A Waipukurau man who grew up in town has secured the final spot in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Hawke's Bay.

Joseph Watts, 28, won the fiercely-contested East Coast regional final in Dannevirke on Saturday.

"I'm pretty stoked, but I'm a bit nervous about the next couple of months. I don't have long to prepare for the grand final in July," he said.

Watts is a technical field representative with PGG Wrightson and was raised in Palmerston North.


"I never really knew anything about agriculture, I hadn't had an introduction to it," he said.

"Once I did, I realised the potential was there for anyone to shape a rewarding career in the primary industries."

The regional final saw eight finalists tackle a series of gruelling modules at Pukemiro Station in Dannevirke.

They included using a drone to spot a water leak, a butchery challenge, weighing and shearing sheep and artificial breeding.

Contestants' grasp of agricultural-related road rules were tested by a police officer in a module involving the New Holland police tractor.

The practical event was followed by a fast-paced agri-knowledge quiz hosted by Te Radar at the Dannevirke Town Hall.

The prestigious contest has undergone a major overhaul since marking its 50th anniversary in Invercargill last year.

"We're now showcasing all aspects of what it means to be a modern food producer," said Te Radar.


Watts has several qualifications from Massey University, including a Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies. This was his first regional final.

The win will mean he will represent the East Coast at the grand final in Hawke's Bay on July 4-6.

"I'd like to think I will have a bit of an advantage because it will be easier to rally local support," he said.

Watts' win netted him $12,000 worth of prizes, including an XR150 Honda farm bike and a WorkSafe leadership course in Wellington.

The Tikokino Young Farmers member was named the most tech-savvy contestant, and took home awards for outstanding leadership skills and showcasing innovation.

Greytown contract milker Hamish Hammond, 29, was second and Rob Barry, 27, who is the sustainability lead for the BEL Group of farms, placed third. He won the food award and the prize for championing environmental best practice.

The other finalists are Matt McRae, Alan Harvey, Georgie Lindsay, Alex Field, Joseph Watts, Emma Dangen and James Robertson.

The Young Farmer of the Year is supported by FMG, Ravensdown, Honda, WorkSafe, Zero Harm Farm, STIHL, Lincoln University, Massey University, Southfuels, Northfuels, Betacraft and New Holland.

Two Napier Boys' High School students were named the East Coast FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year.

Finn Beamish, 17, and Matthew Halford, 17, won the hotly-contested regional final in Dannevirke for the second year in a row on Saturday.

"We're pretty excited that we will get to compete at the grand final again," said Beamish.

"My favourite module was getting to drive the New Holland tractor fitted with auto-steer technology."

Almost 72 high school students from across the East Coast worked in pairs to tackle the range of challenge.

The modules tested the students' practical and theoretical skills, and included a quiz.