Alex Ashe was named Bay of Plenty's Young Fruit Grower for 2019 at a gala awards dinner in Tauranga last week.

A technical advisor at Farmlands Te Puna, Alex applied to compete because he enjoys a challenge, and saw an opportunity to develop new skills. He also wanted to promote horticulture as a career to younger generations, and felt that Young Grower was a great opportunity.

Runner-up was Hamish McKain, an avocado/production manager at DMS Progrowers, while Emily Crum, an orchard manager at Prospa (EastPack) Te Puke, was third.

Farmlands Te Puna technical advisor Alex Ashe excelled in individual challenges in the practical competition.
Farmlands Te Puna technical advisor Alex Ashe excelled in individual challenges in the practical competition.

The practical competition took place at Te Puke Showgrounds on February 9 where the eight competitors tested their skills and ability to run a successful orchard in a series of challenges. These were followed by a speech competition at the gala dinner.

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Alex's prize includes all expenses paid to compete for the title of national Young Grower of the Year 2019 in Tauranga in October, and $1500 cash. Alex also excelled in individual challenges, and impressed judges with his speech on future disruptors to the horticulture industry.

"It was such an enjoyable event because everybody was there to support each other," said Alex. "Everyone wants to help the youth of the industry do their best.

"Anybody who is looking to compete next year, give it a go — it's a great event!"

The 2019 event had a high calibre of competitors, said Andrew Dawson, Chair of the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Growers Upskilling Committee.

"Congratulations to all of the contestants who displayed exceptional skills, as well as showing off the great variety of opportunities that are available in the horticulture industry."

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated CEO Nikki Johnson said it's essential that young people are attracted to join the kiwifruit industry to achieve forecasted growth.

"The Young Fruit Grower competition provides an excellent example of the different commercial, technical and scientific opportunities that the industry offers. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of this year's competitors who have displayed the talent our industry has."

Horticulture New Zealand CE Mike Chapman said that the competitions are a highlight of the annual horticulture calendar.

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"As a Bay of Plenty local, I know that talented young people like Alex exist in our industry. The Bay of Plenty Young Grower competition shows the rest of the country what we've been saying all along; horticulture is a growth industry, and you can make an excellent career out of it if you put the effort in.

"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."

Alex will compete in the national Young Grower of the Year competition, run by Horticulture New Zealand.

He will join the winners of the Nelson, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Central Otago regionals, and a Young Vegetable Grower, to compete for the national title.