Consultant fulfilling passion for agriculture

Guy Blundell (left) and Hayden Craw, from Compass Agribusiness. Photo Amie Richardson
Guy Blundell (left) and Hayden Craw, from Compass Agribusiness. Photo Amie Richardson
He might not have ended up pursuing a hands-on farming or shearing career but Guy Blundell has still forged a profession in agriculture.

Mr Blundell is managing director of Compass Agribusiness, an agribusiness advisory, agri asset management and client partnership specialist.

Established a decade ago, it has head offices in both Arrowtown - where he lives - and Melbourne, where his business partner former Otago local Nigel Pannett leads the team, and has just opened a Dunedin office.

What started as a one-man-band has grown to a 20-strong team. It was recently awarded a fellowship to the New Zealand Institute of Primary Institute Management, for services to New Zealand's agricultural sector and excellence as a rural professional.

Raised on a sheep farm in Wairarapa, Mr Blundell started out as a shepherd and had a season shearing before realising it was going to be ''a really tough way to make a living''.

He headed to Lincoln and completed a commerce degree in valuation before returning to the farm and setting up a farming business with his brother.

When a farm that they leased was sold, he decided to head overseas for a few months, a stint which stretched to six years.

He ended up studying for his accounting papers and got corporate accounting roles both in London and the Netherlands.

While he enjoyed corporate accounting, it was not something he wanted a career in and, when the opportunity arose to take a role in New York, he decided instead to return to New Zealand, using the skills he had developed to return to agriculture.

After becoming a partner in a North Island firm, he came south to set up its South Island business.

After two years, he bought that business out and started Compass and it had ''just quietly ticked away from there''.

There were two facets to the business; the advisory side, with farm business and technical advisory, and then asset management.

Compass was involved with a raft of different farming operations - dairy, cropping, sheep and beef, several vineyards - ''as diverse as it gets''.

It was also heavily involved in water, including the North Otago Irrigation Company's scheme, and the Manuherikia,Tarras and Lindis irrigation.

It was not the traditional farm advisory model; it was about utilising the different skills within the business to ensure clients got the support they needed, Mr Blundell said.

That structure and team approach was something that appealed to Hayden Craw, who has joined the firm after more than 10 years in agribusiness banking at Westpac. He will lead the new Dunedin office.

Brought up on a family farm at Pigeon Bay, Banks Peninsula, and later West Otago, Mr Craw completed a double degree in agriculture and agribusiness.

After graduating, he began work for Westpac in Christchurch in 2008, just before the global financial crisis - ''an intensely challenging period'' - which taught him the skills he needed to be set up for a financial career, he said.

Over the next several years, he worked in Christchurch and Mid Canterbury before taking a ''career break'' overseas, where he worked on various types of farms in the UK and Europe, before returning to New Zealand and Westpac in 2014.

He was excited about joining Compass - seeing it as a ''natural fit''- and overseeing the growth of the Dunedin office. The change had been invigorating, he said.

There were opportunities in the sector and also pressures, particularly in the environmental space, but there were also opportunities off the back of those, he said.

Mr Blundell said the environmental aspect was a big growth area for Compass along with business advisory, with changes happening in banking.

Asked about the future of farming in Otago, Mr Blundell believed there would be ongoing consolidation and businesses expanding, but family farming operations were still incredibly important.

During a recent trip to Australia visiting clients, Mr Blundell said it was ''completely the opposite'' to New Zealand in terms of the media narrative.

The Government supported farmers, the public supported farmers and there was ''just a real buzz'' in rural communities around the value they were adding to the economy.

But in New Zealand, there was ''so many good things'' going on in the rural sector.

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