Six of the region's best growers went head-to-head in the Bay of Plenty Young Fruitgrower competition at the Te Puke A&P Show on Saturday.
Entrants from the Bay were Aaron Wright, Regional Manager, EastPack; Danni van der Heijden, Avocado Services, Trevelyan's Pack and Cool; Hamish McKain, Avocado Manager/Production Manager, DMS; Levi Smith, Assistant Production Manager, Trinity Lands Ltd; Rishi Preet Singh, Orchard Manager, Seeka Ltd and Rochelle Kerkmeester, Quality Controller, Apata Group Ltd.
Contestants demonstrated their knowledge and skills around topics vital to the management of a successful orchard, including tractor proficiency, orchard profitability and plant nutrition.
The overall winner will be decided at a gala awards dinner tonight where contestants speak to an audience of about 400 people from throughout the industry about the future disruptors to horticulture, at the ASB Arena at Mount Maunganui.
Prizes include sponsorship to attend the annual Horticulture New Zealand Conference, a media and presentation development course, and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2018 Young Grower of the Year title in August, as well as cash prizes.
The regional competition is organised by the Bay of Plenty Young Fruitgrower Upskilling Committee with support from NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc.
"One of the industry's biggest challenges is attracting young talent to a career in horticulture," Committee Chair Katy McGinity says. "We are a growth industry and competitions of this type work to illustrate not only the varied career opportunities throughout the industry, but also the collaborative nature of our industry."
The annual competition has become a mainstay of the region's horticultural industry, according to Nikki Johnson, CEO of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI).
"The kiwifruit industry is on an exciting growth trajectory and there are fantastic opportunities for young people to have rewarding professional careers in the industry.
The BOP Young Fruitgrower Competition supports the development and growth of skilled personnel in the kiwifruit industry by showcasing the industry's talented future leaders".
Horticulture New Zealand CE Mike Chapman agrees about the importance of holding these competitions.
"This competition, and similar competitions held around the country, showcase the amazing talent we have working in our horticulture industry.
"Young Grower demonstrates not only the career opportunities in horticulture, but also the potential rewards of these roles, and the skills required to achieve them.
"Horticulture is in a growth phase, with amazing career opportunities for everyone working in the industry, and for those considering joining our vibrant industry. This growth brings opportunities for everyone, and particularly for new entrants to accelerate their career path. These people are the future of the industry."