Chris Clement, 29, from Apata Group has beaten off tough competition from five other entrants to be crowned Bay of Plenty's Young Fruit Grower for 2016 at tonight's gala dinner.
The day-long competition at Mills Reef Winery today saw competitors battle it out in a series of practical and theoretical challenges designed to test the skills needed to run a successful export-focused business.
Chris dominated the challenges, receiving top marks for five of the 11 tests, including sugar testing and biosecurity.
Chris was awarded a cash prize of $1,500 and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2016 Young Grower of the Year title in July.
“It was a tough battle against some of the region’s most capable young growers,” said Chris. “I’m looking forward to competing at the national final and will be stepping up my preparation over the next few weeks.”
Runner-up went to Aaron Hokopaura (25) from Aongatete. Erin Atkinson (29), also from Apata Group, was awarded second runner-up.
“This competition develops skills and fosters leadership. Today’s competitors are a great example of young people who are passionate about the industry’s future and their role in it,” said Mike Chapman, Chief Executive of Horticulture NZ
“The future growth of our industry is dependent on our ability to attract young growers like Chris who are highly skilled and enthusiastic. We wish him all the best as he prepares to compete in the national competition next month.”
This year’s Bay of Plenty competition received a huge amount of support from the local horticulture industry through sponsorship and other contributions. “It was fantastic to see so many local industries and organisations recognise the benefits of the competition for the industry by supporting our future leaders,” said Doug Brown, Chairman of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers (NZKGI).
Alongside the competition, NZKGI hosted the ‘Cultivate Your Career’ expo event, which was attended by more than 200 Bay of Plenty and Waikato students in years 11, 12 and 13. Interactive presentations exposed students to the diverse career opportunities and intriguing topics horticulture can provide – from biosecurity to the latest science and technology, and the importance of social responsibility.
The Young Grower of the Year is an annual competition run by Horticulture New Zealand to select the finest young fruit or vegetable grower in the country. The winners from five regional events go forward to contest the final. The competition is part of Horticulture New Zealand’s strategy to support the growth and development of New Zealand’s future horticultural leaders.