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Young Horticulturalist of the Year 2017 Competition

Sustainability and technology lead innovative ideas in Young Horticulturalist of the Year 2017 Competition

SUSTAINABILITY and technology are the common themes in this year’s innovation leg of the Young Horticulturalist of the Year 2017 competition.

The finalists – all winners of their individual sector competitions – go head-to-head today to decide who will be New Zealand’s top young horticulturalist after competing in a series of challenges at the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa.

New Zealand’s top young horticulturalist will be revealed at an awards dinner at the Grand Millennium Hotel Auckland tonight.

A key category in the Young Horticulturalist contest is the AGMARDT Market Innovation Project, which tests a contestant’s ability to identify, analyse and report on a market innovation opportunity (AGMARDT is the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust).

AGMARDT general manager, Malcolm Nitschke, said innovation is important but the ability to take an idea and execute it, is paramount.

“The world is full of good ideas. The thing that signals the potential of a leader is his or her ability to show how they would to take an innovative idea from market analysis through to commercialisation.”

This year, contestants have worked on ideas that range from how to help horticulturalists go organic, to a potting mix sampler and recruiting strategy through to a product that reduces environmental and personal exposure from chemicals.
Erin Atkinson (30) – ‘Young Vegetable Grower of the Year’
Innovation: Organic Conversion Services

A service that provides growers with the support and resources needed to convert an orchard to organic certified, to support greater conversion to organic within sectors like Kiwifruit.

“Currently there is no one within Kiwifruit doing this, or driving the conversion to organics. As the world moves toward sustainable management, we as an industry also need to consider this,” said Atkinson.

Shanna Hickling (25) – New Zealand Plant Producers Inc. Young Achiever
Innovation: The Suremix Sampler

The EC and pH of potting mix is essential to the health of the potted plants. Horticultural companies carry out regular potting mix testing to ensure EC and pH are at the optimum level. The potting mix sampler that is currently in use is a teaspoon with an extension on the handle.

“It is slow to use, collects too much potting mix, and risks disturbing the roots of the potted plants. My innovation alters the classic soil core sampler so that it can be used for sampling potting mix from potted plants.

“Its design allows for a small sample to be taken and we predict it will make sampling more time efficient and lower the damage to plant’s roots,” Ms Hickling said.

Pippa Lucas (26) – Horticulturist of the Year
Innovation: A blog/vlog designed to raise youth awareness about a career in horticulture.

The blog will run a series of campaigns across social media platforms, aimed at inspiring a career in horticulture among the most regular users of the platforms: 13- to 23-year-olds already with an interest in gardening.

“The social media side of the business will be further strengthened by a blog style website that will host novel content aimed at changing the perceptions that horticulture is a low paid job for those that have not done well academically.

“We will have a brand ambassador to tell stories to connect personally, showing that horticulture is a diverse industry and important for sustainability and human health,” said Lucas.

Tim Adams (30) – NZ Wine Growers Young Viticulturist
Innovation: Mixflow

Mixflow is centred on agri-chemical handling and increasing safety by decreasing user exposure.

“The product will allow chemical to be measured and added to a volume of water in a closed system. It will achieve this through the use of the Venturi Effect and a variety of other fluid measuring techniques,” Adams said.

About the competition

Finalists (30 years and under) compete for a prize pool of over $40,000 that includes a $7,500 travel and accommodation package for the winner and a $5,500 Massey University study scholarship for the runner up, as well as an AGMARDT Market Innovation Project first prize of $5,000.

The Young Horticulturist of the Year competition is made possible through the generous support of Young Horticulturist of the Year 2017 competition partners AGMARDT, T&G and Fruitfed Supplies.

Supporters of the competition are Bayer CropScience, Horticentre Trust, Primary ITO, Countdown, NZ Gardener Magazine and Trillian Trust. Plus, Affiliated Supporters, Friends, Volunteers and industry specialist who give their time.

To check out the full list of supporters or for more information about how to enter for 2018, visit for more information


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