Six young fruit growers from orchards across the Bay of Plenty are sharpening their pruning shears in preparation for today's Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower competition.

The competitors would battle it out on June 22 in a series of theoretical and practical challenges to take out the title of the region's Young Fruit Grower.

The champion would go on to represent the Bay of Plenty at the national Young Grower of the Year title, hosted by Horticulture New Zealand, on July 19 to 20 in Auckland.

"The Young Fruit Grower competition showcases and celebrates our industry's top young talent each year. We're proud to be supporting the development of our industry's future leaders and see them putting their knowledge and skills to the test," said Doug Brown, Chairman of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc.


The competition puts contestants through a range of key tests with various challenges from finance and biosecurity exercises to agri-chemical knowledge and operating machinery.

The tests were designed around the fundamental skills needed to running a successful export-focused orchard of the likes that operate in the Bay of Plenty.

Competitors include:

· Aaron Hokopaura, 25, Grower Services Representative, Aongatete Coolstores Limited, Katikati

· Chris Clement, 29, Technical Operations, Apata Group Limited, Te Puke

· Ella Maxwell, 30, Orchard Productivity Officer, Zespri International Limited, Mount Maunganui

· Erin Atkinson, 29, Technical Advisor, Apata Group Limited, Te Puke

· Nikesh Gurung, 26, Supervisor, Bay Gold Limited, Te Puke

· Rishi Preet Singh, 26, Crop Manager, Bruntwood Farms Limited, Tauranga

Once again the 'Cultivate your Career' expo is being run alongside the competition.

More than 200 high school students from the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions, would be introduced to the exciting career opportunities within the horticulture industry.

"The career expo is a critical part of our strategy to attract fresh new talent into the industry, by demonstrating the range of highly skilled, rewarding careers available. Attracting and developing young talent is vital to the horticultural industry's continued success in the Bay of Plenty and New Zealand," said Horticulture NZ Chief Executive Mike Chapman.

The competition is very well supported, with more than 60 organisations from around the Bay of Plenty committing sponsorship, prizes, people and resources to the event. Tickets are still available for the gala dinner and prize-giving in the evening which has upgraded to an outdoor marquee on the grounds of Mills Reef Winery to accommodate more than 400 people.