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Celebrating outstanding achievements in food and agribusiness

The prestigious Rabobank Leadership Awards are peer-nominated awards recognising outstanding individual achievement, and contribution to, Australia and New Zealand’s food and agribusiness industries.

The two industry accolades – the Rabobank Leadership Award and the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award – are awarded annually to an accomplished leader in the agricultural sector and an up-and-coming leader.

In the 20 years we have been involved in the awards, leaders from both sides of the Tasman have been recognised. 2019 is the first time the Awards have been presented in New Zealand.

Volker Kuntzsch

2019 Rabobank Leadership Award Recipient

The CEO of New Zealand's largest seafood company, Sanford, has taken out the flagship 2019 Rabobank Leadership Award - which recognises outstanding senior leadership in the food and agribusiness industries across New Zealand and Australia.

Volker was appointed into the CEO role at Sanford in 2014, bringing with him an international track record of more than 25 years in the industry and a global reputation. Over the past five years, under his leadership, Sanford has transformed from a commodities player into a business which is focused on creating value for its customers and the company, while at the same time becoming a major advocate of sustainability and creating high-end consumer goods.

Mat Hocken

2019 Rabobank Emerging Leader Award Recipient

Director of Grassmere Dairy based in Manawatu, Mat Hocken, has taken out the 2019 Rabobank Emerging Leader Award - which recognises an up and coming leader who has made a significant contribution to the sector early on in their career.

Mat returned to New Zealand in 2013 to take over the family business, a 1000-cow dairy operation on the banks of the Oroua river in the Manawatu, successfully growing the enterprise and making his mark as an industry leader both locally and nationally.

Key Speaker

John Brakenridge

John Brakenridge

Chief Executive of The New Zealand Merino Company

John is the Chief Executive of The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM), an integrated sales, marketing, and innovation company focused on redesigning the wool industry and complementary areas of New Zealand’s primary industries.

He has extensive experience in international marketing and brand building with his passion spanning a number of areas within the primary sector.

In addition to his world-leading work in the wool industry, John has created close ties with the Stanford Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and through this relationship, created the transformational Primary Sector leadership initiative, or ‘movement’, Te Hono.

What initially began as a grassroots idea to build trust and increase leadership capability, Te Hono quickly became a private sector led, government enabled accelerator of success, with both tangible and intangible benefits whilst unifying over 260 in CEO or senior level governance positions, leaders from Māori business, universities and government agencies. The collective represents over 80% of New Zealand agribusiness and through John’s leadership, the alumni are unified in the long-term vision for Aotearoa, New Zealand to be the global exemplar economically, socially and environmentally and are driving transformation of the current export market from a trading nation to a consumer-centric, value-based paradigm.

In February 2019 John launched the world’s first wool fibre accelerator, Studio ZQ, in Christchurch. This physical foresight space serves as a global connector and is a hub for natural fibre expertise, education, prototyping ideas, innovation and collaboration. Studio ZQ sits at the intersections of design, technology, experiential R&D, narrative and strategy.

In 2013, John was selected as the winner of the KPMG Leader: Outstanding Contribution to International Business in the New Zealand International Business Awards, while NZM won the AUT Business School: Most Innovative Business Model in International Business award. NZM was awarded the Champion Exporter Medium/Large Business at the Champion Canterbury Business Awards 2019 and is a finalist for three of the New Zealand International Business Awards 2019: Best Large Business, Excellence in Innovation and Excellence in Design, as well as finalist with Gaze Commercial in the Best Awards 2019: Offices & Workplace Environments.

John holds an MBA from the University of Canterbury, has completed post-graduate study at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and is currently on the board of Alpine Origin Merino Limited. John recently finished an eight year term on the Pamu Board of Directors and is a member of the New Zealand Primary Sector Council. He has lived and worked in the USA, UK, the Middle East and Europe.

Previous Award Winners

Meet the winners of our prestigious awards

Jim Geltch AM

Leadership Award recipient 2018

The CEO of Nuffield International Jim Geltch took out the 2018 Rabobank Leadership Award, recognising his “fundamentally important” role in developing upcoming leadership.

Anna Speer

Emerging Leader Award recipient 2018

Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) Chief Operating Officer Anna Speer was recognised as a trailblazer with vast potential in the food and agribusiness sector.

David Crombie AM

Leadership Award recipient 2017

Australian beef industry leader David Crombie took out the 2017 Rabobank Leadership Award, in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to agribusiness.

Nathan Free

Emerging Leader Award recipient 2017

Organic farmer Nathan Free received the 2017 Rabobank Emerging Leader Award, recognising exceptional up-and-coming leadership in Australia and New Zealand's food and agribusiness industries.

Sir Graeme Harrison

Leadership Award recipient 2016

Sir Graeme Harrison is the founder and chair of one of New Zealand's largest exporters, ANZCO Foods. He was awarded the 2016 Rabobank Leadership Award in recognition of his contribution to the food and agribusiness sectors.

