Laura McQuillan Reece

New graduate advisor impresses with self-drive, intentionality and hands-on farming experience

Laura McQuillan-Reese’s self-drive, intentionality and hands-on farming experience rivals most her age. As Perrin Ag’s newest graduate advisor, she is poised to make her mark on New Zealand’s agricultural sector. 

Perrin Ag launched its Empower Graduate Advisor Development Programme in September last year, inviting applications from graduates from Massey, Lincoln and Waikato universities. Laura was the obvious choice.

Laura (23) grew up on a sheep farm in the small town of Hawarden, Christchurch. From the time she could walk, she was out helping on farm with the animals. It was in those early years that Laura began learning the art of stockmanship and nurturing her passion for farming. 

“I was always in the yards with Dad and loved getting involved with feeding out as a kid,” she says. “My parents taught me how to work with stock and how to move them with minimal stress. My education in farming really began at home.”

Though high school took Laura away from Hawarden, she kept connected to farming over the weekends. During her final year at school, she made a decision that would shape her career in agriculture.

“I was keeping my options open and chose to study in France for the year. But before leaving, I told myself that if I came back and still felt passionate about agriculture, I would go for it as a career.”

After 12 months abroad, Laura’s love of farming was undiminished.

While most of her classmates opted to continue lecture-room learning at university, Laura strategically chose another path.

“I was definitely going to university but didn’t feel the need to rush into another classroom,” she says. “What I wanted was experience with different farming systems, so for a year I worked as a casual shepherd for local farms. I helped with tailing, shearing and whatever else they needed during the busy periods. The insights I gained into these farm systems were gold.”

Though her time at Lincoln University began in 2018, Laura kept building on her practical farming knowledge in parallel with her study towards a Bachelor of Agricultural Science. 

Her first summer was spent working at Mt Algidus Station (Rakaia Gorge, Canterbury) where Laura helped run 3,000 crossbred ewes and 1,500 beef cows. It was a crash course in extensive grazing and cropping rotations.

Laura spent her second summer in Greenpark (Christchurch) on a 1,000-cow dairy farm and her third at Kimihia Research Centre with the PGG Wrightson Seeds’ plant breeding team.

Her Honours year at university was inspired by her upbringing on a sheep farm, but also by the marketing and supply chain approach of the wool industry. Convinced by the value opportunities for wool as a fibre, Laura studied the quality of crossbred wool production in New Zealand and what opportunities that could provide for the industry.

As if Laura’s final two years at Lincoln weren’t busy enough, she chose that time to rear 130 Spring calves per year on leased land to help fund her studies. After creating a viable business plan, she submitted an annual budget to secure bank financing. As well as working with stock agents, vets and suppliers, Laura also secured a forward contract for the calves at 100kg liveweight.

It was this level of drive that caught the eye of Perrin Ag’s Managing Director, Lee Matheson.

“The first thing I noticed from Laura’s CV was how self-directed she was in her learning,” he says. “Her CV is crammed with on-farm experiences that clearly align with her goals. The fact that she reared and sold spring calves in her final year at uni is impressive. That level of intentionality in a 23-year-old is quite something.”

In the latest leg in Laura’s journey with Perrin Ag, she is mentored by experienced agribusiness consultants over two years. It is hands-on from the outset, which suits Laura down to the ground.

“I love getting into things straight way. I’m going out with a variety of consultants, and I’m seeing a wide range of primary industries and systems. I’m excited to gain a real breadth and depth of experience,” she says.

“The Perrin Ag team is extremely creative. They don’t have rigid, templated solutions. They start by listening to each farmer – and they really do listen – then they bring in their knowledge to add value to what a farmer wants to achieve. I’ve already seen some great innovation from this approach, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”



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

Senior Consultant

B.Com Af (FM)

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.”