>>YOUNG HORTICULTURIST OF THE YEAR
Then in 2016, when Riversun and Linnaeus bought the assets of local business Hydro Technologies, she took on the role of deputy manager of the much-expanded lab operation, where the staff has more than doubled.
Added to the existing services of plant testing, Linneus now delivers water and food quality testing to organisations all around the region.
It’s a lot of work, and getting busier by the day, but other challenges also beckoned.
In July Ms Hickling came in ahead of two other finalists to win the New Zealand Plant Producers Young Achiever title for 2017, and a place as a finalist in the young horticulturist event.
“As well as contributing to the industry, all these opportunities are amazing for personal and professional development,” she says. “I have never been afraid of hard work so I just put everything I have into everything I do and treat it as a learning experience.”
Shanna Hickling’s prize for being the NZPPI Young Achiever was a trip to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show and, as her partner Cameron Cairns trained as a greenkeeper before he joined the New Zealand Police, she reckons that qualified him to join her.
And he’ll also be on board when she uses her Young Horticulturist $7,500 travel prize to travel to California’s massive Duarte Nursery to study the technologies in play there.
“A team from Duarte visited us earlier this year and I got talking to one of their scientists who had been involved in the cloning of Dolly the sheep,” she says.
“That was a hugely famous case that we studied at university and here I was having dinner with this guy in Gisborne. It was mind-blowing.”
In fact, moving back to Gisborne was the best decision she could have made, Ms Hickling says. Friends and family are all there; the cost of living means both she and her partner have been able to buy homes; and, when she gets time, she can indulge her twin passions of hockey (as player/team manager) and waterskiing in nearby Wairoa.
“But I know how lucky I have been,” she says. “Riversun has not only supported me, it has gone out of its way to create opportunities so I can be the best I can be.”
However, that could well change: three of the four 2017 finalists were women and, as the contest is considered a strong indicator of who tomorrow’s leaders in horticulture will be, organisers say that bodes well for the future.
“Just making it as one of the finalists is an achievement because every one of them must first win their sector competition to be eligible,” says Elle Anderson, chair of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture Education Trust.
“This year’s New Zealand top grower, top amenity horticulturist and top nursery grower were all women so the future of horticulture looks bright. We’re very proud of these three young women, and our lone male contestant, who have all proven themselves as the best-of-the-best in horticulture.”
That encouragement for women to enter the industry was echoed by Andrew Keaney, executive general manager (New Zealand produce) for one of the prize sponsors, T&G Global.
“It was extremely positive to see an increased number of young women reaching the finals of this year’s competition and demonstrating not only practical but professional ability,” he says.
“While the overall split of our industry’s workforce is healthy, we need more women to reach leadership positions to ensure horticulture continues to grow and remains attractive for tomorrow’s employees.” Young Horticulturist of the Year – Shanna Hickling (25); Riversun, Gisborne ($7500 T&G study travel prize, $1000 worth of ICL Specialty Fertiliser products, and $100 NZ Horticultural magazine subscription).
Second place – Tim Adams (30); Obsidian Vineyards, Waiheke ($5500 Massey University study scholarship, $750 worth of ICL Specialty Fertiliser products, and $100 NZ Horticultural magazine subscription).
Third place – Pippa Lucas (26); Auckland Botanic Gardens ($1000 cash prize, $500 worth of ICL Specialty Fertiliser products, and $100 NZ Horticultural magazine subscription).
AGMARDT Market Innovation Project – First, Pippa Lucas ($5000 cash prize); second, Shanna Hickling ($2500); third, Erin Atkinson (30), Apata Group, Te Puke ($1500).
Bayer Best Practice Award – Tim Adams ($2500 scholarship).
T&G Best Practical Activities Award – Pippa Lucas ($3500 travel scholarship).
Fruitfed Supplies Leadership Award – Shanna Hickling ($2500 scholarship towards a Leadership or Outward Bound course).
Horticentre Charitable Trust Community Engagement Award – Erin Atkinson ($1500 cash prize).
Primary ITO Career Development Award – Pippa Lucas ($3000 scholarship).
Countdown Best Speech Award – Tim Adams ($500 cash prize).