Horticulture specialist joins Perrin Ag as land use change trend continues

Perrin Ag has appointed a senior horticultural specialist, as an increasing number of land owners consider land use change to take advantage of better returns.

Perrin Ag has appointed a senior horticultural specialist, as an increasing number of land owners consider land use change to take advantage of better returns.

Dave Whalley is the agribusiness consulting firm’s newest senior consultant, whose journey in commercial horticulture began in the late 1970s when he started an orchard cadetship in Te Puke.

With a Diploma in Horticulture from Lincoln University, Dave’s diverse career in the industry has seen him gain extensive experience in fruit and vegetable cropping, nursery production, landscaping, and turf and ecological restoration.
While he has practical hands-on experience with managing a variety crops, Dave knows what it takes to operate a successful business in horticulture.

“Horticulture is an attractive investment option, with the net return per hectare for Kiwifruit and Avocados significantly more than dairy or sheep and beef,” he says.

“According to the latest industry survey data¹, owner-operated dairy farm operations in the Bay of Plenty returned an operating profit of just under $2,000 per hectare at a $6.40/kgMS milk price. Higher milk prices will see this lift, but depending on the crop, net returns per hectare from horticulture can range from $40,000 to $100,000.

“The international market for dairy is buoyant and milk prices are nearing record levels. Many dairy farmers are considering how they can make this extra cash flow work harder for them. At the same time, increasing regulation is creating uncertainty amongst farmers, so some are diversifying to help spread risk and reduce environmental externalities.

“We are seeing a growing number of dairy farmers, including Māori entities, considering diversifying part of their on-farm portfolio into horticulture, particularly if they have areas of their farm that might be suitable or they farm in a proven production area.”

Dave says establishing a horticultural operation is a costly and complex business, but with solid financial backing and the right advice, it can be extremely lucrative.

“Selecting the right block of land in the right location for the right crop is crucial, so the existing farm might not necessarily be the best place to do it.

“You need the expertise to do a thorough analysis of the pros and cons and review aspects like soil type, climate, availability of labour, processing, expertise and contractor services, as well as the time commitment required by the farm owner. It might make more sense to buy a block in a region that has a proven track record in growing a particular crop.

“Most of the time it’s about maximising returns, but for Māori entities in particular, it can also create employment opportunities for whānau, so that needs to be factored into the equation.”

Perrin Ag managing director Lee Matheson says Dave’s role will involve helping landowners assess the feasibility of different options for land optimisation.

“An increasing number of farmers recognise that choice of land use isn’t necessarily an ‘either or’ situation and integrating multiple land uses within traditionally single sector operations can be a way to reduce their environmental footprint, diversify income streams and assist with succession.

“Dave’s appointment builds on the horticultural knowledge and expertise of our team, so we are well positioned to provide advice and guidance to clients who are pursuing business opportunities outside of their traditional farming businesses.”

Dave’s expertise also extends to riparian planting, which forms an integral part of farm environment plans for dairy and sheep and beef farmers.

“Over the last 10-15 years these industries have done some great work in terms of using riparian planting to reduce nutrient run off into waterways, exclude stock and minimise land erosion.

“With the Government recently committing funds to help broaden farmers’ uptake of integrated farm planning, our team expects to see more demand for expertise in this area.”
Dave says effective riparian planting is not as simple as buying some plants from the nursery and putting them in the ground.
“Riparian planting needs to be well-planned and well-managed from the beginning.

“Buying lots of plants that are cheap because they are small is often not the best policy, unless you have a stringent weed maintenance programme in place.

“While preparing the planting site is important, the subsequent 2-3 years of maintenance are also crucial to avoid plants being smothered with gorse, broom, blackberry or grasses. You need the expertise and manpower to do the job right.”

Dave started with Perrin Ag in December 2020. He is based in Rotorua, where he lives with his wife Jacqui, who also has a background in vegetable cropping.



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.”