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The future of the horticultural industry?

Could drones, apps and electrical tape measures feature in the future of the horticultural industry?

Kiwi ingenuity is alive and well and at its cutting edge best in the local horticultural industry as some startlingly innovative ideas – featuring everything from apps to drones – have begun to emerge from the innovation leg of this year’s Young Horticulturist of the Year Competition’.

The finalists, five young men and one woman, come from all over New Zealand – all winners of their individual sector competitions – and are going head to head to decide who will be named ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015’ after the grand final, which is held over the two days of November 11 and 12 at the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa.

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 the innovation part of the competition is not necessarily about the innovation itself, but about creating an environment for the contestant to think as an innovator and be able to analyse the market potential for the innovation.

“We promote innovation and that’s what we’re trying to encourage. We want to get the brightest and best to come up with future thinking that adds value to the industry.

“It’s really about the process they go through to identify an opportunity; their ability to analyse the supply chain, develop the idea, understand its benefits and gain confidence from presenting to the panel. It’s all about the contestant’s personal development more than it is about product development, although we have seen some fantastic ideas in recent competitions and this year will be no exception,” he said.

However, contestants have been quick to bring some very practical and workable ideas to the fore.

Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 finalist and winner of the Young Landscaper of the Year, Auckland’s Stefan Scott, is presenting on the redevelopment of the return system for the stock standard metal tape measure.

“I was working on my own on one occasion and I found the tape measure a bit frustrating. With nobody there to hold it for me, it kept kept springing back on me. I want to take the spring out of the return system - they’re prone to rust anyway – and replace it with a small pancake electrical motor, operated by a 9v battery,” said Stefan.

Another finalist and winner of the Young Viticulturist of the Year 2015 competition, Havelock North’s Caleb Dennis, is looking at a wine and cellaring smartphone app which will let people curate their own wine collections and offer wineries a direct to consumer sales link.

“Having my own wine cellar, and talking to other people like me, it’s clear that we all have some difficulty in managing our own wine cellars. Some challenges may involve understanding when to drink a particular wine, how long to keep it for and just the overall management of the collection.

“The wine cellar and customer relationship is important too, and I think there is an opportunity for the app to offer a direct link between wine makers and their customers without going through the middle man,” said Caleb.

The other four innovative entries are:

Karl Noldan, Wellington, winner of the Young Amenity Horticulturist of the Year: “I’m looking at developing a canister where you can to draw up the correct amount of agri-chemical concentrate that you require, and then distribute that into your pressure spray”.

Hamish Gates, Pukekohe, Winner Young Grower of the Year: “My idea is to use Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to maximise the water use efficiency on our crops”.

Tom Ferguson, Christchurch, HortFert Young Achiever winner: “My idea is the use of drones for frost protection. I believe using drones for frost protection offers many cost savings benefits and will help in terms of growing frost tender plants in New Zealand”.

Kat Rennie, Canterbury, Young Florist of the Year winner: “My idea is called Forever Fresh. It is a floral display stand that is designed to improve the way we care for flowers, and increase the hygiene standards”.

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.

The competition is made possible through the generous support of: Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 competition partners AGMARDT, T&G and Fruitfed Supplies.

Young Horticulturist of the Year Supporters are Bayer CropScience, Massey University, Primary ITO, Countdown, NZ Gardener Magazine and Trillian Trust.

For more information, visit


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