Yara New Zealand | A fertile business with a strong focus on innovation

Yara New Zealand | A fertile business with a strong focus on innovation

Whether it be a crunchy Hawkes Bay Royal Gala or a crisp Marlborough sauvignon blanc, our produce is sought globally for its flavour and freshness – and that’s all good news for Yara New Zealand.

The Hawke’s Bay-based company, a subsidiary of Norwegian fertiliser giant Yara, is a leading supplier of premium fertiliser to fruit and vegetable growers, says New Zealand commercial director Michael Waites.

Consumers around the world have come to expect top quality produce from our farms, wineries and orchards, he says. “That plays right into our hands. We supply premium products for everything from wine grapes to high-value fruit crops such as kiwifruit and apples, as well as vegetables, arable wheat and barley.”

He estimates Yara has captured a high market-share of the premium fertiliser market in New Zealand. That market has posted record growth year on year for the past five years and is showing no signs of slowing down.  “The forecast is for it to stay strong. There is pretty much more of everything going into the ground.”

That’s likely to keep Yara’s six staff busy. Four agronomists split between Nelson, Rangiora and Hawke’s Bay work from home but spend most of their time visiting farmers and recommending nutrition programmes for their crops.

Yara has a national reach. “Auckland is a big market for glass house and hydroponic produce, in the Bay of Plenty there’s kiwifruit, in the far North there are avocados, Hawke’s Bay is a big part of our business, as is Nelson and Marlborough, Canterbury and central Otago. We are anywhere there is horticulture, vegetables and arable crops.”

Michael’s business relationship with Moore Stephens Markhams Hawkes Bay director Alan Bartlett dates back to when Michael was working for another fertiliser business, which Yara acquired in 2004.

“With the purchase by Yara it’s become a much bigger job than it was. Alan does an amazing job and he knows our business very well. He could be part of our team and many people think he is.”

Alan manages Yara’s demanding monthly and end-of-year reports, advises on all accounting matters and is heavily involved in the end of year audit – a requirement for overseas-owned firms.

“It’s a very good relationship. He’s across everything and we know we’re in good hands – things are going to be done correctly.”

Yara has a strong focus on innovation, Michael says, and clients can expect to see a raft of new products and technology to help them improve crop productivity and quality, such as a satellite mapping application that allows a farmer to see which crops need fertilising and which fertiliser to apply.

Many New Zealand farmers are moving to “fertigated crops” – where fertiliser is applied through the drip-feed irrigation system. This not only means less water is used but that the water and fertiliser is targeted at the root zone.

“It’s a far more responsible way of growing your crop. And it’s more efficient; you’re not just spreading fertiliser on the ground and hoping the water washes it in.”

The good health and growth of the industry means competition is strong and new suppliers are entering the market. Yara is on a firm footing but won’t be taking its position for granted, Michael says.

Yara has exclusive agreements with leading farm supplies distributors and that is vital to Yara’s success, he says. “There is loyalty there, but we know it is only on the understanding that our products are market-leading.”

Yara International is the largest nitrogen producer in the world, employs 17,000 people worldwide and sells its products into 150 countries. Yara New Zealand is a small off-shoot but a strong performer, Michael says.

“We set pretty challenging sales forecasts every year and we have been successful. It’s a rewarding business to be in.”