TWO young guns from the Wheatbelt have been handpicked by one of WA’s most experienced leaders in the export industry to join the team at Harmony Agriculture and Food Company (HAAFCO), as it sets out to make it mark on the livestock industry.
HAAFCO director and executive general manager Australia Steve Meerwald – who has more than 30 years experience in the export game – has this year recruited Brookton’s Kristy Walters and Bruce Rock’s Lachlan Hunter, in the hope that the young high achievers will contribute to the growth of the business.
Since its establishment in early 2016, the Chinese-backed company has grown exponentially, investing in several grazing properties and feedlots across WA and Victoria to create a livestock supply chain into world markets.
At just 22-years-old, Kristy has gone to the HAAFCO team straight from Murdoch University after completing her degree in Animal Science.
Despite having grown up on a mixed cropping and sheep farm in Brookton, it wasn’t until Kristy completed her high school education at Perth College and took a gap year in 2013, that she realised her future was in agriculture.
“After high school I did a gap year and went up north mustering,” she said.
“It was amazing, I loved all of the cattle, the lifestyle, the people and I realised that was where I wanted to go.
“I just love cattle, so that’s what I want to work with for the rest of my life.”
Kristy joined the team in January as HAAFCO’s operations and compliance analyst.
She said the role gave her the opportunity to fulfil her passion of working hands-on with the company’s 15,000 head of livestock, spread between its feedlot in Kalannie and its grazing properties at Esperance and Dundonnell, in western Victoria.
“The role is quite varied, it involves working the yards, making sure everything is on track there and then also being in the office,” Kristy said.
“One week I’ll be writing a new manual, or I’ll be on-hand on the property, or I’ll be going to the airport to help label some product going overseas and then I’ll be coming back to the office to catch up.
“It’s great, it’s a good mix of office time and time on the property and I like being able to be out, actually working teams and building relationships everywhere.”
Lachlan joined the HAAFCO team in May, and is using his agricultural background and experience in State politics to bolster the company’s external affairs.
From a mixed cropping and sheep farm at Bruce Rock, Lachlan graduated from Cunderdin Agricultural College in 2012.
While completing Year 12, he was awarded a cadetship and went on to spend 12 months working for InterGrain as a plant breeding technician.
This coincided with the commencement of his studies at The University of Western Australia (UWA), where he went on to complete a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Politics, graduating last year.
Throughout his studies, he also worked full time for the National Party’s then Minister for Regional Development, Terry Redman.
“I worked for an Upper House member of parliament as their research officer and then had the opportunity to go into the ministerial office which was fantastic, I saw a lot of the State so that was good fun,” Lachlan said.
“That finished up in March when we lost the election, it was sad because you saw the work that you’d been doing for the last three or four years come to a complete halt but it was a good experience.”
After a month off, the 22-year-old was recruited by Mr Meerwald and is now an integral part of the team at HAAFCO’s Cottesloe office.
Lachlan said although working in the private sector was a big change from his role in politics, he was excited about his new position.
“It’s different each week, but basically I’m working on issues at the organisation that are going through social media, bringing up our brand, building relationships with industry groups and government,” he said.
“Coming from a family farm you can actually really appreciate what Harmony’s principles are trying to achieve, they’re actually making the ag space better but as well supporting regional communities so I think that’s why my role ties in well from my background of where I’ve come from.
“My role is about ensuring that people know about what we do, and why we do what we do.”
The scope of opportunity available at HAAFCO was one of the main attractions for both Kristy and Lachlan, who envisage a long future with the company.
Despite only being in their mid-20s, these young guns are working in roles that cover the entire organisation, an opportunity they said few their age would imagine.
“It’s very fast paced but I probably wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s a great company that is growing very quickly,” Kristy said.
“Being fresh out of uni, some of the things that I have access to let alone that I am actually doing is probably any graduates dream, I’m very lucky they found me.
“The most enjoyable thing is that we’re forever evolving and there’s always something exciting happening, especially with the executive team that we have and the relationship with the Chinese investors is that nothing seems impossible,” Lachlan said.
“I will certainly be a part of that journey for however long it needs to take, the company is forever growing so it’s an exciting one to be a part of,” he said.