Founder and Executive Chairman Brett Wharfe started growing tomatoes in 1984.
When Brett left school in 1980, he went home to the family farm and wanted to get involved in horticulture. He was able to plant 20 hectares of grapes on a family farm until the early 80s when the then Prime Minister Muldoon paid many of the growers to pull their vines out. Brett took this money and invested it, in 1984 he started NZ Hothouse with his dog and in thirty years has grown it into a business that now employs around 400 people.
Brett has had many little achievements along the way, in the late 80’s he branched out from grower to also becoming a marketer and was one of the first to start supplying supermarkets direct. He grouped in excess of 100 growers together and did all their packing together on one site that he owned which at the time was another first for New Zealand. After many years of doing this, he decided to venture into a large investment of his own growing operation. He needed to raise some equity and did this by taking in a silent investor in 2000. He then went about building the biggest growing operation in New Zealand building 20 hectares of glasshouses. Along the way Brett became a Category winner of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for services and has received on three occasions Countdown’s supplier of the year award plus many other industry acknowledgments.
These days, Brett has taken on the role of Executive Chairman. He has appointed a Managing Director to run the business day to day. Brett's focus now is overseeing the whole operation. He enjoys getting involved with people throughout the group and continues to invest in technology systems, making significant gains in productivity throughout the industry. Brett's intentions and desires are to keep the business going; NZ Hothouse can stay on top of the game by investing for the future.