Teams and individuals whose talents and toil help New Zealand’s farmers, foresters and fishers thrive were honoured at the 2023 Primary Industries New Zealand Awards on Monday night.
The awards evening is a highlight of the fifth annual PINZ Summit, with winners from 65 nominations across nine award categories announced at Tākina, Wellington’s new Convention and Exhibition Centre.
AgResearch personnel had a successful evening, taking out three of the coveted trophies.
The Science & Research Award went to the AgResearch Endophyte Discovery Team for its world-leading development and commercialisation of strains of ryegrass with improved insect protection and plant persistence, coupled with fewer adverse effects on animal health.
Scientist Dr Louise Hennessy (Ngāti Maniapoto) claimed the Emerging Leader Award for her efforts at AgResearch and other crown research institutes.
Hennessy was recognised for championing support for early career researchers and a learning approach that blends mātauranga Māori with Western science.
Another AgResearch scientist, Dr Dave Leathwick, was presented with the Primary Industries Champion Award.
The judging panel praised Leathwick for his knowledge sharing and effective communication, saying he demonstrated “an unwavering commitment to the rural sector” in particular, for championing parasite control and anthelmintic drug resistance management.
On the environmental front, DairyNZ’s Tararua Plantain Project and Adam Thompson, of Restore Native Ltd, were heralded.
The plantain project started in 2018, with the help of 80 Tararua dairy farmers, dairy companies, government and research partners.
DairyNZ has shown that, with 30 per cent of plantain in pasture sward, nitrogen loss reductions of up to 50 per cent are possible. The project won the Team & Collaboration Award.
A love of restoring land led to former mortgage broker Adam Thompson becoming one of New Zealand’s most passionate advocates for native trees and biodiversity.
Thompson’s Cambridge nursery grows more than a million native trees to plant on farms.
He also leads by example and is well on his way to meeting his personal target of digging in 250,000 trees on his own beef-finishing farm.
Thompson was presented with the Kaitiakitanga/Guardianship & Conservation Award.
Producers’ success stories and innovators were also celebrated.
The Fibre Producer Award went to Kaituna-based sawmill OneFortyOne for what judges said was a “relentless drive” for improvement and adding value.
OneFortyOne used its own fibre to power its kilns, dropping the sawmill’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half in the last decade.
Sanford Ltd’s Big Glory Bay Salmon was selected as Food & Beverage Producer Award winner, for its sustainability focus and export success.
Judges also noted its support for the local community, as the company puts a portion of its profit back into Bluff and Stewart Island/Rakiura community projects where 150 staff reside.
The Technology Innovation Award went to James Bourke for the DairySmart NZ Ltd tech that enables higher animal performance while reducing the need for antibiotics and cutting antibiotic resistance within herds.
Finally, the hotly contested Outstanding Contribution Award was presented.
In the running were outgoing DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle and veteran Country Calendar producer and director Julian O’Brien.
The award went to Keith Woodford, honorary professor of agri-food systems at Lincoln University.
Woodford was recognised for his “long and meritorious” contribution to New Zealand’s primary industries spanning five decades.
An agriculture economist, Woodford has taught generations of New Zealanders, run immersion courses for upcoming sector leaders, and contributed to, or supervised, many research activities.
Judges said his continued research and writing on current topics — A2 milk, composting barns, mycoplasma bovis, greenhouse gases and forestry in farming systems, to name a few — “has explained these complicated areas to many”.