Maatu Akonga, assistant manager at T&G Global, took out the title of 2022 Hawke’s Bay Young Fruit Grower of the Year on Friday night.
The competition, which took place on Friday, tested eight contestants on their fruit and vegetable growing knowledge as well as the skills needed to be a successful grower.
Contestants completed modules in irrigation, pests and disease identification, safe tractor operating, first aid, soil and fertilisers and risk management.
“It’s so awesome to have so many people from the industry along to support us,” says Coombridge.
“Like all farming, working on an orchard can be isolating at times, but it’s awesome that competitions like this are able to bring everyone together. We’ve got a great grower community, and everyone has been really supportive of all of us as contestants,” he says.
He says his employers, Simon and Trudi Webb, have been supportive of him entering the competition.
“What inspires me to pursue a career in horticulture is people like Simon and Trudi who set such a great example though their service to the industry.”
Coombridge says he looks forward to representing the region at the Young Grower of the Year national competition in Nelson in September.
HortNZ vice-president and director Bernadine Guilleux says the competition is essential for supporting the next generation of talent in the industry.
"The Young Grower of the Year competition brings together the whole industry, but the most important people are our young people. They are our upcoming leaders and are essential to the future of horticulture,” she says.
"It's great to see so much support from the industry for these eight Young Growers. We've got people from all over Central Otago here tonight, and everyone's here to support these contestants.”
Guilleux says the competition showcases some of the industry’s top talent.
“It is a chance for us all to celebrate their success and support the industry's rising talent. Thank you to Horticentre and Summerfruit New Zealand, as well as all of our other event sponsors, for their support."