A Hastings manufacturer is searching for new investors to help fund a multi-million-dollar international expansion plan.
New Zealand Frost Fans, already the leading supplier of frost fans protecting horticulture from cold weather in Australia and New Zealand, has its sights on the next phase of international growth.
The company, has manufactured and marketed the FrostBoss range of fans from its base in Hastings since 1995 and is in the midst of a growth spurt.
Chief executive Steve Haslett said in the current financial year, revenue had increased to more than $40 million and the company had firmly established itself as one of the top three players internationally.
Now facing a range of options overseas, it was working through a strategic review assessing all aspects of the business and its markets.
"We see huge growth opportunity in front of us, particularly in places like Europe and South America where climate change is increasingly delivering more extreme weather events and damaging frosts.
"You look at, say, Europe's top three producers – Spain, Turkey and Italy – and at 3 per cent penetration by frost fans, that's a market opportunity for more than 20,000 fans.
"Add in South American countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile – on the same basis and there's potential for another 8000 machines.
"To date we have really only dipped our toe in these markets and we now know the demand is there.
"So the opportunity for us is huge – within the next three to five years we could be doing three times the revenue that we currently have, and substantially more is possible longer-term but it will require significant funding for the next phase of growth."
The company did not reveal how much investment it was looking to raise but it is expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
New Zealand Frost Fans operated out of an apple packing shed in Hastings when Haslett purchased the business in 2007.
He then set about creating a state-of-the-art fan system with help from experts, including an America's Cup research engineer, to create highly efficient and aerodynamic composite blades.
The company now employs about 60 people, mainly locals, at its manufacturing plant in Hastings.
In 2012, through an acquisition, it opened an Australian business (Australian Frost Fans) which now represents around 60 per cent of new sales.
Haslett said climate change was a big driver for expansion.
"The stage is certainly set for us.
"Our proven system provides crop security for many growers by safeguarding fruit quality and yields – be it for grapes, nuts, apples, citrus, avocados, stone fruit, kiwifruit or berries."
Frost fans draw down the warmer air trapped in the thermal ceiling or inversion layer 15-60 metres above an orchard or vineyard at night, to mix with the colder layer of air around the trees and vines.
The fans are typically 5-6 metres in diameter and mounted on a 10-metre tower, powered by a 160hp engine. Each fan, depending on site-specific features, will cover up to 8ha.