Boost for LeaderBrand’s quest to create NZ’s salad capital

Boost for LeaderBrand’s quest to create NZ’s salad capital

LeaderBrand Produce has secured a $15-million Provincial Growth Fund loan, which will accelerate the company’s quest to make Gisborne ‘the salad capital of New Zealand’.

LeaderBrand is to use the funding for the creation of up to 30 hectares of greenhouses, increasing year-round horticulture and boosting production of an in-demand commodity.

LeaderBrand CEO Richard Burke says the funding brings forward an existing strategic plan by up to 10 years. “We already employ more than 370 people in our operations, which covers horticulture and salad processing. With this loan, we’ll create new facilities which enables the cultivation of seasonal crops year-round and the introduction of new crops, as well as expansive opportunities for our salad ranges,” he says.

Environmental and social benefits

Weather is a challenge faced by all growers. A flood, a drought, high winds, frost and other factors can impact production or even completely destroy yields. Greenhouses mitigate these negative impacts, delivering increased resilience through the controlled environment. “This factor alone means we’ll be in a position to boost salad production,” Burke notes.

Covered production also has environmental and social benefits, as less fertiliser and other resources are required. “This improves our already sharp focus on sustainability. And we’re going to add multiple new careers, with many of them being in skilled horticultural areas,” says Burke.

LeaderBrand is the largest private employer in Gisborne. With its history stretching back more than four decades, the company is firmly committed to the region and LeaderBrand is passionate about the creation of quality employment.

“There’s a big difference between a job and a career. We’ve long created great careers for local people interested in horticulture and food processing. The PGF loan will go towards generating even more careers, many of them in technical roles as we introduce new advances in cultivation under cover,” he says.

Over the past five years, LeaderBrand has invested significant private capital into the business, increasing production by more than 240%. In this time, the company has gone from the delivery of 382 truckloads of salads per year to almost 1300.

Along the way, it has added a new salad processing plant, completed in 2017 and adding over 80 new staff members, moved its Agriculture Workshop to a new building, and established a new farm in Matamata.

Burke says the availability of fresh capital – and he stresses that the PGF loan is a commercial arrangement and not a grant – further drives the LeaderBrand vision and adds to the existing investment LeaderBrand has already made into the company.

“There is considerable demand for salad products; the market is there. Along with the creation of some of the biggest covered production in the country, we’ll also explore new cultivation methods and add new crops which couldn’t previously be grown locally.”

Did you know?

Founded in 1975 by Murray McPhail, LeaderBrand is a New Zealand owned and operated company which takes pride in providing fresh produce of the highest quality. With farms in Canterbury, Gisborne, Matamata and Pukekohe, LeaderBrand grows approximately 3,500ha of fresh produce each year for domestic and international customers. Products include a variety of salads, broccoli, lettuce, Buttercup Squash, sweet corn, and Pure’n Ezy Beetroot, available in supermarkets countrywide.

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