Monday, 26 March 2012

Landline and Tim Lee

We had an ABC Landline reporting team out for a quick interview on Saturday, they were terrific people. In fact we had them for dinner on Friday night and to look after them we placed a table out under the Western Stars, with a perfectly clear night the group of us talked about agriculture in the dark until the early hours of Saturday Morning. I’m not sure of the quality of the interview that morning !!!…….. but I hope we get a bit of coverage for wool and its great potential in the emerging LOHAS market.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wool Carbon Alliance

Flew back into Sydney on Tuesday night and had a great meeting with the Wool Carbon Alliance. At the moment there isn’t much awareness about the Committee however it is formed to protect the Authenticity of Wool as a natural fibre and to develop tools and methods to promote its positive image in the textile industry. I truly believe wool has a great story to communicate with the consumer and with the immergence of the LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) consumer in Asia and India with its 4.1 billion people the demand for wool I believe will only get better.
If anyone wants more information on the Wool Carbon Alliance please comment.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


This is a term referring to sectorial groups and bodies amassing arguments to convince people of extreme views they create which they refer to as factorial.  This is designed to influence the public’s perception of products, brands and activities in this case relating to their environmental impact, the attempt is to deter the level of associated consumerism. They engage the brand/ product/ activity in such an extreme way that a position has to be taken in defence so far from the centre of the debate just to create balance, in essence rendering both arguments reckless.

Although I do believe entirely in sustainability and environmental stewardship as a land custodian, I believe it is a fallacy to dispel all aspects of an opposition’s viewpoint without appraisals and consideration. This characteristic of discussion is dangerous and is the benefactor of uncompromised revolt in world politics, religion, and race. It has the ability to create war, genocide, starvation and despair. On a personal level we must be aware of this and make our own judgements to the level of fact and opinion within a debate. During a debate watch how easily you can be swayed from one side to the other, then take a step back and consider the whole picture and debate in its entirety, once you have done this then re-enter the debate composed and in the centre. Here we will find true power. We can now be speaking from our heart instead of our head.

Armoured Sheep

I visited a farm in Washington near Brighton to the South of London. As Nuffield Scholars we have been chosen due to our conviction in challenging current models and perceptions, this has the ability to create revolutions in our subsequent industries. Here at the Washington farms I was not disappointed. Having previously worked in the automotive industry as a highly sought after and specialised clutch engineer, the Scholar was now throwing all his energy (without a clutch) at the outdoor sheep lambing industry. He and he's famiy started imported New Zealand Romneys in 2008, which provided their base flock with a more robust, fertile and adaptable hybrid. Their production is similar to the Denny Land and Cattle Co of Back Bay Boston, with heavily sloped and awkward blocks sprawled everywhere which has provided them a real niche in terms of rent levels (very clever in profitability and cash flow terms). In affect they have chosen the most suitable sheep for their environment and it is compelling that their genetics and system will spread through Europe, how long it will take I’m not sure due to the lagging effect in innovative Agriculture.

Because they have replaced lambing inside to out, they have also replaced the intensity of indoor monitoring with outdoor gate opening due to the Human factor associated with being close to a large town (hence this is a place it is not advisable to call ‘shotgun’). It was a true Honour to spend time with this Scholar as he brings a very fresh approach to UK sheep modelling even though he made me wear an English Rugby Jersy whilst touring the Farm. The breeding and selection systems were rigorous and reflected a mercenary style discipline which was comprehensive. Rob is very capable and a true gentleman and is the type fellow you would want fighting beside you in the front line in any battle. I hope he’s Assault on the European sheep industry commands the reception it warrants.

