Investment is not an area where you might immediately think innovation was rife. Meet Martin Waddell, who runs a truffle investment programme…
What is it the company does?
We offer alternative investment options for people looking for new and enterprising ways to maximise a return on their capital. We focus primarily on large scale forestry investments and this year we launched a new truffle investment programme in the south of France.
We are currently cultivating 26,500 young oak trees at the world class propagation nursery at the Institute Research and Technologia for Agronomia (IRTA) near Barcelona, 5000 of which are now available for purchase by private investors. Our mantra at Truffle Farms Europe is to deliver higher returns, more quickly and at lower risk to potential investors than other forestry offerings.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As the company founder I am responsible for the overall management of the company, from business development – attracting potential investors – to overseeing the management of the truffle propagation programme. I run the latter in partnership with Dr Marcos Morcillo the world’s leading truffle science expert and MD of Micologia Forestal & Aplicada of Cardedeu nr Barcelona (MF&A). I have recently been sourcing potential sites for our truffle plantation in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France, working with landowners, the local authorities and planning departments to agree on a mutually beneficial deal for all parties.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started in engineering sales at the age of 16 and then moved to agency side advertising in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In 1992, I went back to university to study for a law degree and trained for the Bar. I became an in-house intellectual property specialist in the University sector and then moved on to managing investment funds that spun out and commercialised university research.
In 1997 my wife and I decided to move to the South of France to raise our four young children. After the credit crunch in 2008 and subsequent recessions, I was struck by how ‘city greed’ had once again led to an unnecessary economic crash, as it had done in the 80’s. It was at that point I began to think about developing a business around slow and sustainable wealth development and investments based on natural resources. From this came the concept of investments in specialist plants, which includes truffles.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Having a vision and the ability to carry people with you.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Convincing people that getting rich slow is more valid than modern society’s obsession with getting rich quick, irrespective of the collateral damage that comes with it. Our investments take time to mature, in the same way that a tree takes time to grow before it can bear fruit. What we do compliments and sustains the environment, while offering a lucrative investment return over the long-term. This is something that many investors are not used to, but as people seek new, sustainable ways to generate wealth and spread their risk profile, alternative investments such as forestry are becoming ever more attractive.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I don’t really find my job stressful. Luckily, I get to do what I want and work with people I like. What could be less stressful?
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A brilliant criminal barrister – I was obsessed with the likes of Petrocelli and Rumpole of the Bailly TV type shows.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I love what I do, but if I had to pick something, it would be sitting behind a desk working on administrative tasks. I’d much rather be out in the field where the action is, so that is what I spend most of my time doing.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We’re about three to five years away from having one of the most productive and highest quality truffle estates in the world. We are currently negotiating the terms for a new plantation site in the south of France and we are propagating about 26,000 trees at the IRTA in Barcelona, many of which are already producing some impressive truffle yields. This bodes well for the future of the business.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Be true to yourself and challenge yourself regularly.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Don’t get a job, work for yourself. For me that would have been the right thing to do from the start.