Role with seed firm just the ticket

Andrew Miller was brought up on a mixed farm on the Taieri Plain that included stud sheep and ...
Andrew Miller was brought up on a mixed farm on the Taieri Plain that included stud sheep and cropping. Photo: supplied

Andrew Miller is in the enviable position of "walking the walk as well as talking the talk''.

Mr Miller was recently appointed sales manager of international seed business Germinal. The position, based in Dunedin, has a New Zealand-wide focus.

As well as extensive knowledge and understanding of the agronomy sector, Mr Miller has hands-on farming experience. He was brought up on a mixed farm on the Taieri Plain that included stud sheep and cropping, and he recalled his early years attending A&P shows.

The family converted to dairying in the 1980s.

Mr Miller was a successful rower, a sport he began during his days at Otago Boys High School. But when a knee injury meant rowing was no longer an option, he went to Lincoln.

He completed a B ComAg and some science papers gave him some broader knowledge.

While not sure what he wanted to do, he knew he did not want to go banking and he initially worked for a dairy farming couple, who were using border-dyke irrigation, and where pasture management was key.

An opportunity arose to join small seed company Hodder and Tolley, which was his introduction, in the 1990s, to the world of seeds and agronomy.

It was an chance to use his own experience of cropping and systems from his young years on the farm, coupled with an affiliation for stock. It was all about growing the grass to feed the animals, he said.

There were some great people at the company, with a real passion for the industry, and that rubbed off on him.

After Hodder and Tolley was bought by Wrightson Seeds, he worked for Wrightson Seeds as a consultant in Australia for several years.

Returning home, he did some private consultancy before an opportunity arose with Ravensdown.

He joined the company as a fertiliser representative and progressed to chemical rep, before joining CRT (now Farmlands).

Most recently, Mr Miller was in an advisory and training role in the grain and seed division of Farmlands as an agronomist.

The team at Farmlands were "top guys'' but it was time for a new challenge, he said.

A major attraction with Germinal was it was a family-owned business.

"We sold Germinal products at Farmlands, so I know the varieties well. Germinal has high-quality varieties which fit many New Zealand systems already, but we are developing new material even better suited to the New Zealand market which will come on stream in the years ahead.

"Germinal has strong science behind its products, so helping farmers understand and realise these benefits by increasing production and profitability excites me and will be extremely satisfying,'' he said.

The company had an international reputation and, while Germinal New Zealand's footprint was small, with a team of two, it was not trying to do everything. But what it was doing, it wanted to do "really, really well''. That attitude and ethos really appealed to Mr Miller.

His appointment had taken the pressure off colleague Sarah Gard, who was able to focus on plant breeding development.

"Everything'' appealed about his job and it had proven both refreshing and challenging.

High-sugar grass was a point of difference, particularly where he saw the New Zealand market heading.

He had a lifetime of learning and understanding and there was a wealth of information "buried in the literature'' to do with with fertiliser and grass seed.

Mr Miller felt very fortunate his family had retained its farm; an uncle was bought out with the help of an equity partner a few years ago, and his three children were sixth-generation connected to the farm.

Mr Miller's father was still very active on the farm, which enabled him to do his "day job''. And they had a very capable herd manager.

The 200ha property wintered 560 cows and Mr Miller admitted he had the "best of both worlds''.

The farm was his "hobby''; he enjoyed getting out in the tractor at the weekend - "that's my round of golf'' - and it also provided valuable thinking time.

It was about looking at the farm's strengths and weaknesses, leveraging off those and plugging gaps, looking after the cows and the ground, he said.

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