Organics a whole farming system approach promoted by Aquila Farms

Good people and good systems are the cornerstones of the highly successful Aquila Organic Farming Group. Aquila Sustainable Farming General Manager Jessica Craig says organics is a whole system approach to farming. “It’s not just about not applying chemicals. It’s also about looking after animals and people. With organic farming, you have to be proactive rather than reactive. ‘Systems’ is our buzzword as structure protects the organic integrity of the farm.”

She says that it is important that the values of people employed on the farm align with this and what Aquila is trying to achieve. “We only recruit the right people who understand how important our organic processes are. Once they see the benefit of the systems they buy into it really well, and our team engagement is really high.”

Training is also key, and significant investment is made in professional development. Jessica says that the people who join Aquila are keen to learn. “Professional development can be included as part of their working day but if they do it on weekends then we make sure we give them that day back. People also have the opportunity to progress internally to other jobs.” It’s a good example of how rigidity around structure and systems on the farms walks side by side with flexibility.

“For example, we make sure everyone has their own wet weather gear allowance and can pick their own workwear. It’s nice to give people that freedom. We also give teams the autonomy to decide their own roster so they can work around family or other commitments.”

“Donations are made to local community groups each year. In the past, we have donated to the Meat the Need appeal and bale wrap-recycling programme in Southland. This year, we want the teams to decide where donations head. The result is that staff turnover is low among the 36 permanent staff employed across the dairy farms.”

Aquila Sustainable Farming General Manager Jessica Craig says organics is a whole system approach to farming.

“We’re a profitable business that has front-footed environmental sustainability and targets a growing organic market.”

Aquila Sustainable Farming is the asset company tasked with the oversight of the six dairy farms in Southland owned by German alternative investment company Aquila Capital. Four lease blocks support the farms. After purchasing the farms in 2011, in 2016, the process began to convert the farms to organic, and two years later the farms were EU Certified Organic. Milk is supplied to Open Country Dairy.

“Aquila Capital’s strategy is focused around sustainability and renewable energy so organics aligned with those values. With the downturn in the milk price, we also obtained a fixed premium for our organic milk for a ten-year period,” explains Jessica. Later this year, the portfolio of farms will be put on the market because the investment term is coming to an end.

“We’re a profitable business that has front-footed environmental sustainability and targets a growing organic market. We have a unique portfolio of farms with a good corporate structure behind them and great teams on the ground operating each farm. The farms will be available as a going concern and represent a great opportunity.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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