Close-knit organisation adds strength to robust fertiliser spreading service

There is much to be said for being a small organisation representing a niche industry sector (fertiliser spreading), and a niche industry service (Spreadmark). While large enterprises typically have the power, the resources, the reputation and the financial backing to get things done on a grand scale, size can sometimes prohibit the speed with which changes are made.

Without being encumbered by multiple layers of processes and people, small associations like ours, the NZGFA, can make relatively quick, effective decisions. We can canvas our memberships easily – since we know who everyone is – and, importantly, we can work as a team.

Operating as a team – more like a family really – serves two main purposes.

The first is that it motivates our organisation, creating a real sense of involvement for members as well as friendship, pride and mutual respect and concern. We all look out for each other – this means we are committed to providing high level, spreader driver training programmes, as well as updates and advice on health and safety. As part of my president’s manifesto I want to ‘ensure that all our people get home safely each night’. As an association we encourage our members, our partners and our customers to think ‘safety first’, every single time.

Like many other small groups we also enjoy each others’ company. We like the problem-solving, the discussion, the banter and the laughs. We have regular workshops and regional branch meetings up and down the country and host an annual conference to which we invite partners and children. This two-day event (family trip), has being going strong now for 62 years, which speaks for itself.

The second purpose is that we work hard to deliver the best service possible to farmers, growers and other fertiliser users. Having such a deep sense of unity across the association means that we all understand our service promise to our customers. We ground spreaders are highly skilled and highly trained to spread fertiliser accurately and evenly.

We are all immensely proud that we uphold New Zealand’s only fertiliser spreading standard, Spreadmark. Spreadmark accreditation is not easy to bag by any means. And there is cost, and time, involved too. But this makes it all the more valuable to have.

Ask yourself, as a fertiliser user would you like your expensive fertiliser product distributed on your land with skill by a spreader truck driver (or pilot) who also puts health and safety first, who respects environmental rules and who assures accuracy of spreading? Or would you prefer the fertiliser just to go onto the land as cheaply as possible (regardless of the conditions), so you can tick the ‘job done’ box?

Spreadmark accreditation certainly gives our spreader companies (both ground and aerial) the competitive edge. And while many farmers, growers and other fertiliser users, including regional councils, understand this, there are still some who aren’t seeking accredited Spreadmark companies.

This is often because of a sense of loyalty. You may have been using the same spreading company (that isn’t Spreadmark accredited) for years. You may well be happy with the job and the relationship you have with the drivers. But, let’s pause there for a second. Consider this: you are asked as a supplier to prove that your on-farm good management practice includes fertiliser distribution. In short, you can’t do this unless your spreader is Spreadmark certified.

Only a Spreadmark spreader can provide you with proof (including a GPS log) that your fertiliser has been accurately distributed by a trained operator using certified spreading machinery and a management system that dovetails with your economic and environmental outcomes. As agriculture talks more and more about ‘precision ag’ and as consumer demand for traceability, transparency and provenance continues to rise around the world, it is highly likely that more food processing companies will be asking for evidence of accurate fertiliser placement.

Milk processor, Synlait, is doing this already with its Lead with Pride incentive programme. To qualify for this voluntary scheme (which rewards suppliers who meet stewardship standards for environment, animal health, milk quality and social responsibility with premium financial returns), suppliers must include an audit for fertiliser application.

Another reason why fertiliser users might not be employing Spreadmark accredited spreaders is that they might not be aware of all the advantages of Spreadmark, and so don’t ask if their spreader is Spreadmark certified.

Well, it’s time to change that. It is in your interest to ask your spreader if they are Spreadmark certified. And if they aren’t, it is in your interest to find a local spreader who is. We’ve made this task easy for you. Our recently revamped website ( features a new ‘find a ground spreader near you’ section where you can search across 118 Spreadmark companies.

And once you’ve found your certified spreader – perhaps you could spread the word?