Waikato’s plant powerhouse for sale

5:05 AM Saturday February 4, 2017 Colin Taylor

An aerial view of Growing Spectrum at 103 Lyon St, Kihikihi, Waikato. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand’s biggest commercial wholesale plant and shrub nursery near Te Awamutu in the southern Waikato has been placed on the market.

Growing Spectrum at 103 Lyon St, Kihihiki, grows more than half-a-million plants for sale annually – supplying most of the nation’s garden centres and selected home improvement mega store outlets.

The freehold land, buildings and going concern business are being jointly marketed for sale by Bayleys’ Auckland and Hamilton offices and feature in Bayleys’ latest Total Property portfolio out this weekend.

“The property encompasses a 9.635-hectare all-in-one seedling, nursery and potting operation,” says Paul Dixon who, with fellow sales agent Carolyn Hanson, is marketing the complex and business for sale by deadline private treaty closing on March 8.

“Growing Spectrum’s products are found in 161 outlets throughout New Zealand,” Dixon says. “About 95 per cent of the stock is sold to retail garden centres and DIY megastores, with the remaining small volume sold directly to landscaping firms and local bodies.

“In addition to the stock grown on-site at Kihikihi, 60 per cent of product is grown under contract.”

The family owned and operated business was established 40 years by husband and wife horticultural entrepreneurs Peter and Carol Fraser. It now employs 36 full-time staff, with the company’s sales growing consistently over the past three completed financial years – reaching $4,760,000 in the 2015/2016 period.

“The company and its directors are focused on producing premium quality plants for the New Zealand market, and over the space of 40 years, the business has achieved industry-wide respect for maintaining this focus,” Dixon says.

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Workers in the nursery’s hot house.

The Lyon St, Kihikihi, property encompasses a number of commercial buildings including:

  • a five-bedroom 360sq m owner/manager’s home;
  • 217sq m of offices containing a training facility doubling as a boardroom, multiple administration offices, a reception area, staffroom, and toilet amenities;
  • a purpose-built propagation facility comprising 1663sq m of ‘hot housing’ where cuttings and seedlings are grown by seven horticultural specialists; and
  • a separate 240sq m potting shed featuring a semi-automated potting line with potting mix hopper.

Growing Spectrum operates its own trucking fleet for transporting the bulk of its products throughout the North Island. A transport contractor is responsible for logistics in the South Island.

“With its own delivery fleet, the company can deliver fresh stock within 24 hours of orders being taken,” Dixon says.

He says Growing Spectrum has made a concerted move toward environmental-sustainability over the past 10 years – recognising that man-made chemicals sometimes have severe side-effects on the environment.

“As a result, herbicide usage within the Growing Spectrum business is now kept to a minimum, with dedicated ‘weeders’ employed to remove any signs of burgeoning growth before any weeds can seed. In addition, waste potting product and green waste is removed off site for use on nearby agricultural land.”

Accounts for the nursery operation show the business currently holds about $1,747,000 worth of flora stock. Growing Spectrum also has around $740,000 of assets – predominantly made up of its vehicle fleet, along with production machinery and equipment.

“Buildings are not included in this valuation,” Dixon says.

Hanson says the company’s commitment to growing standards of professionalism in horticultural retailing is evidenced by the establishment of its own onsite horticultural training centre.

“This educates new inductees to the wider horticultural sector, alongside with upskilling the sales staff of outlets stocking its products,” she says.

“Stringent quality control procedures are monitored and documented at every stage of the process beginning in the propagation department where cuttings, seeds and seedlings are initially raised. This strict process is continued by the production team which nurtures the small plants through their life stages, and is also followed finally the dispatch hub which selects only premium-grade stock for the market.”

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The potting shed has a semi-automated potting line with potting mix hopper.

Hanson says Growing Spectrum has won multiple industry awards for its products over the past four decades, including:

  • Nursery and Garden Industry New Zealand Nursery of the Year;
  • Palmers Supplier of the Year; and
  • Mitre 10 Supplier of the Year finalist.

She says the Frasers, as owners, have identified several market growth opportunities and the potential to improve operation efficiencies in the business, but are at a stage in their commercial lives where they are ready to make those prospects available to any new owners.

“Among these is an avenue to enhance fruit and vegetable seedling propagation; while from an operational perspective there is the potential to implement a modern water reticulation and irrigation system – such as drawing water from on-site bores rather than paying for the town supply.”

Currently, irrigation of the extensive planting and nursery plots is delivered from the Te Awamutu town water supply.

“Growing Spectrum is a classic example of a vertically integrated manufacturing operation - growing seedlings, replanting and potting them, and then transporting stock to market,” Hanson says.

“New owners might also look at developing the on-line retailing side of the business.”

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Paul Dixon & Carolyn Hanson of Bayleys.