YOUNG GROWER WIN­NER

There was plenty of com­pe­ti­tion of the Young Grower of the Year con­test but only one of the seven con­tes­tants could win.

The Orchardist - - Front Page -

Danni van der Hei­j­den fol­lowed the ad­vice of her pre­de­ces­sor, in “hav­ing an­other go” at the Young Grower of the Year con­test held in Napier on Au­gust 22.

That ad­vice paid off as she claimed the na­tional ti­tle over a high cal­i­bre field of top young fruit and veg­etable growers.

For the sec­ond year run­ning, a woman from the Bay of Plenty re­gion has won the ti­tle. Last year Erin Atkin­son be­came the first woman to win the com­pe­ti­tion in its 11- year his­tory, and last year she urged Danni to per­se­vere as pro­gress­ing from the re­gional com­pe­ti­tion to a na­tional level was a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Born and bred in Auck­land, Danni did not have much of an idea about hor­ti­cul­ture, but rather took a se­ries of steps that drew her into the av­o­cado in­dus­try. She was on a mis­sion, opt­ing to leave school early at the end of Year 12 to at­tend the Univer­sity of Waikato, to un­der­take a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence ma­jor­ing in chem­istry and bi­ol­ogy.

She went straight from univer­sity to a sea­sonal job at New Zealand Av­o­cado, be­fore mov­ing on to Trevelyan’s Pack & Cool in Tau­ranga where her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­cluded grower tech­ni­cal sup­port, data anal­y­sis and re­port­ing, mapping and re­search.

In a re­cent move she joined AVOCO as a tech­ni­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, re­spon­si­ble for grower tech­ni­cal sup­port and or­chard man­age­ment ad­vice.

Danni, 24, used her high level of fo­cus to pre­pare for the con­test, re­search­ing wide and var­ied top­ics to pre­pare for what the con­test might throw at her. Her love of learn­ing meant the prepa­ra­tion for the con­test was not a hard­ship for her.

Seven con­tes­tants from around New Zealand com­peted in the prac­ti­cal sec­tion in the Art Deco seafront Sound­shell

in the cen­tre of Napier. Tasks in­cluded iden­ti­fy­ing a range of fer­tilis­ers, pest and dis­ease, find­ing fault with an ir­ri­ga­tion

sys­tem and demon­strat­ing their skill on a small dig­ger.

Lisa Arnold from Bo­s­tock New Zealand, Hast­ings, won the prac­ti­cal sec­tion.

The fun Hor­tisports sec­tion fol­lowed, with con­tes­tants chal­lenged to throw a range of veg­eta­bles through a bas­ket­ball hoop, and then make a salad out of the fruit. Cen­tral Otago’s Hamish Dar­ling proved he had both bas­ket­ball and cook­ing skills to take out this sec­tion.

In the af­ter­noon con­tes­tants par­tic­i­pated in busi­ness mod­ules and a lead­er­ship panel, with Danni claim­ing wins in fi­nance, busi­ness in­ter­rup­tion, plan­ning and lo­gis­tics mod­ules, as well as claim­ing the Best Busi­ness Over­all Award.

Hamish, a third gen­er­a­tion hor­ti­cul­tur­ist from Cromwell, col­lected the Best In­no­va­tion and Out­stand­ing Lead­er­ship Awards.

Din­ner and speeches fol­lowed at the Napier Con­fer­ence Cen­tre in what was emerg­ing as a tight con­test. Danni won this sec­tion, which ul­ti­mately gave her the over­all prize, speak­ing about a fu­ture in hor­ti­cul­ture with ro­bot­ics, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and a car­bon net zero goal by 2050. She warned lab­o­ra­tory-grown food, and 3-D printed pro­duce posed a real threat.

“If we are static we will be left be­hind, we must de­velop strate­gies for the fu­ture …”

The Young Grower of the Year reg­is­tered a clus­ter of firsts. Gis­borne con­tes­tant, Matt Gomm par­tic­i­pated on be­half of his re­gion, the first time Gis­borne has had a con­tes­tant. Two veg­etable growers Este­ban Ibanez (Leader­brand South Is­land) and Gur­jant Singh (T&G Favona) fin­ished in a dead heat at the qual­i­fy­ing Veg­etable Grower of the Year con­test and went on to rep­re­sent their sec­tor in Napier. Both are rel­a­tively new im­mi­grants for whom English is a sec­ond lan­guage.

The com­pe­ti­tion to de­ter­mine the best young grower in the coun­try is part of Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand’s strat­egy to sup­port the growth and de­vel­op­ment of fu­ture hor­ti­cul­tural lead­ers.

Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand pres­i­dent, Julian Raine, said the com­pe­ti­tion’s aim was to fos­ter ex­cel­lence among young growers and fu­ture-proof the in­dus­try. The Young Grower com­pe­ti­tion was a great way to nur­ture the in­ter­est and pas­sion of younger gen­er­a­tions as well as show­case the in­dus­try.

Hor­ti­cen­tre di­rec­tor, Tony Ivice­vich, ex­pressed his con­fi­dence in the hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try, which he be­lieves will sur­pass dairy­ing’s earn­ings at some point in the fu­ture.

By Rose Man­ner­ing Images by Ivor Earp-Jones

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