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Minister For Regional Development, Shane Jones, Officially Opens LeaderBrand’s Covered Production Facility

Today, LeaderBrand was pleased to host Regional Development Minister, Shane Jones, who officially open its completed 11-hectare mega greenhouse project in Tairāwhiti.

In October 2019, the Provincial Development Unit (now Kānoa, Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit) approved a Provincial Growth Fund loan to help fund the ambitious construction and help boost regional development in Tairāwhiti.

The aim of the project is to accelerate crop growth year-round in a more sustainable manner, helping to mitigate weather impacts, significantly reducing fertiliser and water usage as well as protecting soil structure. It also ensures job security and supports Tairāwhiti’s $62.5 million horticulture and fruit industry.

Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Development was joined by local dignities, including the mayor, to officially open the greenhouses with a ribbon cutting, before taking a tour of the facility.

Head of Kānoa, Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, Robert Pigou, also attended the event and said he was extremely proud to see this ambitious project now complete and operational.

“LeaderBrand’s covered houses are an excellent example of what investing in the regions can accomplish. The Provincial Growth Fund was designed to help support rural businesses, just like this one, to expand, innovate and create more jobs.

“We can already see the benefits that this project is having not only on the wider community, but also New Zealand’s food security, especially during extreme weather events.

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“Well done to all the LeaderBrand team for what they have achieved here, they should be exceptionally proud,” said Pigou.

Richard Burke, LeaderBrand’s chief executive, says that without the support of Kānoa, Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit the company would never have been able to take on this ambitious project.

“The size and magnitude of this build was well beyond what we could have achieved without this financial support. We had already invested heavily in our salad processing business and additional land; the covered house was the next strategic step. The regional fund has enabled us to complete our goal.

“This project has not only allowed us to invest in our business and the region's future, but it has also ensured that we can guarantee the supply of leafy greens year-round,” he says.

“Ensuring food security and finding more ways to fed Kiwis with healthy and affordable fresh produce is a big motivator for all of us.

“This has been a highly successful pilot and now we’re excited to look at investing into more covered fields and how we can include more of our crops into the covered growing programme. We’ll also be testing and utilising new technology from the house for both our indoor and outdoor programmes which ultimately, will enable us to extend our domestic and export offerings,” he says.

With the completion of the covered greenhouses, LeaderBrand has been able to successfully trial and produce a new product to their salad range, wild rocket.

“The unique and controlled environment of the greenhouse allows us to grow delicate salad leaves like spinach and wild rocket, protecting the plants from the elements. Traditionally, it is difficult to grow rocket throughout winter, but the benefit of the greenhouses will ensure consistency of supply throughout the year.

“All our team are incredibly proud to have the facility officially opened by Minister Jones. It has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this stage. Not even a global pandemic, MIQ issues, freight delays, covid and a lot of terrible weather, has stopped us delivering on this goal,” says Burke.

The LeaderBrand Future Farm site was blessed by Morehu Pewhairangi of Te Aitanga a Mahaki iwi the day before in a private ceremony with the greenhouse team.

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