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Bryce Camm: Bullish about beef

Category leadership

Bryce Camm - Former Rabobank Leadership Award Winner

From a humble start as a small-scale feedlot in the 1980s, the Camm Agricultural Group has grown into one of the most well-established integrated beef enterprises in Australia.

32-year-old Bryce Camm - CEO of the group and recipient of the 2014 Rabobank Emerging Leadership Awards - talks about how growing up on this land has given him a strong connection with agriculture and the cattle business.

Journey of the business
In the 12 years that Camm has been in the farming business, he has spearheaded a threefold increase in its core product – beef. Graduating with a double degree in business administration and communications from Bond University, Camm officially joined the family business operations in 2004.

Starting at the grassroots level, he worked with the feedlot’s stock team in Dalby before moving up to managing the group’s feedlot and farming operations in the south. He now oversees all operations of the group since taking over as CEO a year and a half ago.

“To be an effective leader, one needs to work with the team in different sections of the business,’’ says Camm, who often works closely with the production team.

Based out of Dalby in Queensland’s Darling Downs region, the group has seven farming properties sprawling in excess of 420,000 hectares in Queensland today. They’ve also expanded their grazing facility in north Queensland, established backgrounding facilities, and now include an independent board of advisors who help with business strategy.

By doing so, the group has metamorphosed from a traditionally run family business model into a professionally run corporate model.

Bracing the challenges
Like any other agricultural business, Camm has to deal with the perils of natural calamities – floods and droughts. To combat these climatic challenges, the group spread out its operations geographically, integrated its feedlot and farming operations, and diversified into cotton and grain production.

This way, there will be some part of the operations that will get favourable weather conditions,” says Camm. “This diversity definitely protects us from lean periods.”

One of the greatest challenges faced in the beef industry is the lifecycle of the cattle. It can take up to three years to breed, background and feedlot the cattle for market delivery, resulting in huge capital outlays for the business. By incorporating backgrounding facilities in its feedlot operations, the Camm Agricultural Group has been able to shorten this duration to just two years.

Positive attitude makes the difference
The image of the agricultural sector is marred by the perception of it being an older industry, and hence not being an exciting industry to be part of.  To beat the negative perception of agriculture, Camm stresses the need to be vocal – both within the business and among the community – about the career opportunities and success stories in the industry.

If we present our business and sector in a positive manner, we can overcome some of the perception issues agriculture faces.”

Joining the business at 21 years old, Camm can attest that being young has its own advantages. He says that when you're young, you're eager to try new things and even if it fails, you're quick to pick yourself up and move on. This attitude has propelled the group to push the boundaries by being innovative.

“For us, attitude scores higher than skill. We can always teach someone a skill or a technique but it's very hard to change a person’s attitude,” says Camm. “We also have older and experienced people who keep the group grounded. Due to this blend, we feel that our solutions and strategies have a good balance.”

Striving for excellence
For Camm, it's not always about wanting to be a trailblazer because it does entail a significant amount of financial risk and cost. But at the same time, he believes in being an early adopter of new technology or solutions that have proven successful.

“Our business model is nimble and adaptive to innovation,” he says, and this is reflected in the way the business has embraced the latest know-hows in all their operations.

The group are currently using helicopter mustering in their grazing properties to manage and track cattle, minimising time and resources required for the operation. They also have a steam-flaking production system in their feedlot operations that provides the best grains for their cattle, while on the farming side, they use sensors for spraying to ensure usage of the right amount of chemicals.

The group has also recently introduced drone technology for cattle management, and is also used on their irrigation properties to check if irrigation has happened adequately.

Looking at the future, Camm chalks out a comprehensive growth strategy for his three business pillars. “I want to double our current feedlot operation head size, significantly expand our backgrounding operations from 5000 to 50,000 head size and lastly, increase our farming and cultivation facilities,” he says.

Do you know of an exceptional business owner implementing innovative and forward-thinking initiatives in food beverage and agribusiness? Find out more about the Rabobank Leadership Awards.