Mike

Empowering Agriculture’s Next Generation

Michael Matthews is Business Manager at Perrin Ag, an agribusiness consulting firm based in Rotorua

When New Zealand Young Farmer of the Year Emma Poole became the first woman to win the title in the event’s 55-year history this year she also shone a light on a path less trodden for women all over Aotearoa.

While she may have shattered the grass ceiling, it’s no secret that farming in New Zealand is still primarily seen as a male-dominated industry.

This perception influences young women as they contemplate their future careers and higher education after high school. Ask most teenagers what farming means to them, and you might hear about the environmental impact and carbon emissions or hard and dirty work on the farm.

Few recognise the promising career prospects in fields such as science, public relations, consultancy, or the opportunities within the value chain, extending from paddock to plate. Traditionally, young women have been underrepresented in these areas.

As the father of two ‘rockstar’ daughters, I want my girls to have the confidence to reach for the stars, to be whatever they aspire to be. I want them to recognise and value their abilities, knowing they can achieve their dreams.

Emma Poole’s confidence to pursue her dreams stemmed from the inspiring lineage of women before her who have showcased the vital role of women in agriculture. We must guide our young people, including our young women, to see beyond the farm gate to the exciting career prospects awaiting them.

According to Ministry for Primary Industry statistics, the current gender ratio in New Zealand’s food and fibre industry is 65:35 in favour of men. However, change is in the air. According to Ministry of Education statistics, 56% of domestic students specialising in agriculture at a tertiary level in 2022 were female.

The growing trend of young women pursuing careers in agribusiness is also evident in the applicant pool for Perrin Ag’s Empower Graduate Advisor Programme over the past three years. Female applicants consistently represent more than 60% of our total applicants. Each year, we prioritise selecting the most qualified candidate, but notably, the last three successful appointees have all been female.

Within our pipeline, there are many smart and capable women driven to make their mark in agriculture. They excel in their studies, yet their confidence sometimes wanes upon entering the workforce. To enact real change, these talented individuals need to nurture self-belief. Instead of remaining on the sidelines and conforming, they should assert themselves, disrupt the status quo, and boldly tackle challenges. This is when true magic happens. I’ve seen it firsthand.

As an industry, we must also step up. The Government has indicated that New Zealand’s primary sector will require up to 50,000 more skilled workers by 2025. As industry leaders, it is our responsibility to nurture and encourage the next generation, both male and female, to step up and help shape the future of farming in New Zealand.

Working in the primary industry or as a farm consultant doesn’t require living on a farm or coming from a farming background. Our industry needs young people interested in science, the environment, problem-solving, and aiding communities. Those with the determination to achieve positive outcomes for our environment, our people, and our businesses are just as qualified as those raised on a farm.

Since we launched the Empower programme in 2020, we’ve been inspired by the emerging talent. It fills us with hope for the future of our industry and has taught us valuable lessons. Not only should our values align, but young people also need clear paths for learning and career growth. To retain them in the industry, it is our duty to help them discover their passions and incorporate them into their work.

Not everyone needs to excel at everything. We make it our mission to reassure our new recruits that they have the strength of an entire business behind them.

As employers of this next generation, we also need to be inquisitive and ask questions. We must remain flexible and open to new approaches. Our young people offer fresh perspectives that challenge our thinking as leaders. They deserve a seat at the decision-making table. When they have something to say, it’s our responsibility to listen and let their insights expand our horizons.

We must also make sure our businesses foster a culture of success. When success is achieved, you can be certain that contributions from every level of the business played a role, from recent graduates to company directors. Let’s celebrate together and acknowledge everyone’s input.

Emma Poole has illuminated a less-traveled path for New Zealand’s young women. Yet, her light also reveals the opportunities available in the primary sector for all our young people, provided they are willing to step up, seize these opportunities, and let their own light shine.

Related posts



Lee Matheson

Managing Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc (Hons), FNZIPIM (Reg)

Lee came to agribusiness consultancy via the unlikely pathway of a suburban Wellington upbringing, an Honours degree in plant science and a six-year career in the financial markets. In his role as the firm’s MD, Lee doesn’t get out on-farm as much as he used to but makes the most of it when he does. While having swapped the paddock for the boardroom, Lee continues to provide advice in the areas of farm business strategy, farm system innovation, corporate governance, investment analysis and economic research.

Outside of Perrin Ag, Lee loves to spend his time coaching rugby, watching his three kids play sport and gardening with his wife Haidee.

“I love the challenge of empowering people in our primary sectors and the excitement of seeing clients achieving their aspirations. If we can encourage farmers to engage with their consumers, take a more active involvement in their supply chains and view their businesses through a wider lens, then I think our industries have a great future.”

Michael Booth

Consultant

Mike brings a wealth of agri-tech and dairy systems expertise to Perrin Ag. After graduating with a Bachelor of AgriCommerce from Massey, he started his career with DairyNZ as a consulting officer where he ran discussion groups and managed farm supervision.

