Nat heads up Rush Group’s onion business and is spending a lot of time travelling to the Middle East and Europe, where he is busy building up an ever-growing network of clients looking to import onions.
Farming is in your blood- tell us more
I grew up on a mixed farm in Norfolk, so I am passionate about agriculture and the British countryside (and other rural regions of the world). I worked on the farm throughout my time at school, when I was reading Ecology at Edinburgh and then whilst studying Land Management at Reading. The combinations of these academic and practical experiences have really helped me understand about both the natural and mechanical issues faced by farmers on a daily basis.
I really admire Rush’s ‘from seed to sale’ approach. I think it is really important to both grower and customer that we are fully involved in everything we handle, right throughout the supply chain.
What attracted you to the fresh produce industry?
Apart from my farming background, I have always been interested in the notion of ‘less land, more mouths to feed’ and the way that agriculture and the food industry is currently evolving. These changes are throwing up many fresh challenges each day and with more pressure and instability in the world, these are only going to become more volatile and testing in the future.
This dynamic industry is ever-changing and no two days are the same. I like to think of myself as an organised person, so I enjoy the whole logistical process, making sure that everything is collected and delivered on time with the right documentation. However, I do also understand the practicalities of farming so can accommodate for delays or difficult scenarios which can arise when moving fresh produce around the world.
I saw the job advertised on the internet, and I liked the international feel of the company. Having spent time in Africa, I enjoy discovering different countries and cultures, and it became clear in my interview that Rush was keen to expand on a global basis.
I also warmed to the challenge of building the company’s onion business from scratch and developing relationships with growers and customers from all around the world on a daily basis.
Tell us how you are working with British onion growers?
As any farmer will tell you, some seasons are better than others, and this European season is a challenging one due to a surplus of produce and the slight dip in demand. However, the good news is, British onions (and potatoes) are regarded as some of the finest in the world by our overseas customers, so I have been actively marketing their products abroad. In fact I have just come back from Dubai, where I was doing just this and we are hoping to increase the volume we are sending to our Malaysian office.
It holds such fantastic opportunities for us, primarily because it has to import all its fresh produce. Dubai is also a massive distribution hub for the whole of the UAE through its port at Jebel Ali which has the capacity to hold 90,000 containers! The wholesale market is incredibly impressive and in addition to the multi-tiered retail market and huge choice of originality of produce, I believe there is huge potential for European onions.
What did you learn on your recent trip?
Masses – I don’t know where to start! Mainly though, it was the face to face meetings which I thought were the most valuable. The understanding of a culture and etiquette one builds up through travelling and the resulting rapport with potential customers is so important when looking to do business. It just goes to remind one, that however sophisticated the fresh produce market has become, nothing beats the personal touch.
If you are looking for a reliable supply of onions, or are an onion grower looking for new markets, please contact Nat Bacon