Erin Atkinson, 29, Technical Advisor for Apata Group Limited in Te Puke, has been crowned Bay of Plenty’s Young Fruit Grower for 2017 at last night’s special gala dinner in Tauranga.
The day-long competition, which took place last Saturday 11th of February at Te Puke Showgrounds, followed by the gala dinner, saw six 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.
Erin dominated the challenges which included the activity judged by the following industry stakeholders:
- Orchard profitability quiz (Mayston Partners Ltd)
- Seedling planting challenge (New Zealand Avocado)
- Orchard tractor proficiency test (Capital Tractors)
- Crop protection: Health & safety, knowledge of industry standards and agrichemical use (Farmlands)
- Biosecurity test (Kiwifruit Vine Health)
- Calibrate a knapsack sprayer test (Horticentre)
- Land based vehicle and technology challenge (Pacific Coast Technical Institute)
These examinations were then followed by a contestant speech competition and quiz at the gala dinner.
Erin was awarded a cash prize of $1,500 and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2017 Young Grower of the Year title in August.
“It was a tough battle against some of the Bay of Plenty and Northland’s most capable young growers,” said Erin. “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 Danni van der Heijden (23) from Trevelyan's Pack & Cool. Aaron Wright (26), from EastPack, was awarded second runner-up.
“This competition develops skills and fosters leadership and is an important part of retaining top talent in horticulture which is a rapidly growing industry making a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economy. 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 New Zealand which runs the national competition.
“The ambitious growth predicted for horticulture is dependent on our ability to attract young growers like Erin who are highly skilled, enthusiastic and able to quickly adapt to change. We wish her all the best as she prepares to compete in the national competition in August.”
This year’s Bay of Plenty competition was part of the Te Puke Lifestyle A & P Show. One of the highlights of the event included a tug-of-war between the Young Fruit Growers and Young Farmers, with the Young Farmers taking the win.
With six competitors aged under 30, five hailing from the Bay of Plenty and one from Northland, the competition was very well supported by local and national horticulture companies.
“It was fantastic to see so many local organisations recognise the benefits of the competition for the industry by supporting our future leaders,” said Kate Longman, Chair of Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower Upskilling Inc. “We would especially like to thank all of our sponsors of the Bay of Plenty competition, including our Gold sponsors Zespri, GPS-it, EastPack, and Eurofins Bay of Plenty.”
The national Young Grower of the Year competition is an annual competition run by Horticulture New Zealand to select the finest young fruit or vegetable grower in the country. Proudly sponsored by the Horticentre Trust, 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.