He left DairyNZ to travel the world but within a few months Covid hit, the borders closed, and Mike and his wife Nikita returned home. Back in New Zealand, he took up a role managing DairyNZ’s monitor farms on the Hauraki Plains before joining Halter.

After finishing his OE, he returned home to live in Papamoa and joined the Perrin Ag team in February 2024.

“I’m not someone who likes to sit still and I like to be continually learning. I saw an opportunity with Perrin Ag. As a business their ethos is about continuous improvement and learning. There are always new and better ways of doing things and we need to be at the forefront of that for our clients.”

Abbey Dowd

Consultant

B.Ag.Sc (Hons), MNZIPIM

Abbey joined Perrin Ag in February 2023 as part of the firm’s graduate recruitment programme, Empower.

Abbey grew up surrounded by dairy farms in a close-knit community in South Waikato. She saw first-hand how local farmers supported her community, which is what inspired her to study at Lincoln University.

Growing up in a rural community Abbey has always been impressed by how much local farmers contribute to the community. She wanted to help give back to the industry and play a part in helping our primary sector continue to produce quality food in a sustainable way.

In 2022, Abbey spent the summer as an intern on one of New Zealand’s first commercial deer milking operations. Her Honours project was researching deer milk alongside other more traditional milking operations and assessing the deer milking industry’s future production possibilities.

“Growing up I didn’t live on a farm, but I always knew I wanted to work in the farming sector. I wanted a role where there was a balance between working on and off farm and where I could support farmers to get the best out of their businesses.”

Sam Gray

Consultant

Sam grew up on a dairy farm in the Far North. After graduating from the University of Otago in 2005 with an Honours degree in molecular biotechnology, he spent several years working in medical research in New Zealand and Scotland. Upon returning to New Zealand in 2012, he spent four seasons dairy farming in Northland before purchasing a 56 ha block in Taupо̄, where he was first exposed to farming under a nitrogen cap. Sam joined Perrin Ag in 2023 and brings his strong analytical skills that are grounded by a pragmatic approach to problem solving. Outside of farming and consultancy, you’ll likely find him fly fishing, hunting or snowboarding.

“A lot of farmers feel overwhelmed in the face of a rapidly changing regulatory landscape. I strive to help farmers understand what these environmental regulations mean for their business, and offer practical solutions that allow them to keep doing what they do best, whilst remaining compliant”.

Danni Armstrong

Finance administrator

Danni grew up on a life style block in Atiamuri and spent five seasons as a relief milker in the area. During this time, her full time roles were in various fields including the rental car, health care and marine industries. Danni has had a focus on administrative and accounting duties, but is also proficient in looking after customers especially well, social media and website operation, running a rental car fleet and the associated tasks like training, rosters, H&S and organising repairs! Danni joined Perrin Ag in May 2021, to be part of a business in an industry she is passionate about.

During her spare time Danni can be found reading a book with her cats or out enjoying the walks in Rotorua’s Redwoods.

“What motivates me each day is knowing that I will be challenged with a range of problem solving tasks. I love to see all the figures adding up and knowing that my role makes a difference to the team.”

Duncan Walker

Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc, MNZIPIM (Reg)

Coming from a drystock and dairy farming background, Duncan has always been passionate about growing primary sector businesses. Whether it’s pastoral farming, forestry, horticulture or investments outside the farm gate, sustainably optimising business performance is Duncan’s passion. After graduating from Massey University with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Agribusiness, Duncan’s first opportunity to optimise a farm business was by undertaking a dairy conversion. Duncan project managed the conversion and continued to run the dairy farm for a further three years.

Since joining Perrin Ag in 2011 Duncan works with a wide range of clients including those ‘outside the farm gate’. With his strong background in investment analysis, business strategy and project management, Duncan is increasingly working with clients to analyse and integrate horticulture and forestry investments into their farm businesses.

“I enjoy helping clients navigate through the complexities of today’s operational, financial and environmental challenges. Seeing clients achieve their goals is very rewarding”

Lee Matheson

Managing Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc (Hons), FNZIPIM (Reg)

Lee came to agribusiness consultancy via the unlikely pathway of a suburban Wellington upbringing, an Honours degree in plant science and a six-year career in the financial markets. In his role as the firm’s MD, Lee doesn’t get out on-farm as much as he used to but makes the most of it when he does. While having swapped the paddock for the boardroom, Lee continues to provide advice in the areas of farm business strategy, farm system innovation, corporate governance, investment analysis and economic research.

Outside of Perrin Ag, Lee loves to spend his time coaching rugby, watching his three kids play sport and gardening with his wife Haidee.

“I love the challenge of empowering people in our primary sectors and the excitement of seeing clients achieving their aspirations.  If we can encourage farmers to engage with their consumers, take a more active involvement in their supply chains and view their businesses through a wider lens, then I think our industries have a great future.”