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Never under-estimating the importance of word of mouth is the firm belief of a New Zealand businessman.
The Reese Group of Companies was displaying a piece of equipment at a trade show in France five years ago when a farmer from Corsica took an interest in a seed drill. 
Corsica, the birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte, is a mountainous island in the Mediterranean Sea with a limited amount of arable soil. The farmer wanted a drill that could penetrate hard, stony ground and the Kiwi machine took his fancy.
“He purchased it to sow grass and crops and increase yield and it soon attracted attention from his neighbours in this remote region of France,” Reese director, Rob Baan, recalls.
One by one they’ve bought their own New Zealand built Aitchison seed drill. At last count the agri-tech business has sold 21 units to Corsican farmers and there’s no sign of the brisk trade slowing down.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said “if you want a thing done, do it yourself” and, rather than the farmers hiring a drill from their Corsican cousins, they’ve bought one themselves.
The versatile Aitchison drills are firmly established in the UK and France and Rob Baan estimates that more than 500 units are in active use throughout Europe.
Rob shared this information with the British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell, when she visited the Manawatu on Friday, December 6. He said she was particularly interested to hear that Reese’s distributor in Suffolk, England, successfully uses Great Britain as a springboard into wider Europe.
In addition to Europe, Reese is succeeding in a country where Bonaparte failed. Rob was part of a NZTE trade mission to Moscow in June and, as a result of interest expressed, the first container of Aitchison seeding equipment landed with his new distributor in Russia this month. Some of the machines will be displayed at a National Agricultural Trade Fair in Moscow early next year.
“Russia is a new and possibly important market for New Zealand agri-tech technology,” he says. “We may be on the other side of the world but it is possible to sell around the globe from a manufacturing base in New Zealand.”   
Reese also recently demonstrated how its machinery can successfully drill seed into semi-frozen ground on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
It’s a practice that would be foreign to New Zealand farmers, but is gaining popularity in the north of Japan.
However the company’s main market is still New Zealand and that’s where the company places its focus. “New Zealand farmers and their practical feedback drive our success,” Rob affirms. 
The company has seen good growth over the last five years and now manufacturers a range of farm machinery including grass seeders, fertiliser spreaders, grape harvesters, coil springs and pest control devices. 
“To stay competitive our company needs to consistently produce reliable, versatile, cost-effective products,” Rob says.”We’ve been around for 40 years and want to be recognised as an important part of the New Zealand agri-tech scene for another 40 years.”
Rob would like to personally evaluate the Aitchison seed drills and the way they effectively scratch themselves through the tough Mediterranean terrain. 
While in Corsica he’d be keen to whisper in a few ears so that whisper can be conveyed to a few more. “Great ambition is the passion of a great character,” said Napoleon Bonaparte and Rob couldn’t agree more.
Photo: Rob Baan with British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell.
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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