The tenacity and professionalism of Dr Merlyn Hay, whose work led to the identification of Mycoplasma Bovis in New Zealand, saw her take out the Outstanding Contribution to the Primary Industries Award last night.

The Oamaru vet was not satisfied that she had found the root cause of the unusual and distressing symptoms she was observing in cows and calves on a South Canterbury property and left no stone unturned until the cause was diagnosed.

Other awards presented in front of more than 300 farmers, foresters, fishers and industry body representatives at the inaugural Primary Industries Summit gala dinner in Wellington were:

Team Award
Beef & Lamb for the Taste Pure Nature Project (sponsor Primary ITO)
Science and Research Award
Lincoln University for its Cleartech Project (sponsor BNZ)
Chief Executive Award
Greg Campbell, Ravensdown (sponsor Cucumber)
Innovation & Collaboration Award
Agricom, for its Green Pastures project (sponsor CB Norwood).

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Outstanding Contribution to Primary Industries 2019 winner Dr Merlyn Hay and her husband Andrew Dickson, with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, and Federated Farmers President Katie Milne. Photo / Supplied
Outstanding Contribution to Primary Industries 2019 winner Dr Merlyn Hay and her husband Andrew Dickson, with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, and Federated Farmers President Katie Milne. Photo / Supplied

An awards judge said of Merlyn Hay's work: "I've always found rural vets willing to go the extra mile but the actions of Dr Hay have given that a whole new meaning. She didn't have to do what she did but the country is better for it."

Dr Hay's nominator said that the fact Mycoplasma bovis had previously not been found in New Zealand and was not among the high profile diseases that vets are expected to keep an eye out for - such as foot and mouth disease - makes Dr Hay's work even more remarkable.

"While it was later discovered that Mycoplasma Bovis had entered New Zealand as much as 18 months earlier there is no doubt that Dr Hay's detection in July 2017 has meant that we have a good chance of eradicating the disease," the nominator said.

"If Dr Hay had not been so tenuous and vigilant and it had been months or years later before Mycoplasma Bovis was first detected it is highly likely we would just had to live with the disease as farmers in other countries do. Arguably, Dr Hay has saved the New Zealand primary sector millions of dollars and potentially enabled our country to achieve something no other country has managed - to rid itself of this disease."

Beef & Lamb's Taste Pure Nature campaign to better tell the story of New Zealand-produced red meat in key export markets, particularly the USA, has been hailed as having a huge impact, despite the team having a fraction of the budget of international competitors.

One of the judges, Dominic George, said: "Taste Pure Nature looked at everything from the rise of alternative proteins through to the 'conscious foodie' and came up with a campaign to tell the story of how our natural farming methods and produce match our image as a land of pure nature. It's received excellent global coverage and you can't beat a cheeky spot in Times Square!"

Since starting as Ravensdown CEO in 2013, Greg Campbell has led the co-operative's transformation from a predominantly "fertiliser company" to the "farm nutrient and environmental experts".

His nominators said he has championed sustainability at every level, has changed the culture on health and safety so that every employee knows how much it matters, and under his leadership the company has paid back a third of a billion dollars in debt and today enjoys record-breaking total equity.

Lincoln University's ClearTech is about helping dairy farmers manage effluent in a more sustainable manner.

ClearTech uses a coagulant to bind effluent particles together so they can be settled out from water, reducing the risk of phosphorus getting into waterways via runoff or drains.

A judge, Bill Bayfield, said not only is ClearTech a valuable tool for improving environmental outcomes, "it also increases efficiency - saving time, electricity, water and reducing costs.

This kind of practical, on-farm solution is what we need more of."

Agricom's Ecotain environmental plantain project brought together a diverse group of people from across PGG Wrightson Seeds.

A worthy winner of the Innovation and Collaboration Award, the outcome of this team effort has been the development of Ecotain environmental plantain, a forage for animals that significantly reduces nitrogen leaching from the urine patch.

The result is a product that can help solve one of New Zealand agriculture's greatest challenges.