Victoria's Jan Vydra received the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award at a ceremony in Sydney last night.
Mr Vydra is the executive director of Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs, which he has grown from 2000 to 180,000 bunches a week in sales.
Rabobank Australia and New Zealand group managing director, Peter Knoblanche, said Mr Vydra was a “trailblazer” in the food and agri industry. Only nine years ago he started the fresh herb company, which has now become one of Australia’s leading producers of fresh leaf greens, culinary herbs, micro-greens and edible flowers.
Accepting the award, Mr Vydra said his leadership style had been developed at a very young age, when at just 23 he was appointed general manager of an organisation with 90 employees.
Now 34, and running his own company with 85 employees, working across two sites in Victoria, Mr Vydra said he learned a lot from that early experience.
“The most important thing I learned is that, as a leader, you need to paint a picture of where you want your business to go,” Mr Vydra said, “and then communicate it to all your stakeholders so they are on board with your vision.
“For us at Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs, our vision has always been to produce consistent fresh produce for our consumers in a sustainable way.”
Mr Vydra is an advocate for encouraging young people to get in to agriculture, and being a first generation farmer himself, he said integrating technology into agriculture was a way to attract the younger generation.
“We need to show young people that farming can be ‘cool’ too,” he said.
As part of his win, Mr Vydra will undertake an international educational farm visit to a country relevant to his agricultural sector, as well as business mentoring sessions with the 2016 Rabobank Leadership Award winner, Sir Graeme Harrison, who received the flagship award in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the food, beverage and agribusiness sectors.
Mr Harrison is the founder and chair of one of New Zealand’s largest exporters, ANZCO Foods, which is a multinational integrated beef and lamb producer and marketer.
The company operates farms, sheepmeat and beef processing plants, New Zealand’s largest cattle feedlot, food manufacturing plants, retail outlets and an innovation centre in New Zealand, and has market representation in countries including Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, North America, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Australia.
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