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Fertco: A Story of Innovation

When you do something new, there is no blueprint to follow. You’ve got to make it up, and make it work, often without a lot of money. And you need the right people with a can-do attitude, and belief in what they are doing. 

This has been the Fertco way for 24 years now.

Chemical Engineer Frank King in 2006 at Fertco's Mt Maunganui factory with a pile of dicalcic phosphate behind him.

Chemical Engineer Frank King in 2006 at the Mt Maunganui factory with a pile of dicalcic phosphate hot off the press.

Fertco Origins

It all began in 1999, when dairy farmers Ross Karl, Ken Titchener and Rob Phillips decided to establish a fertiliser company to make dicalcic phosphate, a fertiliser that they believed would improve soil, plant, and animal health.

They employed Chemical Engineer Frank King as a consultant to help. Ross and Frank recall the small piles of fertiliser spread around the shed floor, and the garden sprayer, used to work out how much water to add to get the recipe right.

After much trial and error, the result was a new, high-analysis dicalcic phosphate that was made by reverting monocalcium phosphate to dicalcium phosphate. This dicalcic was lower in acidity, so better for soil health and clover growth. It also released its phosphate more slowly which reduced run-off into waterways so was kinder to the environment.

To manufacture the new dicalcic, they leased a small part of a building at Mt Maunganui, and built a plant by upcycling old pieces of equipment. Dical, as it’s currently referred to by the Fertco team, was the first of many experiments making fertiliser products by either improving what was already available, or trying to make something new.

More new Products

Granulating lime was an example of this. Frank remembers using an old domestic tumble dryer and a blow torch to determine the best process for drying the lime so that it could be granulated.

Coated urea was another example, developed for Fertco by Frank on his return from the USA after designing and building a plant to coat urea there.

These are just two examples that illustrate the kiwi ingenuity and innovation which seems to have been “stitched into the DNA of Fertco from day 1” as CEO Warwick Voyce says. “We do things that larger companies don’t do, and we often get copied a lot.”


Fast forward to today, and Fertco have factories at Mt. Maunganui and Te Awamutu, a recent addition when Fertco amalgamated with TerraCare, which shared many of Fertco’s enviro-friendly philosophies.

Fertco customers are farmers and growers of many different kinds, with different requirements. They are looked after by a team of sales representatives who visit. Every order is customised to suit the client.

The product offering now includes a full range of conventional fertilisers, but the innovative thinking is still in evidence.

Several years ago, a suite of granulated animal health products under the ‘MineralBoost’ banner was developed to target the mineral deficiencies identified by local vets in their client’s stock.

Another recent addition is ‘Protamin’, a natural nitrogen product, which has extended Fertco’s organic range to make it the largest complete offering in NZ.

Dical is now entering its 3rd generation at Fertco as a granulated product which improves product placement, and aligns with increasing efforts to improve health and safety.

Many of Fertco’s products carry the Fertmark label of quality assurance, and all are lab tested for contaminants. “ We are increasingly searching for better quality ingredients”, says Chris Lees, Business Commercial Manager. “And better ways of making fertiliser that won’t end up where it shouldn’t”, says Arthur Payze, National Sales Manager.

Fertco has pushed the boundaries of conventional and organic fertiliser manufacturing and survived to tell the story.

This article was published in the Coast & Country News. Read it here.


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