WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
Never underestimate the size of the task in front of you and, similarly, never underestimate your abilities to deal with the task in front of you.
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO UPCOMING FARMERS?
Accept that you won’t know everything. When you’re starting something, you need to accept that you are not an expert and speak to as many experts as you can. Choose carefully the people you talk to. Even though I have a postgraduate degree and some business knowledge, I knew my limitations. You must humble yourself and get people with more knowledge to help.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY IF YOU COULD?
I could have been a lot more aggressive in terms of working on my growth strategy from the start. In the first five years I was more conservative and did not realise the opportunities that came with growth.
WAS IT A STRUGGLE TO GET FINANCING? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER SOMEONE WHO IS LOOKING FOR FUNDING?
It’s always a struggle for new farmers to get finance. The banking system focuses on two things: fixed assets and cash in the bank. Everything else, like writing cash-flow projections or putting money on paper, is a waste of time. Develop a three-year plan to acquire some fixed assets and get some money in the bank to back up your cash-flow projections.
WHAT ROLE HAVE INPUT SUPPLIERS PLAYED IN YOUR SUCCESS?
They are quite involved in the operation because they are knowledgeable and helpful with the technical issues. I have built up an exceptionally good team of suppliers who help me take decisions.
IF YOU COULD GIVE THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE SOME ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Although it’s important to give as much support as possible to smallholder and subsistence farmers, to create a massive number of jobs the emphasis should be on large-scale commercial and mega farmers. Those are the operations that will employ 100 to 400 people at once. So for farmers who are entering the industry to be able to compete in the market, they must acquire some sort of scale.
HOW IMPORTANT HAS ORGANISED AGRICULTURE BEEN TO YOUR BUSINESS?
We need to segment the farmers into categories, for instance subsistence farmers and smallholders who are more dependent on government support. Organised agriculture, especially commodity-based and study groups, is the best way to learn about the commodity trends and marketrelated issues that farmers face.