Rodger Hobson’s New Zealand Adventure
The Hobson family are the UK’s largest grower of carrots for the processing market, producing over 30,000 tonnes each year across 364ha. Rodger’s farm also crops 1,620ha of cereals, including winter and spring wheat, spring barley, sugar beet, vining beans and OSR. He has over 20 years of carrot-growing and farming experience and is the chairman of the British Carrot Growers Association.
We asked him about his recent trip to New Zealand with BASF…
What was your impression of NZ farms?
They’re excellent – obviously they were handpicked for the trip, but they were all excellent. We saw the world record holder for wheat yields, and also 2010’s record holder.
We saw a huge range of agricultural operations and all were very impressive.
All the businesses we saw had scaled up – they were efficient and had worked out their market. It’s all about knowing your customer and knowing your market.
No one farm stood out because they were all so good, but it was the combination of them that was so impressive.
What surprised you?
The whole thing surprised me because I didn’t know what to expect. In particular though, I was impressed by how well organised the study trip was. We were flat out for 14 days talking and listening and learning every day.
What was your impression of NZ as an agri-food exporting nation?
They only have a population of 4m, but they have as much agricultural land as the UK, so they export everything. Everything they do is very market focused.
Dairy is a huge part of NZ farming and it is being driven by demand from China as it modernises. NZ appears to have grown its dairy sector as a result.
They were also growing a special type of squash for the Japanese market, in large quantities. So even though this might appear niche to us, they were doing it on a huge scale.
Perhaps we in the UK are less market focused.
In terms of branding NZ goods, my impression was that people do not say “oh it’s from NZ, I must have it” – they are not branding their food with pictures of rugby players and kiwi birds – instead they are maintaining an extremely good reputation for consistent quality.
What did you learn about cereal growing in NZ?
It’s remarkably similar in NZ to the UK. But they struggle with different diseases, have different techniques to us, and they burn their stubbles, so they don’t have black-grass.
Will you change anything as a result of the trip?
There was so much collective experience in one place.
I came back feeling refreshed, galvanised and enthusiastic.