Hill News November 2020 – Message from the CEO
A lot has happened at Hill Labs since our last newsletter was published around three months ago. Our three asset acquisition deals – with Hilltop Software, TDDA/Omega Laboratories and Ormond Nurseries (for the assets of Vine Test Laboratories) – all settled successfully, and these operations have now been successfully integrated into our business. We historically have not completed many acquisitions, so it is very pleasing to see these go so well, which is partly due to the positive way the vendors have worked with us in each case.
In all three instances, the owners and managers of the businesses wanted to see the considerable value they had created over the years preserved as part of a well-managed change in ownership, so we are grateful to them all for working with us so constructively during this critical period. We are now looking forward to these new additions to our business thriving into the future.
Another very significant event for us in recent months was signing a contract with Zespri to deliver fruit maturity clearance services to them and their growers in the form of on-orchard sample collection and laboratory testing. Standing these new services up will be the most ambitious undertaking we have ever tackled, due to both the scale of the project but also the very tight time constraints that we are working within.
Currently, we are in the process of fitting out a new 1000 m2 laboratory facility in Tauranga, implementing a range of new workflows, securing around 50 vehicles, appointing around 300 new staff and delivering a substantial amount of new software - which all need to be completed by early next year. Fortunately, we have a strong project team working on this and some great contractors - so we are on track to have established the new operations in time for the kiwifruit harvest next year.
It feels strange to be embarking on such a positive phase of growth in our business, given how worrying things looked only six months ago, and given that the world is still in the grip of a very serious pandemic. But that being said, I continue to be surprised at how much positivity there is among many other NZ businesses currently. Some sectors are of course continuing to experience hardship, and I don’t mean to diminish the significance of their suffering, but most of the people I speak to are having a strong run in their respective businesses currently – more positive even than they had planned for at the start of the year. Businesses generally seem to be thriving.
The run up to the Christmas/New Year break is always a busy and stressful time for us, as I know it also is for many of you - our customers. This year will be particularly stressful with the ever-present threat of another outbreak of community transmission of the Covid-19. We must all remain vigilant, disciplined and look forward to a summer break with our loved ones in this oasis that is NZ in the post-Covid world.
- Dr Jonno Hill, CEO