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LeaderBrand’s Ambitious Construction Plans Forge Ahead Despite Ongoing Lockdown Interruptions

LeaderBrand’s construction plans on their ambitious eleven hectare undercover farming project is forging ahead despite the ongoing interruption from lockdowns over the past couple of years.

In October 2019, Kānoa, Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, confirmed LeaderBrand was successful in securing a $15 million loan to help fund the construction of their undercover growing facility.

The project will accelerate crop growth all year round in a more sustainable manner, help to mitigate weather impacts, and create more consistent product which will secure more jobs across the year. The technology incorporated in the greenhouses is innovative and will revolutionise the way LeaderBrand will farm in the future. This includes significantly reducing fertiliser and water usage as well as protecting soil structure.

After extensive global research, in 2019 LeaderBrand appointed the Richel Group from France to supply the greenhouse structures. On Richel's recommendation they appointed Agrikol, a technical construction team from South East Europe with specialist skills and training to install the technology employed in the greenhouses. Local and nationwide building companies and suppliers have played a significant role in the preparation of the site and will continue to assist throughout the build.

The first lockdown in March 2020 significantly impacted construction. Subsequent lockdowns continued to impact the project's timelines, with international shipping delays and border restrictions continuing to severely impact the building schedule.

Preparation work required on site for the arrival of the house structure commenced in the summer of 2020 and is now completed. Local teams have been able to complete the required infrastructure including laying concrete for the distribution, storage and irrigation shed and construction of a new 40 million litre water dam and the installation of a one million litre treated water tank. This infrastructure will make the whole facility self-sufficient for water. Rainfall collected from the roof will be stored in the dam and used all year around within the greenhouses.

Richard Burke, CEO LeaderBrand says that he’s excited to see the beginnings of the project complete and he’s incredibly proud of the team's success to date in unprecedented circumstances.

“On commencing this project back in October 2019, we had planned to already be operational. However, no one had anticipated a global pandemic, borders closed and shipping impacted. Whilst we are behind our original schedule, everyone in the team has worked incredibly hard to keep the project on track.

“Throughout the whole build we were meant to have teams from the Richel Group in France visit the site and guide our local teams. This has now had to be conducted over zoom meetings. It’s not ideal but it’s all part of this new world we live in.

“I’m immensely proud of all the team, who despite the challenges continue to pivot and adapt. We’re aiming to complete the build by June 2022 and ideally start harvesting our first undercover crop ten weeks after completion,” he says.

The next stage of construction is unpacking the steel framing from France and the arrival of the 30 specialist construction workers landing in New Zealand in late September.

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