Our history

Our history, has always been looking ahead.

As farmers, our history has always been one of foresight, partnership and perseverance.

Our origins can be traced back to the late 1800s when sulphur was mined at White Island, an active off-shore volcano in the Bay of Plenty. Persevering in harsh and bleak conditions, well before workplace health & safety compliance existed, it was a dangerous environment that tragically killed 14 men when the island erupted around the beginning of the 20th century. Sulphur was mined from White Island up until the early 1930s and shipped to Tauranga, where it was refined before being sold both in New Zealand and Australia.

As New Zealand’s farming industry grew, so too did the demand for quality fertiliser products. Tests undertaken in the early 20th century at Ruakura Research Centre (now AgResearch) demonstrated the benefit of phosphatic fertilisers, and as time went on demand for these fertilisers increased, particularly as more land was broken in for pastoral use.


1940's – 1970's

The early co-operative days

In the years following the Second World War, farmers in some regions of the country were experiencing difficulty getting their hands on fertiliser when they needed it. So with typical kiwi farming initiative, they took action and formed their own fertiliser co-operatives.

In 1947 a group of local Southland farmers formed the Southland Co-operative Phosphate Company, and at the same time in the Bay of Plenty local farmers were working toward establishing the Bay of Plenty Fertiliser Co-operative. Both co-operatives issued shares in 1955. Benefitting from the port facilities both co-operatives had nearby, they were able to ship in phosphate rock from locations such as Nauru and Christmas Island.

The two co-operatives operated independently throughout the 1960s and 1970s - the heyday years of New Zealand agriculture.


1980's – 1999's

Adapting to economic challenges

In 1984 the government removed fertiliser subsidies which dramatically changed the face of the rural economy. The economic effects were felt far beyond fertiliser manufacturers themselves, spreading to affect support operations such as the top-dressing industry. In 1987 a collective of aerial top-dressers approached the Bay of Plenty Fertiliser co-operative with the aim of forming an alliance to ensure their long-term survival. The collective, known as Super Air, became a successful subsidiary of the co-operative.

At the same time the co-operative consolidated its position in the central North Island by merging with Kiwi Fertiliser, a subsidiary of the Fernz Corporation. The merged entity became BOP Fertiliser Ltd, with 60 percent owned by the Bay of Plenty Fertiliser Co-operative, and 40 percent by Fernz. During this time fertiliser manufacturers in New Zealand were focused on producing superphosphate, which had radically changed the farming landscape. BOP Fertiliser Ltd supplied both phosphate and sulphur, two nutrients that were deficient in many New Zealand soils.

In 1992, BOP Fertiliser Ltd turned its attention to another nutrient that was important for farming success - nitrogen. The company purchased the country's only ammonia-urea manufacturing plant, at Kapuni in Taranaki. Significant investment was made in the plant to convert it into a top-quality manufacturing facility.


1990's – 2000

A nationwide company

In the late 1990s the New Zealand fertiliser industry experienced a significant amount of consolidation. BOP Fertiliser Ltd successfully merged with the Southland Co-operative Phosphate Company, but only after a lengthy battle and a favourable ruling from the Commerce Commission. In the 1998 financial year, BOP Fertiliser Ltd purchased Whangarei-based Farmers Fertiliser from Fernz Corporation, extending its customer base from north to south - and adding another manufacturing plant to its facilities.

Toward the end of the 1990s, the co-operative purchased half of the 40 percent shareholding held by Fernz, returning more ownership to their farmer shareholders. And at the same time international fertiliser giant Norsk Hydro (now Yara) purchased the remaining Fernz shareholding. The alignment with Yara was an important one for the co-operative as it ensured access to a significant resource of plant nutrition knowledge and research, as well as their range of specialty fertiliser products.



Ballance is created

In 2001, the company decided to strengthen the connections between each of the four entities by amalgamating and relaunching as Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited.

The bright new logo reflected the company's commitment to a scientific approach to farm nutrient management, and the company’s name was a tribute to former Prime Minister John Ballance - who created the legislation that led the way for New Zealand's rapid agricultural-based economic expansion. John Ballance died in office in 1893.

As part of the company’s growth strategy, an investment of $20 million was made upgrading and building new fertiliser outlets throughout the country to provide easy access to Ballance products and services for as many farmers as possible.

In 2005 the the co-operative purchased the 20 percent shareholding held by Yara, completing its planned evolution to once again being a 100 percent farmer-owned company - a position that prepared the ground for its next phase of development.

Our business, is your business

As a New Zealand farmer-owned co-operative we love the land as much as you, so we’re committed to farming more productively, profitably and sustainably.

More about Ballance