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Finding sustainable solutions

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash yesterday visited LeaderBrand to walk through the recently-opened fresh distribution centre and inspect the ongoing construction of the 11-hectare undercover greenhouse project.

In October 2019, Kānoa — Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit loaned the company $15 million to help fund the ambitious construction.

The aim of the project is to accelerate crop growth all-year-round in a more sustainable manner, helping to mitigate weather impacts, significantly reduce fertiliser and water usage as well as protect soil structure.

Mr Nash walked around the massive project as well as the 40-million-litre water dam and one-million-litre treated water tank before going through the state-of-the-art salad house and fresh distribution centre.

“LeaderBrand's Tairāwhiti operations are a particularly impressive example of how to scale up an operation while keeping it sustainable and innovative,” Mr Nash said.

“The Government is proud to support regional economies and projects like LeaderBrand to find sustainable solutions to expand, innovate and create jobs year-round.”

LeaderBrand chief executive Richard Burke said the project had been plagued with delays thanks to ongoing issues with Covid, global freight issues, severe storms and general building delays, but was glad to be nearing the end of construction on the small greenhouse.

“We now have the roof and sides secured on the three-hectare greenhouse and construction has started on the internal mechanics as well as the highly technical watering and cooling system.

“Then we get to start the exciting part of preparing the soil and commencing our first planting.

“It has been a hard slog but the team has persisted in such trying conditions. We will all be grateful to see this come to fruition in several months and taste our first crop.

“We continue to challenge ourselves to lift the benchmark for growing produce and ensure that we are finding more efficient ways to help feed New Zealanders with healthy and affordable fresh vegetables.

“Our team was incredibly proud to walk Minister Nash through the whole salad growing process,” Mr Burke said.

“We took him from the field to the processing of our bagged salads then out to the cooling centre for preparation for distribution. Every day, across our farms, it is a team effort to grow salads all-year-round and it was great for the team to get acknowledgment from the Minister for their efforts.”

Construction on the larger greenhouse continues.

MAKING PROGRESS: From left, LeaderBrand CEO Richard Burke, MP Stuart Nash, GM Farming's Gordon McPhail and MP Meka Whaitiri visiting LeaderBrand's undercover greenhouse. Picture supplied
LeaderBrand GM Processing Richard McPhail and chief executive Richard Burkeshow Minister Stuart Nash and Minster Meka Whaitiri around the new distribution centre. Picture supplied