The Wrong Day to Wear Cotton

Monday 5/3/12 I met with Rebecca Sharpe a fantastically astute textile ambassador for our industry. Rebecca has built great relations with the high end of the wool and cashmere trade in Europe and we toured Londons famous Saville Row. Here we were priveledged to see the high end culmination of our primary product. We witnessed the most expensive suit ever made (€75000) it was Diamond encrusted with gold Buttons, 18 carrot gold thread woven into the fabric – made from 100% pure wool, (when I asked if the wool was from western Queensland, it was not confirmed or denied). We spoke of the opportunities in the textile industry and the LOHAS consumer and trade. Educating Young Designers the Key – Wool Producers you have a good future with the emerging affluence of India and Asia. China is building the largest department store in London’s history ready for opening later this year, the surprising attribute of this store is that there will be no Asian Brands or products, they will be exclusively stocking Western brands and products…… this reveals to me the integrity and story of brands and products are imperative to the consumer not only in the West but also evidently now in the East. The importance of this to the wool industry is yes……significant. The population of Asia is currently 4.1 Billion or 60% of the world population. This creates a huge buffer for the wool industry in the short to medium term especially with the low National Flock average and the development of New Zealand away from sheep production into Dairy.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Keep Calm and Count Cows

Over the last two days I have had the great pleasure of spending time with a very dignified, modest and eloquent dairy farmer. Having never been exposed to dairy farming before I have great pride in saying I toured with the one of the most proportionalised business minds I have known in Agricultural enterprise. The level of facilities for the animals are state of the art but not extravagant, the level of mastery amongst the staff is compelling but not without endeavour. The cows are content, the calves prospering and the systems are low tech, simple and transferable. If this is an emerging context in agribusiness modelling in the UK they will rise out of the Common Agricultural Policy in good shape.


Willow Farms

2000 hectares 70 Businesses including but not limited to a private school, a livery club, pistol club, gravel pit, arable farm, recycle plant, biofuel refinery, shooting club, machinery exporter/ importer, farm theme Park all with 8 million people within 100km radius and all tenanting land on a direct deposit system what can I say $$$$$

Their themes “Everything has a price”, “How much is it worth to you?” and “Anything is Possible lets discuss the opportunities”

Hope Value

Many farmers in Australia believe there is a direct relationship on return on asset and the value of their land or the land they want to expand on. To an extent I agree that an allocation must be made to ROA (return on asset), but I do not for a second believe this is a conclusive device and consider it a dangerous hurdle to expansion. This view is shared by Willow Farms Director.


The Common Agricultural Policy is created to provide stability in the EU and reduce volatility. There are 13.7 million Farms in the EU, 70% are less than 5ha. The EU employs 17.5 million people in Agriculture. It is viewed generally by the scholars that the subsidies breed incompetence in Farming. This is true for landowner farmers and 3 generation tenants however the farmers renting farms/ paddocks have to squeeze everything out of their enterprise and operation to make it work this is due to the hope value placed in the farms and land in the UK and greater Europe. Whenever a Brit was at the Bar it was their shout as they were subsidised with everything else they were probably, most definately subsidised when buying drinks !! 

The European Union - Policy Positioning

I met with a Lord Henry Plumb at the Farmers Club, we were discussing the power of being present in negotiations over a few Scotches, the discussion trickled just into the morning hours and included a fine Gentleman by the name of Robin Malin of Velcourt who to my understanding founded with Harry Perkins Wesfarmers Australia.

We discussed when Henry was Chairman of the European Parliament and how the negotiations took place. Although there wasn’t any inclusion of the continents outside of the EU in the discussions many attended to protect their countries interests. Australia was not present at these negotiations as they thought they would have no bearing n  the outcome, however when I asked about New Zealanders it was generally viewed that you couldn’t move without tripping over them. New Zealand now has a Lamb Quota into the EU every year of 270000 tonnes to which they have never completely filled.

Free Loaders

Anyone that has a complaint without assertive action is a Free Loader. Farming can sometimes make conversations through complaints, it is hard to change a problem individually but if you have not made every effort to do so but instead relied on others, this is called free loading, no matter how busy a farmer is we should be busier. There is an ever growing need to be present at the table please refer to the EU literature.

