Kiwi ingenuity thriving in Young Horticulturist Competition

From biodegradable plant pots and horticulture apps, to tools that use satellite data to estimate crop sizes or simply make it easier to couple garden, vineyard or orchard irrigation with elbow style joiners, the Young Horticulturist Competition 2018 leaves no doubt that young Kiwi innovation is alive and well.

The AGMARDT Market Innovation Project award in this year's competition has produced some exciting ideas that range from the practical and mechanical to high tech. Who wins the award will be known next week (8 November 2018) when the pick of the horticultural industry's talent compete to be named the best-of-the-best in the Young Horticulturist of the Year 2018 Competition.

2018 Young Horticulturist Competition Chair Elle Anderson said that over the last few years the emerging young leaders in the New Zealand horticultural industry have been behind the push towards more sustainable ways of producing food and greater use of technology, but practical and workable ideas have by no means been left out in the cold.

"The ideas that our finalists have come up with this year are practical, sustainable and smart. I'm particularly pleased that the contestants have heard and acted on calls from many in the horticultural industry for new ideas around eliminating waste, especially plastic, but at the same time they have not stopped looking for 'can do' tools that make things work better.

"Just recently Countdown's Merchandise Manager, Produce, Stephen Sexton, said that we need innovation to help find new solutions to plastic. Clearly our future young leaders were listening and that alone bodes well for the future," said Anderson.

Award sponsor AGMARDT general manager, Malcolm Nitschke, said that while good ideas are important, the real test is in the execution. "The AGMARDT award is based on the contestant's ability to identify, analyse and report on a market innovation opportunity," he said.

This year's projects include a biodegradable pot, an irrigation tool, plastic free plants, a digital crop estimation tool and environmentally friendly paper wrap for plants.

Morgan Hampton, Young Amenity Horticulturalist of the Year (Dunedin) representing the New Zealand Recreation Association.

Morgan Hampton said Hort-Hub is a location-based service app which will provide a horticultural hub for New Zealand. Operating on a smart phone, the app will provide relevant information for horticulture in one place. "I have focused primarily on amenity horticulture such as gardens. It will help close the link between horticulture and the digital world," Hampton said.

Gracce Stewart, representing Flonzi (Florist New Zealand Inc.) from Canterbury.

"The title of my AGMARDT project is 'WrapitECO', an environmentally friendly paper wrap which reduces the use of plastic wrap," Stewart said. "I was always environmentally conscious as a child, and that has stuck with me and has become a part of who I am and why I am here."

Danni van der Heijden, Young Grower of the Year (Tauranga) representing Horticulture New Zealand.

"A major challenge for the avocado industry is our notoriously poor ability to estimate crop loads at both an individual and industry-wide level," said van der Heijden. "I have seen the negative impacts the inaccuracy of crop estimation has through the supply chain, and I would like to do something to try and ameliorate this. I got the idea from research being done in Australia on the use of NDVI for crop estimation in avocados.

"Satellite data, specifically Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is a tool which could be utilised to improve the accuracy of crop estimation. The proposed service is the creation of an NDVI and crop estimate map of orchards for each region, each season."

Kae Combridge, Young Landscaper of the Year (Auckland) representing Registered Master Landscapers NZ.

"My AGMARDT project is Biodegradable New Zealand Pots, which allow you to grow and plant straight from the pot into the ground, leaving you with no wastage and clean up," said Combridge.

"By choosing raw materials that are biodegradable, it will become a product that can be planted straight into the ground with minimal wastage created. Landscapers and large consumers of plants from nurseries waste a lot of time collecting and disposing of pots after planting - I see bin after bin being filled with broken pots, and we're only one of many landscape companies that would see the benefits of plant producers making the switch from plastic to a biodegradable alternative."

Annabel Bulk, Young Viticulturist of the Year (Queenstown), representing NZ Wine.

"The Elbow-Ace is a tool designed to enable the easier joining of garden, vineyard or orchard irrigation with elbow style joiners," said Bulk. "The tool uses a lever action mechanism to work the pipe onto the joiner without difficulty and does not require excessive strength.

"I personally have struggled with replacing elbow joiners in a vineyard situation and have tried different methods of effectively doing so. The difficulty lies in making the join correctly so the system does not leak and often this cannot be easily done, so leaking joiners are left until they absolutely have to be replaced."

Devin Westley, 2018 Young Achiever (Christchurch) representing New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated.

"My AGMARDT Project is the PFP Carton Liner (PFP- Plastic Free Plants), which allows cell tray and peat tube grown plants to be freighted door-to-door with zero plastic involved in the process," said Westley.

"It works by providing an alternative to plastic waterproofing using all plant-based materials, and it is completely recyclable and biodegradable. It offers key marketing opportunities to companies wishing to promote eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags and pots in freight."

About the Young Horticulturist of the Year Competition 2018

This year the best young men and women from the NZ horticulture industry go head-to-head in six sector competitions throughout the regions in order to qualify and compete in the RNZIH Education Trust's 2018 Young Horticulturist Competition grand final..

The finalists are drawn from the winners of six horticultural sector competitions:

  • Horticulture NZ (fruit and vegetable sectors)
  • NZPPI - New Zealand Plant Producers Inc.
  • NZ Winegrowers
  • Amenity Horticulture supported by NZRA - New Zealand Recreational Association
  • NZ Flower Growers Inc / FLONZI
  • Registered Master Landscapers New Zealand

The finalists compete for a prize pool of over $55,000 including:

  • $7,500 travel and accommodation package for the winner
  • $5,500 Massey University study scholarship for the runner-up
  • The AGMARDT Market Innovation Project first prize of $5,000
  • The T&G Practical Components travel scholarship valued at $3,500

The Young Horticulturist Competition is made possible through the generous support of competition partners AGMARDT, T&G, Fruitfed Supplies and Countdown.

Supporters of the competition are Bayer CropScience, Horticentre Trust, Primary ITO, Trillian Trust and The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science (NZIAHS) plus affiliated supporters, friends, volunteers and industry specialists who give their time.

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