Jan Vydra

Emerging Leader Award recipient 2016

Entrepreneur and co-founder of one of Australia's leading herb businesses, Jan Vydra received the 2016 Rabobank Emerging Leader Award, recognising exceptional up-and-coming leadership in Australia and New Zealand's food and agribusiness industries.

Sir Henry van der Heyden

Leadership Award recipient 2015

New Zealand business leader and dairy industry identity Sir Henry van der Heyden has received the 2015 Rabobank Leadership Award, in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the food and agribusiness sectors.

Zachary Caudo

Emerging Leader Award recipient 2015

Viticulturist Zachary Caudo, from South Australia’s Riverland has been award the 2015 Rabobank Emerging Leadership Award which recognises exceptional up-and-coming leadership in Australia and New Zealand’s food and agribusiness industries.

Mick Keogh

Leadership Award recipient 2014

Australian Farm Institute (AFI) Executive Director Mick Keogh has been named the recipient of the 2014 Rabobank Leadership Award, recognised for his outstanding contribution to Australia and New Zealand’s food and agribusiness sectors.

Bryce Camm

Emerging Leader Award recipient 2014

The 2014 winner of the Rabobank Emerging leader Award was Bryce Camm, Darling Downs beef producer Bryce Camm has received the 2014 Rabobank Emerging Leadership Award, acknowledging exceptional up-and-coming leadership in Australia and New Zealand’s food and agribusiness industries.

Sir George Fistonich

Leadership Award recipient 2013

The 2013 winner of the Rabobank leadership Award was Sir George Fistonich, the founder and owner of Villa Maria Estate. In a career spanning 50 years, George Fistonich has exemplified true leadership along with an extraordinary passion for the New Zealand wine industry.

Georgie Aley

Emerging Leader Award recipient 2013

The 2013 winner of the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award was Georgie Aley, managing director of the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council. She was also a driving force of the Future Farmers Network, the only national youth agricultural organisation in Australia.

Dr Jim Peacock

Leadership Award recipient 2012

Dr Jim Peacock AC, Australia’s former Chief Scientist and currently Fellow and Chair of CSIRO’s Office of the Chief Executive Science Team and Distinguished Professor at the University of Technology Sydney.

Barry Irvin

Leadership Award recipient 2011

Barry Irvin is executive Chairman of Bega Cheese, chairs the Sydney based charity Giant Steps and is a member of the Order of Australia (AM). His leadership of the business since he joined in 2000 has been nothing short of inspirational.

Dr Bruce Lee

Leadership Award recipient 2010

Dr Bruce Lee is the Director of the CSIRO Food Futures Flagship. The Food Futures Flagship is a collaboration between the CSIRO, industry and research partners.

Robert Hill Smith

Leadership Award recipient 2009

Robert Hill Smith was chosen for the Rabobank Leadership Award for his achievements and commitment both to his business and to environmental and social concerns.

Nick Burton Taylor

Leadership Award recipient 2008

Nick Burton Taylor is a substantial pastoralist, a career businessman, and a highly respected Chairman and Director across a range of industries.

Max Ould

Leadership Award recipient 2007

Max Ould was Managing Director of National Foods between 1996 and 2003. Over the years, he has assisted Government thinking in many food and agribusiness sectors.

John Watson

Leadership Award recipient 2006

John Watson has held Chairman roles at Pivot Ltd, CRC for Innovative Dairy Products and Primesafe and has been a leading figure in the dairy industry deregulation.

John McLean

Leadership Award recipient 2004

John McLean led the Warnambool Cheese and Butter Factory for over 30 years, transforming it from a small factory to an internationally competitive company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Donald McGauchie AO

Leadership Award recipient 2001

Donald McGauchie has been an important leader in Australian grain industry. He was a key driver in the establishment and funding of the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Allan McCallum

Leadership Award recipient 2000

Allan McCallum has shown industry leadership on national agribusiness issues over the last 20 years with a number of representative roles in the agricultural sector.

Douglas Rathbone

Leadership Award recipient 1999

Douglas Rathbone has led Nufarm in the development and provision of solutions that help farmers maximise yield and face the global challenge of meeting increasing food demands.

Award Winners Case Studies

Past winners of Rabobank Emerging Leader and Leadership Awards continue to build on their achievements and leaderships skills. Find out how they have evolved.

Jan Vydra – 2016 Rabobank Emerging Leader Award

How do you go from a fledgling business with a  staff of three to a thriving national company with 130 employees? In a nutshell – through innovation, technology, sustainability and last, but not least, leadership.


Read more

Bryce Camm – 2014 Rabobank Emerging Leader Award

Five years ago, young Darling Downs beef producer Bryce Camm was managing a part of the family-owned enterprise, Camm Agricultural Group, now he is responsible for the entire operation  and overseeing ongoing expansion and efficiencies in the business.

Read more

Mick Keogh - 2014 Rabobank Leadership Award

When he was growing up on his family’s farm in southern NSW, 2014 Rabobank Leadership Award winner Mick Keogh probably never dreamed that he would one day be playing a vital role in safeguarding the interests of all Australian businesses and consumers.

Read more