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Kiwi Farmer Wins Rabobank's Business Development Prize

‘Strategic’ plan for start-up farming company earns Kiwi farmer Australasian business award

New Zealand farmer Matt Iremonger has won the highly-regarded Australasian business award, the Rabobank ‘Dr John Morris’ Business Development Prize, for 2017 for a strategic business plan he developed for a start-up farming enterprise in North Canterbury.

Mr Iremonger was presented with the award in front of fellow 2017 graduates of
Rabobank’s prestigious Executive Development Program (EDP) – a leading business management program for progressive New Zealand and Australian farmers – in Sydney.

Mr Iremonger’s strategic business plan – which was completed as a project as part of his Executive Development Program studies – detailed the strategy for Kaiweka Farms Ltd, a new start-up farming company he has recently invested in, along with his wife Katy and two other farming families.

The new venture is a multi-enterprise pastoral and arable farming unit which provides a diversified income stream. The operation currently runs crossbred ewes, beef cows, dairy heifer grazers and a selection of crops including barley, wheat, radishes and carrots.

Mr Iremonger, who also works as general manager for Willesden Farms on Banks Peninsula near Christchurch, says the business plan for Kaiweka Farms outlined three horizons for the enterprise over the next five-year period.

“The first horizon was to purchase the farms and to get the business established. This horizon has largely been achieved through the purchase of the core properties as well two lease blocks. We’ve also set up a management structure for the business with board meetings scheduled on a monthly basis and we’ve appointed a really talented team of staff to run the business on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

The second horizon, Mr Iremonger said, was the further development of the land which will see investment into an irrigation scheme and infrastructure, while the final horizon is the aim to capture a greater proportion of the supply chain through the development of relationships with processors and retailers.

“While these horizons are a few years away, it’s really important for us that everyone who is involved in the venture buys into the business plan and is clear on where we want to take the business in the medium to long term,” he said.

Mr Iremonger said Kaiweka Farms’ aim for the future was to be within the top 10 per cent of farms for class and scale. Media release August 7, 2017

Mr Iremonger said learnings gained from the Executive Development Program had played a significant role in the development of the business plan for Kaiweka Farms and in mapping out the future horizons for the business.

“The EDP places a strong emphasis on developing your strategic planning skills and on providing you with tools to assist with setting goals for your operation,” he said.

“For me, a key takeaway was the need to set targets that are well defined and measurable. And, along with the other families who are involved as investors, Katy and I put a lot of thought into the overall goals for the business over the next five years and the milestones we wanted to hit along the way.

“I also took on board from the program the importance of benchmarking your operation and this is something that we’ll be doing on a regular basis to get a gauge on how we are performing against others in the industry and to identify areas where improvement may be required.”

Mr Iremonger said the Executive Development Program had also been “hugely beneficial” in the lead up to investing in the new venture, where he and his wife had needed to make some significant decisions about their future.

“The information and skills that I picked up on the first part of the program, particularly around motivation and personal goal setting, were instrumental in prompting some detailed thought about the direction we wanted to head in and helped give us a really strong foundation to make decisions on the path we wanted to take,” he said.

The couple had previously spent 10 years as minority shareholders in an equity partnership where Matt had been in the role of managing director, before making the decision to sell their stake in the business and seek out new opportunities in early 2017.

Rabobank Head of Knowledge & Network Experiences Nerida Sweetapple said the development and execution of Mr Iremonger’s business plan for Kaiweka Farms had allowed him to make “phenomenal progress” over the past 12 months towards his goals.

“This had made his project the standout among a field of excellent graduates from the 2016/17 program,” she said.

Mr Iremonger was presented with a $5,000 cash prize by Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Managing Director Peter Knoblanche at the Executive Development Program graduation dinner in late July.

The Executive Development Program is Rabobank’s flagship training program for rural entrepreneurs across New Zealand and Australia. Run since 1999, the course is delivered across two modules, and aims to develop and enhance the business management skills of leading farmers seeking to take their enterprise to the next level.

To date, more than 700 farmers from across New Zealand and Australia have graduated from the program.


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