Horticulture going digital

Not even horticulture – that most outdoor of all sectors – is immune to digital disruption as international consumer demand for traceability and better sustainability practices ramp up the influence of silicon solutions in crop cultivation. The prevalence of technology driven solutions in horticulture is evident in this year's ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year 2016’ competition taking place today and tomorrow – with the overall winner set to be announced tonight, 10 November 2016.

An integral part of the competition is the AGMARDT Market Innovation Project, which is designed to stretch contestants’ abilities to identify, analyse and report on a market innovation opportunity. The innovation segment is sponsored by AGMARDT (The Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust) with the objective of developing young leadership talent in this country. AGMARDT general manager, Malcolm Nitschke, said this year's competition features a very topical range of projects that cover a broad range of issues facing the horticultural sector.

"Contestants have demonstrated their amazing talent and capability through their project choices. They have identified the need for improved orchard management systems, sustainable water management, attracting young people into the industry, the importance of plant identification and placement, and greater transparency in land leasing. A fantastic range of innovative and credible projects and all have definite commercial possibilities," he said.

The innovation entries from the five finalists are:

Andrew Hutchinson (28), Pukekohe (originally from Tauranga), winner of the Young Grower of the Year and representing Horticulture New Zealand, proposed Leased.co.nz – the TradeMe of the horticultural sector with a difference because Leased.co.nz will enable people with land to connect with those that want to lease land.

Jeanette Barker (25), Auckland (originally from Christchurch), Young Amenity Horticulturist of the Year winner, representing Amenity Horticulture supported by the New Zealand Recreation Association, came up with the idea for an App or programme that assists people with selecting the right plant for the right place. The App would require a customer to enter some details about their garden situation and what types of plants they wish to grow – which involves navigating through drop down lists. "This would then produce a list of plants that fit those requirements. From there it would connect them to a nearby nursery where they can get the plants," she says.

Daniel Howard (21), Levin, HortFert Young Achiever of the Year winner, representing the Nursery and Garden Industry of New Zealand, proposed a computerised management system for production nurseries in the nursery and garden industry. The system allows nurseries to plan and track the management of their nursery crops, and help better enhance their nursery practices and efficiencies.

Paul Southan (29), Auckland, winner of Young Landscaper of the Year, representing Landscaping New Zealand, came up with the idea to sustainably save water applied to gardens through irrigation systems, by putting an additive into the soil that makes water more available to plants and allows plants to uptake that water faster and for longer.

Cameron Price (26), Hastings, Young Viticulturist of the Year winner, representing New Zealand Winegrowers, proposed a Residential Viticulture Training Facility that's a commercially run vineyard with up to eight cadets at one time – living on site and training hands-on in the practical side of viticulture in everything from machinery operations to labour supervision.

The finalists (all 30 years and under) will compete for a prize pool of over $40,000 that includes a $7,500 travel and accommodation package and a $5,500 Massey University study scholarship and travel. To check out the full list of supporters or for more information about how to enter for 2017, visit www.younghort.co.nz for more information. For more information, visit www.younghort.co.nz.

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