From science lab to farm gate – molecular biologist joins Perrin Ag

With a background in molecular biology and hands-on farming experience, Perrin Ag’s newest consultant Sam Gray loves helping farmers boost productivity and navigate the ever-changing regulatory environment.

Sam lives in Taupō with his partner Karoline on the 56-hectare farm they purchased six years ago after they returned from Scotland. There, Sam was working as a medical researcher at the University of Edinburgh.

Sam grew up on a dairy farm in the Far North, but after completing a Bachelor of Applied Science in Molecular Biotechnology in 2005 from the University of Otago, he embarked on a path into medical research.

“I initially worked at Auckland University looking at the genetics of bone diseases and then travelled overseas. I was working at the University of Edinburgh researching in the same area, predominantly related to gout, before we returned to New Zealand,” says Sam.

“I found myself looking more and more out the window from the laboratory and wondering whether I’d enjoy working outdoors in a more practical application of my skills.”

Sam and Karoline, who is a German translator, returned to New Zealand in 2012 and went dairy farming for four years before purchasing their farm in Taupō. Before joining Perrin Ag Sam used to rear 300 beef calves each spring, selling half as weaners at 100kgs and rearing the balance through to 18 months and 600kgs.

“I love farming, but I was searching for more balance. The role at Perrin Ag allowed me to combine my science background with helping farmers,” says Sam.

“In medical research you’re often focused on a very small problem and go into massive detail picking it apart. In farming you can have 100 different problems in a day and you’re solving them as you go. At the end of the day, you can see what you’ve done, and I find that very rewarding.”

With his property located in the Lake Taupō catchment, Sam has learned first-hand how to farm under a nitrogen cap. These learnings have also helped lay the groundwork for his consultancy role.

At Perrin Ag, Sam has been helping farmers navigate complex and rapidly evolving environmental regulations from nitrogen caps to developing Freshwater Farm Plans.

“My science background means I am a very analytical thinker, but I can bring a pragmatic approach to solving problems, which I think is a really strong combination,” says Sam.

Alongside working directly with farmers, Sam is also involved in an industry project aimed at measuring the effectiveness of various mitigation strategies in reducing nitrogen loss, a representation of the type of industry research Perrin Ag is also involved in.

“A lot of farmers are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about compliance. The work we do at Perrin Ag helps bridge the gap. We help farmers translate regulations into practical solutions that enable farmers to remain compliant while excelling at what they do best: farming,” says Sam.

“I love that every day brings new challenges and that you can see the results of the work you are doing for both the farm businesses we are working with and the land.”

Outside his role with Perrin Ag, Sam is an outdoors enthusiast enjoying the fly fishing, hunting, and snowboarding he is fortunate to have on his back doorstep.

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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.”

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.”