Andrew Hutchinson from Pukekohe has beaten off tough competition from three other entrants to be crowned NZ Young Vegetable Grower of 2016.
The day-long competition in Christchurch yesterday saw competitors battle it out in a series of practical and theoretical challenges designed to test the skills needed to run a successful vegetable growing business.
Andrew (28), works at AS Wilcox & Sons as a technical advisor for the company’s potato supply team. As well as taking out the title of Young Vegetable Grower, Andrew received the awards for “Best Business” and “Best Practical” after scoring top marks for these activities.
Andrew’s prize includes a professional development tour to Australia to learn about its horticulture industry valued at $2,500, 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.
“Winning the competition was really unexpected and this year’s competition had some of the best young growers I’ve met,” said Mr Hutchinson.
“I’m looking forward to competing at the national final and will be stepping up my preparation over the next few months.”
Second place went to the youngest competitor in the history of the competition, Lincoln Roper (16) from Roper & Son in Canterbury. Pukekohe grower Amrik Singh (19) from Purewal Growers came third and won the prize for the evening’s best speech.
Kirsty de Jong, Horticulture New Zealand’s manager of the Young Grower competition, said: “We thoroughly enjoy putting this competition together and seeing talented, highly skilled young growers like Andrew and Lincoln doing so well.
“Our industry is increasingly attracting young University-qualified scientists like Andrew, who completed a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Horticulture before entering the industry. We need these people to help horticulture businesses increase yield and protect crops from disease.”