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Trailblazing a new era of sustainable farming in NZ

In an era of “dirty dairying” and animal welfare discussions, New Zealand-based limited partnership fund Southern Pastures is turning stereotypes on their heads. Not only is it a poster child of how farming ought to be done, but it’s been named on the shortlist for the World Sustainability Awards in Germany.

Southern Pastures, which owns Lewis Road Creamery and New Zealand Grass Fed Products Limited Partnership, is a long-term Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Waikato client, and our team has watched it go from strength to strength.

The tale began with astronaut Neil Armstrong in 1969. A young Prem Maan, now executive chairman of Southern Pastures, saw how excited adults were when the American became the first man to walk on the moon. It sparked Prem’s lifelong interest in science and now he ponders what time-lapse photos of Earth might look like if taken from space at that pivotal moment through to 2022.

“You would see two things: Firstly, how beautiful Earth is and how lonely it is – it’s a shining planet. But you’d also see the atmosphere is thickening due to the greenhouse gas effect, and the other disturbing picture is that the topsoil is thinning and disappearing, and the two are related.”

He’s spent a long time thinking about this – long enough to create a powerhouse agricultural business with several talented and knowledgeable cohorts.

You might have heard of one of them. Former All Blacks captain Graham Mourie is one of the four founders – not that Prem or the investors care about his rugby heritage. They value Graham for his five-generation dairy farming expertise. The other two founders are Taari Nicholas and “Forensics” Phillip Wight (named for his laser-like focus). In 2009 they set about building a principles-led model of dairy farming.

In their own small way, they’re trying to save the world. Prem, who has a background in economics, investment banking and agriculture, feels “sustainability” represents sameness, so they have a loftier ambition: Resilience and increased production in the face of climate volatility.

He refers to this goal as “antifragility” and says the term comes from former option trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb – he of the phrase “Black Swan”. It denotes the capability to thrive and grow in times of volatility, randomness, disorder and stress. “That’s something we’ve taken to heart,” says Prem. “Each time there’s a crisis we take the view that we should use it to try and make our business stronger.”

Read full article: Bakertilly