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John Purchase

CEO, Agricultural Business Chamber

South Africa

What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?

John Purchase is an exceptionally talented and effective agribusiness leader.  From his youth growing up on a wheat farm he has developed an obviously deep respect and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture and agribusinesses in South Africa.  Unlike many professionals, John has mastered a rare combination of technical, managerial and interpersonal skills.

Starting out as researcher, his managerial skills rapidly became apparent, as he moved from a pure biophysical scientific research position into a manager, motivator and orchestrator of business entities with a total turnover of over $ 25 billion. John’s career serves as an inspiration to farm kids growing up today, to scientists and to agribusiness professional throughout Africa by showcasing the opportunities and the contributions they can make in the food value chain.

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • I love agriculture. 
  • I grew up on a wheat farm near Bethlehem, in the eastern part of the Free State, South Africa. 
  • My father was chairman of local farmers association for many years.  He instilled in me the importance of community service.

How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers? 

  • Build good soft skills, including communication, leadership and the ability to work in teams. 
  • Develop conceptual skills, innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving skills. 
  • Practical case study teaching can build and hone these skills.  We need to follow the example of the agribusiness case study teaching developed by the Agribusiness Program at Harvard Business School.

Career highlights

  • CEO, Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, 2008 to present.
  • General Manager, Grain South Africa.
  • Agricultural Research Council (ARC), Head Summer Grain Center.
  • Agricultural Research Council, Research Scientist, Small Grain Institute.

Educational background

  • Primary school:          Lindley Primary School.
  • Secondary school:      Grey College, Bloemfontein.
  • University:                 
    • B.Sc. Agriculture, University of Pretoria (1980).
    • Honors degree Agriculture, University of Stellenbosch (1984).
    • M.Sc.(Agric), University of Free State (1987).
    • Ph.D., University of Free State (1997).