John is a leading New Zealand scientist and entrepreneur who co-founded the Synlait Group in New Zealand.

Many Irish farmers will have met John in New Zealand over the last 20 years, and many Irish dairy farmers will have worked on some of the Synlait farms down through the years.

New Zealand dairy farmers are often used as an example of how to deliver efficient production from a grass-based model.


In the last number of years, cracks have emerged on a number of fronts. A ceiling on dairy conversions, environmental rules, a move to higher levels of feeding, and Fonterra the largest milk processor has met a number of challenges.


Where now for the global dairy giant? Will the Chinese influence on the dairy world continue? What effect will new regulations have on New Zealand dairy farming and its competitiveness? What lessons can Ireland Inc learn from recent New Zealand challenges?

Dr Penno, who was brought up on a Morven farm, co-founded the Synlait Group in 2000 and stood down as Synlait Milk chief executive last year. He remains on the board as a director.

After completing an agricultural science degree, he began his career in the dairy industry as a consulting officer for the New Zealand Dairy Board before joining Dexcel as a research scientist, where he completed a PhD in animal science.



Dr Penno received an emerging leader's award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust in 2009, a Prime Minister's Business Scholarship in 2012, and the Excellence in Leadership award at the 2015 New Zealand International Business Awards.

In 2009, he was named Federated Farmers inaugural agribusiness person of the year in recognition of his contribution to the New Zealand dairy industry.

At the time his departure from Synlait was signalled, Dr Penno said he was looking forward to getting back to his entrepreneurial roots and would be looking for opportunities to get involved with start-ups and young companies with his wife Maury Leyland Penno, a former Fonterra executive.

More Dairy Day details and speakers over coming days.

When: Tuesday 19 November, Punchestown, 9am to 5pm

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