I attended the Smaller Milk And Supply Herds – known as SMASH – 2019 conference on June 18 at Karapiro, and it was a real breath of fresh air.
After years of listening to speakers at meetings moaning about the trouble and cost of what’s being forced onto farmers, this one was full of new ideas, and positive thoughts about changes that are proving positive and profitable when the attitudes are right.
SMASH was been set up to help dairy farmers, particularly those with smaller operations, to run successful businesses.
And while it looked so tiny not so long ago, it now holds 18 sessions per year all over the country for what are a very devoted group of small farmers.
In tune with the ‘new ideas’ theme, the first speaker was Miraka Ltd’s CEO Richard Wyeth, who explained just how differently this Maori-focused company has approached its task of processing milk from a comparatively small number of farms in a cohesive block near Taupo. They now have 108 suppliers.
Firstly, he was part of a team who raised an initial $55 million to get the basics of a processing plant up and running in time for an upcoming first season in 2010. And they must have done a lot right, because they made a profit from year one.
A geothermal power station and then 25 acres of glasshouses growing tomatoes has been one major difference, coupled with company values of kaitiakitanga, integrity, excellence, tikanga and innovation through collaboration at all levels of hapu and iwi.
The major outside investor has been Vinamilk of Vietnam, which holds 25 per cent ownership, and their focus on UHT milk for infants sold in ‘bricks’ is winning increasing hearts and mouths in China, which is their major customer. They’re now producing 60 million litres of it.
Sustainability has been Miraka’s watchword from day one, and their enormous worm farm copes with all their waste successfully and profitably. They have 130 staff and their operation works to five key criteria – people, environment, cows, milk and prosperity, with a 20 cent bonus paid to those who achieve these 100 per cent.
So far they’ve won some prestigious awards, but are now focused on value add, with the products now named Taupo Pure. They’re working on three more nutritional products.
An interesting feature of their marketing is that they’ve adopted the Chinese practice of promoting their products through key opinion leaders, who tell their friends, who tell their friends; and this form of network marketing is working a treat!