It is a tribute to the growth across the avocado industry and across horticulture that we had the honour of our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attending and opening our New Zealand Avocado International Industry Conference last week.
She spoke knowledgeably about the growth and opportunity for avocados, about the collaboration across our industry and of her Government's desire to support the regions and primary industries.
It was an inspiring start to a fantastic couple of days in Tauranga. The opening ceremony followed an annual general meeting.
We had fantastic support from stakeholders across the industry in sponsorship and exhibitor participation. We invited local iwi to join the PM and participants for the opening, and we took the procession through the large exhibition space to ensure as much visibility for those supporting companies.
The conference theme was growing avocados for the world and attracted over 400 delegates. We covered topics across performing on the global stage, technology and innovation, research and extension, and sustainability.
We welcomed international speakers Loren Zhao from China, Professor Neena Mitter from Australia and Jorge Restrepo from Columbia. They were joined by an equally impressive number of NZ speakers, Dr Nicholas Gill, Carol Ward, Dr David Pattemore, Steve Saunders, Craige McKenzie, Dr Phillip Elmer and we finished with an on-the-couch session with three of our industry's technical experts, Colin Partridge, Erica Faber and Jonathan Dixon.
Nicholas Gill compared the vision and direction required in his role as performance coach for the All Blacks with what we as an industry must do to maximise the opportunity to grow avocados for the world.
We learned from Neena about new research to propagate avocados using tissue culture, from David about the incredible intricacy of increasing pollination in avocados and from Carol about the start of Zespri's sustainability journey. My opening session described our journey to date and presented a model of a $1 billion industry by 2040.
Networking across the sponsored breaks was fantastic, with so many things to talk about and explore.
That networking continued through a fantastic gala dinner, with Mike McRoberts as MC and guest speaker. During the awards session Maria and Andrew Watchorn were awarded top grower, Helen Grey and Bill Hartill awarded industry service awards and Ashby Whitehead awarded the prestigious Avocado Award, which is the highest award for our industry.
Packed into buses for a field day we visited three different orchards, a closely planted orchard on terraces, an established orchard with big trees set out in park-like environment and a new planting. Scientists added their views to the progress the growing methods were producing and the growers described objectives.
It was an uplifting week to be involved in this fantastic industry.