The Great Divide

It is interesting to note the divide between the producer and consumer is universal. The retailer is not wholley responsible but arguably feeds and waters the separation from the middle; pushing prices higher for the consumer and lower for the producer creating a bigger margin in the middle. Why would you not create and defend misconceptions and secure domination and influence?  In terms of groceries the companies that have a 20% to 40% profit margin often contain an addictive quality ie phillip morris int, coke, colgate Palmolive etc and are packaged lifestyle products. These products are so successful due to their marketing and result in a misconception on necessity. Especially with the pharmaceutical health products that are flooding checkout and advertising all around the world. These products can be massed produced with no reliance on farmers, health is directly related to sales, therefor thinking will be spawned in this realm. Alas I have a plan...................... linking Producers to Consumers

The Dutch Disease

Speaking with Gijs Kok over Lunch one Day I discussed the innovation and entrepreneur curve in the Australian Economy. It provides far more security to find a career in Mining than to create/ develop/ initiate new commerce. The return to the National GDP is significantly reduced if the population is labour supply driven instead of creating exponential commerce in business.  Entrepreneurs can be created as demonstrated in Holland through their education platforms, Australia is creating workers with the Mining sector dictating wealth.
Professor Gijs Kok relayed a phenomenon called the Dutch Disease. This is where the population became skilled in the Gas Extraction to the North of the Country, due to its profitability the associated personnel became blinkered in their attitudes to outside influence they created infrastructure to support the industry and avoided triggers of emerging competitive markets. Once the Northern Gas collapsed the societal problems became compounded by lack of skill, lack of innovation and lack of motivation. Potentially that labour force could have been a generation of wealth creators for their country, however they were then forced to become laborious in other industries and un motivated due to reduced income

Perishability forms High Cooperation

The success of Cooperatives have been highlighted and scaled with perishability. The flower industry in Holland is 95 percent owned by one Company FloraHolland, which provide a sales and storage service to its producers and controls and manages the overall logististics of the industry. They handle 600million Plants per year, 20000 varieties and a turnover of 4.1 billion Euro from 8000 suppliers and 3000 wholesalers and exporters.  This is a very disciplined industry as the perishability of the flowers limit the flexibility of the producer, the flower industry is all greenhoused with gelatine based nutrients systems. At FloraHolland they sell 21 million plants a day in a Dutch Auction system. The discipline extends to management in that the core view is management should not outlast 3-4 years. Their innovation has contributed to creating technology responsible for 29kilograms of tomatoes from 34 litres of water.

Colleague versus Competitor

The Australian farmers are unregrettably competitive with their businesses and fellow farmers, the Dutch farmers dispel this attitude convincingly and willingly share information. They work as business colleagues and due to the mass population there are large chunks of market for everyone. The Australian Farmers attitude can form high degrees of motivation but it can also become a fault as they see the results and the rough plan of their neighbour but they do not see the total picture and all the intricate components that contribute to its success. The Dutch do not  believe in Profit but rather leftover.

Green Energy

The Netherlands are in the midst of the green revolution regarding energy. From wind Farms, to hydroelectricity, biogas to heating systems from underground water; they have a social conscience that stems from their awareness of consequence.

My observations are that they are a very rigid culture that delivers true professionalism and results in many trade masters. To quote a saying “You can tell a Dutchmen, but you cannot tell a Dutchmen anything” I believe this is very realistic as I have learned a lot in business culture.

Welcome to Holland

 Travelled by bus to Volendam. The sheer scale of undertakings to construct a barrier between the land mass and the sea to seize more agricultural land is unimaginable. The Dyke now provides farming land and habitable land that is lower than sea level. The drainage is such that all farmers have and maintain channels that disperse land of total saturation, the channels are completely full and working nonstop, this also provides irrigation from waters drained from the alps to be dispersed. A large dam can simply be built in these areas with no catchment just a float linking the above sea level fresh water to the below sea level dam, an extreme difference to the arid water systems in Australia.