A Te Puke-based produce company has grown its value from $31 million to $330m in 10 years by being ''aggressive and nimble'' and having big aspirations.
Seeka has weathered the Covid-19 storm and continues to seize opportunities in New Zealand and across the Tasman as it looks to expand further in the future.
Chief executive Michael Franks said the business was growing fast. Figures show last year Seeka's total revenue climbed 23 per cent to $310m, while the compound annual growth rate was 27 per cent.
''Our aspiration to grow is in our DNA.''
The company was the largest kiwifruit producer in New Zealand and Australia, and a major provider of supply chain services that were delivered globally.
Seeka's product lines included kiwifruit, kiwi berries, Hass avocados and the new Gem avocado variety, which was in development. Across the Tasman, it had 250ha in production with Hayward kiwifruit, Nashi, dates, European pears, apricots, plums and cherries.
Founded in 1980 by a group of orchardists ''sitting around on a deck'', the company prefers to fly under the radar but its vision remains the same.
''You can't just grow for the sake of it,'' Franks explains.
''We have got to add value for our investment community because we are stewarding public money. People are also entrusting us as a service provider and expect exciting systems and returns from a service they can trust.''
Seeka was made up of four business components including kiwifruit orchards, and 11 packhouses from Kerikeri to Coromandel, Tauranga, the Mount, Opotiki, Gisborne and Te Puke.
''So through that network of packhouses, we are a very large regional employer. In and around our post-harvest business we also have our own laboratory and engineering and automation and innovation team.''
Across all its businesses Seeka had about 800 permanent employees, and this ballooned to 4500 during the kiwifruit harvest.
Seeka was also developing and managing orchards with Māori. There are 65ha of Hayward orchards in development in conjunction with Māori down the coast from Opotiki with development plans for a lot more.
The company produced the Kiwi Crush range of products and avocado oil. Its Seeka Fresh business exported kiwi berries, avocados and kiwifruit to Australia. It imported tropical fruits and local seasonal fruits and vegetables to an ''incredibly fast-paced'' wholesale market in Auckland and a distribution centre in Christchurch.
Franks said Seeka's success was due in part to its deliberate acquisition strategy and it had invested tens of millions of dollars into capacity.
For example, that included a new automated high-efficiency coolstore at Transcool and a new machine for its KKP packhouse in Te Puke. This follows major increases at Oakside, KKP, Katikati and Kerikeri.
''We're just a small company who is trying to make its way. We've got big aspirations and we want to be relevant. At the moment we are still too small as we are not a mid-cap-sized business yet.''
To get there, Franks said it needed a market capitalisation of about $250m, and with market volatility that was challenging.
In his view, produce fruit companies were complicated and challenging to run because they were so dynamic.
''It never looks like it does on a spreadsheet.''
He said Seeka's mission was not to panic, especially on the edge of the kiwifruit harvest.
''We just work our way quietly through it and let other people panic around us.''
Franks credited the company's success to its talented and experienced people and a focused approach.
''The company today is a lot different from last year or five or 10 years ago. People can grow in their careers and achieve the life goals they want without getting bored because there is always something new to be done.''
''My job is to make sure our staff are empowered and motivated to do their job.''
Franks acknowledged Covid, the seasonal labour shortage and supply chain issues had created tough times, however, Seeka was not renowned for group thinking.
''We are renowned for thinking for ourselves. Consumer patterns have changed - if you think about it, a lot more people are not eating out but going to the supermarket so supply chains have come under extreme pressure.''
''So smaller companies like Seeka who have been able to be nimble have played an important role so consumers can get their food.''
He said Seeka would continue to keep its head down and ''concentrate on doing a good job and making money for our shareholders and growers''.
Western Bay of Plenty District Mayor Garry Webber said Seeka was an exemplar of ''people who just get on and do their business''.
''It's also what our council aspires to be like as performance over time determines success. They have built themselves from the bottom up.''
He said Seeka was a large employer that had also enabled other businesses to survive because it was at the front of the supply chain.
''We should celebrate these success stories.''
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc chief executive Colin Bond said post-harvest operators play an integral role in the supply chain to ensure kiwifruit arrives in market in excellent condition.
''Many operators also have important roles as lessees of orchards, as orchard managers and as technical experts who share their knowledge with growers to ensure the kiwifruit is grown optimally.''
NZKGI advocates for effective and efficient management of all post-harvest operations to ensure the value from kiwifruit sales flow-back to growers.
Last season growers received $1.78 billion from the sale of kiwifruit produced in the Bay of Plenty that contributed to the local economy.