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Farmlands Technical Advisor wins horticulture award

Farmlands’ Alex Ashe has impressed the judges in a major horticulture competition, being named Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower of the Year.

The 24 year old was awarded $1,500 cash and will now go on to compete in Horticulture New Zealand’s national Young Grower of the Year finals in Tauranga in October. Alex is a Farmlands Technical Advisor covering the Tauranga and Te Puna regions.

Despite his experience working in the industry, he says the win in February came as a surprise. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was pretty happy with that!” Avocado Production Manager Hamish McKain was runner-up, while Orchard Manager Emily Crum came third.

The competition ran over 2 days where the eight contestants had to test their skills and ability to run a successful orchard, including tractor proficiency, orchard profitability and plant nutrition. It concluded with a gala dinner where each contestant presented a speech to more than 400 industry experts, discussing future disruptors to horticulture.

Alex says for him the speech was the most challenging element, despite impressing the judges. “I’m not a fan of public speaking,” he says. “But everyone there was supporting young people in the industry, so that made it a lot easier.” Alex grew up on a Bay of Plenty dairy farm before moving with his family to Queensland where they own an avocado orchard. He moved back to New Zealand to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science majoring in Horticulture at Massey University.

Alex has worked at Farmlands for 2 years and loves meeting growers, seeing what they are doing and helping them succeed. He says the Young Fruit Grower of the Year competition was a challenge and a good opportunity for him to grow his skillset and think outside the box.

“Everyone was so supportive. We got to build our skills and meet new people from the industry with similar goals.” Farmlands Horticulture General Manager, Mark Daniels, says the competition is an important factor in the development of young people in the fruit growing sector. “Farmlands is absolutely delighted that Alex was the winner of the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower competition,” he says.

“Our New Zealand horticulture sectors have never had a greater need for talented young people. Farmlands is therefore enthusiastic about supporting the investment of young people for both our shareholders and the industry as a whole.”

Alex will compete against the winners of the Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Central Otago regional competitions and the Young Vegetable Grower winner in the national Young Grower of the Year final. “We wish Alex the very best of luck for the national competition later this year. We know his preparation and participation will only strengthen his skills and experience for a very promising future in the horticulture sector,” Mark says.

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman, says the competition is a highlight on the annual industry calendar. “Alex and the other contestants are exactly the kind of people the future of our industry will be based on, and it’s great to see them getting the limelight they deserve,” he says.