Ag path leads to Southland

20 December 2019

DairyNZ’s new Southland/South Otago regional leader Ollie Knowles may have been raised in a big city, but it’s rural New Zealand that has captured his heart.

Ollie started at DairyNZ in October, moving from Mt Maunganui to Invercargill with wife Charlie and daughter Andie (seven months).

Although he grew up in Auckland, time spent on a family friend’s farm as a youngster soon set Ollie on a path towards agriculture.

“Every school holidays, I bussed down to Eltham – an eight-hour bus trip. At the time I thought ‘this is a pretty cool industry to be part of’ and I had really good experiences.”

After high school, Ollie took a year off to decide on a career path – at the time it came down to agriculture and building.

“However, two or three months in I already knew agriculture was definitely something I wanted to pursue.”

Ollie went on to complete a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) at Lincoln University. He specialised in soil science, which led him to a career with Ballance Agri-Nutrients for the past nine years, first as part of a sales team and then in science extension.

Early in his career, Ollie had the option of completing a PhD but his passion was (and still is) helping farmers in the field, especially as they face new challenges.

“I enjoy working alongside farmers and getting to know how they operate, while working together to address challenges. That’s where my background in soils and use of nutrients has helped.”

The keen outdoorsman is no stranger to Southland and Otago, having spent three years based out of Oamaru and then a year in Southland with Ballance.

“I think it is a pretty cool region. Southland is a great climate for farm production and it has so much to offer. You’ve got all the south and east coast if you’re looking to get into or onto the water. Surfing, diving, fishing – it’s all there.

“Diving-wise, over the last four or five years, every other year, I’ve been coming down to Fiordland on a diving trip with uni friends. I just love that part of the world – it’s an absolutely awesome slice of New Zealand.”

Ollie is proud to be part of the agriculture sector and says it’s a big contributor to Southland’s economy.

“It is exciting to be part of such an important sector. Everyone’s got to eat or drink; everything comes from the primary industries.”

Ollie is looking forward to meeting dairy farmers and other partners in the region and is happy for farmers to contact him by phone on 027 226 4420, or email at

This article was originally published in Inside Dairy December 2019

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