This is a great company that is creating significant value for New Zealand agriculture, and the New Zealand economy as whole. Good pasture is critical for the success of our farm sector; it’s Agriseeds’ role to produce top quality pasture varieties, support them with good advice and ensure farmers make the best possible use of them in their own systems.

“We do that by having good people, good processes, great products and loyal customers. Most importantly we do it by delivering something that is of high value to the farmer not just a product, but all the technical information and advice that goes with it.”

The company’s track record at delivering new technology to the market is among the best in New Zealand, Willocks says, and this will continue in the future.

“The challenge for us now is to make sure we have the technology to deliver to New Zealand agriculture that will help it maintain its successful low cost structure and competitive position in the global marketplace.”

For his part Selwyn Manning says he looks forward to seeing Agriseeds progress under Willocks’ leadership, with the support of what is ‘undoubtedly the best seed team’ in the industry.

“During Murray's five years leading the marketing team he has contributed greatly to the growth and development of the company. At the time of his initial appointment I said we were extremely fortunate to have someone of his calibre and experience join the company, and the same holds true today.”

Willocks spent 22 years with Monsanto, both in New Zealand and overseas, prior to his appointment as Agriseeds’ marketing director. He joined Monsanto New Zealand in 1980 as a member of its product development team, and worked thereafter in a diverse range of roles, including sales, project management, branding, business development and public affairs.

Before that he worked for both the former DSIR and the Medical Research Council.

He is currently chairman of the management committee of the Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust, a pastoral industry group which aims to lift New Zealand farm productivity through on-going pasture renewal.

Selwyn Manning has been a stalwart of the New Zealand seed industry for many years. Before co-founding Agriseeds in 1987 he was chief agronomist for Dalgety for eight years, and then spent 11 years with Yates Corporation as research manager, becoming general manager (rural) of Arthur Yates in 1984.

In 2004 he became the first New Zealander to head the US $30 billion world seed trade when he was elected president of the International Seed Federation (ISF). He is currently past-president of the organisation, which comprises international seed traders and plant breeders from 70 different countries. Manning has represented New Zealand at the ISF since 1991, and last year was awarded honorary life membership.

He’s chaired the New Zealand Seed Quality Management Authority since its inception in 1994 and is currently President of the New Zealand Plant Breeding and Research Association (NZPBRA). He will continue his involvement in these and other industry bodies.

He and five other shareholders established Agriseeds as a management buy-out just weeks before the stock market crash of 1987, starting with eight staff and one product.


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