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Graeme Jones

Graeme Jones
Regional Winner | Productivity category

Methven, South Island, NZ

Graeme Jones is an adviser at PGG Wrightson Seeds and a 2020 Growth Awards Regional Winner in the Productivity category. Read on to learn more about Graeme. 

What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
It is the establishment of the arable agronomist business unit in 2006. We now have a team of nineteen arable area agronomists who are recognised in the arable industry in New Zealand for their professionalism. There is a strong team culture which is results orientated and the way they stick together has been pretty remarkable.

There are three stakeholders in the industry – those who grow seeds for us, the seed sales business which is marketing domestically and internationally and our own staff. If you have a team operating successfully, then the other parts of the business benefit from that and it’s critical to success. If we didn’t have good people at the front end of our business, then we would not see success for the company. A deeper aspect of this is our succession planning. We recruit graduates and train them to be the up and coming staff who have the same work philosophy and culture we do.

How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
I’m happy to present anywhere to people but building a strong team is also a great way to disseminate information. We need to maintain the information flow to our agronomists year-on-year. A lot of energy goes into managing people and helping people to keep adapting and I am more than happy to share information to keep them motivated. A lot of things are pretty basic stuff but they need to be done on a consistent basis.

What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
The big opportunity for our business is small seed production. We are seeing increasing need for international seed multiplication especially around demand for vegetable seed production. We quite often see international seed demand come in cycles but at the moment, it’s more consistent year-on-year for vegetable seed. COVID has been quite positive for seed sales, and things like the China-US tariffs have generated an increased demand for NZ seed. It is just making sure that we can meet that increased demand especially for things like spinach with the spike being attributed to consumers and the movement towards a more plant-based diet.
The seed needs to be grown somewhere and New Zealand with its water and soil type means we are well placed for small seed production.

What is the biggest challenge New Zealand Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
The biggest barrier for us is competition for land use. We have a number of industries competing for land so the biggest challenge is the competition for those arable acres. When you look at the isolation needed for seed crops and rotations and the potential for seed contamination, we need to position ourselves with a footprint that enables us to take those opportunities and deliver on them otherwise we will fall short in that area.

There are a number of things that we need to have on our radar:

  • The environment, and that encompasses climate change - something we can’t do a lot about other than adapt as much as possible, for us that means pushing seed production further south

  • Biosecurity risks at the border are something we need to focus on

  • Environmental compliance around farming is getting greater so we need to understand that really well and be able to adapt to it, like rules around nitrogen.

  • Competition for land area

  • Herbicide resistance is also something we need to keep an eye on.

There are a number of things we need to monitor but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities too. We need to play a long game, not a short game and we need to look out for where those challenges are coming from and position ourselves to work with them.