Ian Harebottle former Gemfields Chief Executive Officer has switched from the mining industry to agribusiness production.

With over 17 years of experience in the mining sector, Harebottle’s leadership saw Gemfields grow to become a leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones with assets in Zambia, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Madagascar.

Now Harebottle is Group Chief Executive Officer for South Africa-based plant nutrient company and miner of fertiliser feed materials Kropz.

Harebottle, who stepped down as CEO of Aim-listed Gemfields in July last year, will join Kropz on March 28, once his contract with the diamond miner has ended.

“I am excited by the fact that I will soon be joining Kropz and embarking on a new chapter in the plant nutrient business, ably supported by a management team with technical and marketing experience in the phosphate sector.

In my lifetime, we have seen exponential population growth coupled with a commensurate decrease in available arable land, which makes the role of increasing crop yields incredibly relevant both today and in the future,” he said in a statement on Monday.

Prior to his tenure at Gemfields, Harebottle was CEO of the world’s largest tanzanite producer, Tanzanite One, from April 2005 till February 2008.

The company achieved a market capitalisation of $400-million under Harebottle’s leadership and was widely recognised as being one of the highest-dividend payers in the mining sector on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) during that time.

He is recognised for his skills in facilitating high-level operational initiatives, including infrastructure design, process re-engineering, turnaround management and reorganisation.

Steps are under way for the formation of Kropz PLC, the intended holding company for all the various assets in the Kropz group.

A range of funding options, including a flotation on the LSE in 2018, is also being explored.