A Tauranga woman is in the national line up for the Young Horticulturist of the Year 2018.

Danni van der Heijden is the regional Young Grower of the Year representing Horticulture New Zealand. She will go head to head with other regional representatives in the grand final next Thursday.

The competition pits emerging young Kiwis in the horticultural industry against each other.

Competition chair Elle Anderson said that over the last few years the emerging young leaders have been behind the push towards more sustainable ways of producing food and greater use of technology, but practical and workable ideas have by no means been left out in the cold.

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"The ideas that our finalists have come up with this year are practical, sustainable and smart. I'm particularly pleased that the contestants have heard and acted on calls from many in the horticultural industry for new ideas around eliminating waste, especially plastic, but at the same time they have not stopped looking for 'can do' tools that make things work better.

Van der Heijden said a major challenge she was interested in the avocado industry was "our notoriously poor ability to estimate crop loads at both an individual and industry-wide level".

"I have seen the negative impacts the inaccuracy of crop estimation has through the supply chain, and I would like to do something to try and ameliorate this. I got the idea from research being done in Australia on the use of NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) for crop estimation in avocados."

Van der Heijden has come up with a digital crop estimation tool, which will be up against a biodegradable pot, an irrigation tool, plastic-free plants, and an environmentally friendly paper wrap for plants from other finalists.

The finalists are drawn from the winners of six horticultural sector competitions:

Horticulture NZ (fruit and vegetable sectors)
NZPPI - New Zealand Plant Producers Inc.
NZ Winegrowers
Amenity Horticulture supported by NZRA - New Zealand Recreational Association
NZ Flower Growers Inc / FLONZI
Registered Master Landscapers New Zealand

The finalists compete for a prize pool of over $55,000 including:

A $7500 travel and accommodation package for the winner
A $5500 Massey University study scholarship for the runner-up
The AGMARDT Market Innovation Project first prize of $5,000
The T&G Practical Components travel scholarship valued at $3,500

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