Hawke's Bay farmers Simon and Lou White have been recognised for irrigation excellence and environmental stewardship.
The Whites are finalists in the 2021 Zimmatic Trailblazer Sustainable Irrigation Awards.
The Whites farm Ludlow Farms, an 835ha mixed arable cropping, sheep, and beef finishing operation in Otane near Waipawa.
This year's Zimmatic Trailblazer Sustainable Irrigation Awards finalists have been praised by the judges for their willingness to embrace the challenges of irrigation and commitment to finding solutions for the benefit of their farm business and their communities.
Three farmers were selected as finalists in this year's competition, which aims to celebrate excellence in sustainable irrigation and encourage farmers to share ideas for achieving sustainable freshwater management.
The other two finalists are Angus and Elise Aitken (Canterbury), and Richard and Annabelle Subtil (North Otago). The farms range from mixed arable cropping and beef finishing to sheep and fine wool production, highlighting the breadth of farming sectors that rely on irrigation.
For the Whites, sustainable irrigation management is about future-proofing their business for another generational transition by investing time, energy and capital into making sure they have the most efficient irrigation systems - environmentally, economically and socially.
Simon and Lou have invested in technology and advanced machinery to irrigate in the most sustainable way and as a tool for making the best decisions. Simon has shared his story at conferences and opened up his farm to other farmers, schools, councils and iwi for education purposes. The Whites themselves are committed to learning and continuous improvement.
Irrigation NZ chairwoman and Irricon Resource Solutions principal Keri Johnston is head judge for the awards. She says it was exciting to see such a high calibre of entries from all over New Zealand for this year's competition.
"These awards are an opportunity for the irrigation sector to celebrate and showcase how irrigation done well can benefit the environment and our communities.
"It's also about farmers building their businesses' resilience through the adoption of technology, raising awareness amongst their peers and their community about what they're doing and monitoring performance.
"The three finalists stood out for their willingness to embrace the challenges that irrigation is often associated with. They demonstrated their commitment to working through the issues, seeking out opportunities to do things better, and highlighting the positive synergies of working with our natural resources for the benefit of all. They really are leading by example."
The competition is run by agricultural irrigation systems leader Zimmatic, with support from New Zealand Awards partners Farmers Weekly, Irricon and Vantage NZ and IrrigationNZ. It recognises farmers leading the way in responsible irrigation, innovative water management and environmental stewardship.
Awards co-ordinator Sarah Elliot says it is exciting to see the awards gaining momentum, with nominations double last year's.
"This result demonstrates that people see the awards as an opportunity to recognise farmers' efforts, thank those leading the way and use them to tell positive stories about their journeys."
Ted and Sue Rollinson from Canterbury were the New Zealand winners of the 2020 inaugural competition. This year's competition is open to only New Zealand farmers, with next year's awards being held in Australia.
Each entrant is judged on the following categories: sustainable irrigation management; irrigation-driven improvements, which may include cost reductions, environmental outcomes, yield improvements and/or improved efficiencies; waterway protection; and stewardship/community.
On-farm judging will take place in November, before the supreme winner is announced the same month.
The categories are Supreme Award Winner, Sustainable Irrigation Management Award, Farmers Weekly NZ Community Award; and Future Trailblazer Award (awarded at judges' discretion).
Together, Zimmatic and its awards partners are offering a total prize package this year of more than NZ$22,000.