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Herbs business co-founder bags emerging leader award

Jan VydraAustralian Fresh Leaf Herbs’ executive director Jan Vydra was named the 2016 Rabobank Emerging Leader last night.

The award, presented at a dinner attended by more than 200 agribusiness professionals at Doltone House in Sydney, recognises exceptional leadership in Australia and New Zealand’s food and agribusiness industries.

Rabobank Australia and New Zealand Group managing director Peter Knoblanche labelled Vydra a “trail-blazer” in the food and agri industry.

Under Vydra’s leadership, the herb business has grown from a hydroponic operation producing 2,000 bunches of herbs per week to now supplying 180,000 bunches per week to consumers across Australia.

Knoblanche said the change Vydra has brought not only to his business, but also the industry, has been formidable.

“Jan doesn’t do things the way they have always been done, instead he challenges the status quo, taking an integrated approach tot he supply chain and adopting cloud technology in his new state-of-the-art greenhouse,” Knoblanche explained.

Now 34 and running his own company with 85 employees, working across two sites in Victoria, Vydra said his leadership style had been developed at a very young age, when at 23 he was appointed general manager of an organisation with 90 employees.

“The most important thing I learned is that, as a leader, you need to paint a picture of where you want your business to go,” Vydra said.

“For us at Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs, our vision has always been to produce consistent fresh produce for our consumers in a sustainable way.”

Other important leadership qualities, Vydra said, included an innate ability to problemsolve and develop a culture within the organisation, where people wanted to come to work and had a sense of purpose.

“We have a young team that are really energetic and keen to innovate, and this is pivotal in helping us continue to drive our business forward,” he said. “We now have plans afoot to build a new purpose-built facility near Melbourne, and are also looking at establishing another two more sites in other parts of the country.”

Aiming to be an international player, the business is also trialling the export of fresh leaf herbs into Asian markets, with the aim to export into the 17 key economic regions of South-East Asia.

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