Neil Pullen, Product Development Manager at Agrovista Amenity has announced his retirement. Neil has been instrumental in the development of a number of leading turfcare brands and his legacy is set to live on through the next generation of amenity experts.
Neil started his career as a fruit farmer, a position he held for just over 11 years before he joined Kings Horticulture. As the name suggests, the company largely focussed on horticulture, but it had a very small amenity division and Neil saw huge opportunity.
From having just one trading customer, Neil developed Kings Horticulture into a strong amenity business with a large customer base and this continued when the company became United Agri Products (UAP).
Sherriff Amenity was the next destination on Neil’s career path and a merge with a company called Profarma resulted in the creation of Agrovista.
“It was an exciting time,” said Neil. “The merger brought a lot of backing to the table and allowed the amenity side of the business to grow massively. Over time we bought Alpha Amenity, Amenity One, Terra Firma, and then more recently Maxwell Amenity.
“This acquisition enabled the launch of Agrovista Amenity and it has made us a much stronger, more focussed group of individuals,” continued Neil. “I can safely say that the group of individuals we have working for us now are some of the most technical agronomists in the country. We are moving more towards an advice-driven business and away from a sales-driven business – and it is great to see.”
Neil rightfully admits to feeling proud when he reflects on his career to date; after all he started as a trainee amenity salesman and progressed through to middle and then senior management. In his current and final role, he is now one of three people that oversees the amenity division for Agrovista. However, there is one stand out moment in his career that he is particularly proud of.
“Mark Pyrah (now at ICL) and I introduced fungicide and chemical mixing and I feel that it changed the amenity market for the better,” said Neil. “We were the first to do it and it has now become standard practice in the industry.
“At the time we faced a lot of opposition from manufacturers, but we were determined because we could see so many benefits. It would reduce costs for the user because they would be using different active ingredients from different chemical groups, but more importantly it would prevent chemical resistance and offer a better control of diseases.”
Neil has always had an eye for innovation and is renowned for working with a wide range of manufacturers to bring new ideas and products into the marketplace. He does however admit that the process has changed somewhat over the years.
“15 years ago, we would always visit the American trade show – GIS,” said Neil. “New products in America used to be four or five years in front of us and so my mission was to look for new ideas and innovations. I used to identify the best ones and then introduce them into the UK market.
“This of course has changed over recent years due to the rise of the internet. New products are not as hard to find, and you can get information very quickly at the click of a button.”
Neil reflects fondly on his successful overseas missions and is responsible for introducing many turf and amenity solutions into the UK market. However, the industry, and Agrovista in particular, will give thanks to Neil for nurturing the next generation of turf experts.
In fact, anyone that has joined the company in the last twenty years would have been trained by Neil at some point.
“It is a nice feeling to take somebody with little or no experience through to becoming an experienced, top performer,” he said.
John Marland, Head of Amenity at Agrovista Amenity, believes that Neil has laid the foundations for a bright future.
“To summarise Neil’s career, I think of a quote of which its origin I believe is lost,” said John. “It reads…
“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.”
“Neil has planted an awful lot of trees. His legacy is what Agrovista Amenity is today and what it will be in the future.”
After a hugely successful career, Neil can now enjoy his retirement with his wife Kim of 39 years but admits that there will be times when he will miss the job.
“I’ve met so many wonderful and varied people and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many great places and top sporting venues – it’s natural to miss that. But now I’m looking forward to having more time to myself – to play more golf and take up fishing again. More importantly, my wife and I have so many places we want to visit, and we fully intend on working our way through the bucket list.”
For more information about Agrovista UK, visit www.agrovista.co.uk/amenity