Teams and individuals whose talents and toil help New Zealand’s farmers, foresters and fishers thrive, and what they produce foot it in intensely competitive international marketplaces, were honoured at the 2023 Primary Industries New Zealand Awards on Monday night.
The awards evening is a highlight of the fifth annual PINZ Summit, with winners from 65 nominations across nine award categories announced at Tākina, Wellington’s new Convention and Exhibition Centre.
A mark of the fact that science and research so often underpins solutions to gnarly environmental, climate and production challenges is that AgResearch personnel took out three of the coveted trophies.
The Science & Research Award went to the AgResearch Endophyte Discovery Team for their world-leading development and commercialisation of strains of ryegrass with improved insect protection and plant persistence, coupled with fewer adverse effects on animal health.
Scientist Dr Louise Hennessy (Ngati Maniapoto) claimed the Emerging Leader Award for her efforts at AgResearch and other crown research institutes championing support for early career researchers and a learning approach that blends matauranga Māori with western science.
And another AgResearch scientist, Dr Dave Leathwick, was presented with the Primary Industries Champion Award. Praised by the awards judging panel for his knowledge sharing and effective communication, Dr Leathwick has demonstrated “an unwavering commitment to the rural sector”, in particular championing parasite control and anthelmintic drug resistance management.
On the environmental front, DairyNZ’s Tararua Plantain Project and Adam Thompson of Restore Native Ltd were heralded. The plantain project started in 2018 and with the help of 80 Tararua dairy farmers, dairy companies, government and research partners, DairyNZ has been able to show that with 30% of plantain in pasture sward, nitrogen loss reductions of up to 50% are possible. The project won the Team & Collaboration Award.
A love of restoring land saw former mortgage broker Adam Thompson become one of New Zealand’s most passionate advocates for our native trees and biodiversity. His Cambridge nursery grows more than a million native trees to plant on farms and he leads by example, being well on his way to meeting his personal target of digging in 250,000 trees on his own beef finishing farm. He was presented with the Kaitiakitanga/Guardianship & Conservation Award.
Our producers were not forgotten as the sector celebrated success stories and innovators. The Fibre Producer Award went to Kaituna-based sawmill OneFortyOne for what judges said was a “relentless drive” for improvement and adding value and, in large part by using their own fibre to power their kilms, dropping the sawmill’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half in the last decade.
A sustainability focus, export success and ploughing a portion of profit back into Bluff and Stewart Island/Rakiura community projects where their 150 staff reside are some of the reasons why Sanford Ltd’s Big Glory Bay Salmon was selected as Food & Beverage Producer Award winner.
The Technology Innovation Award went to James Bourke for the DairySmart NZ Ltd technology that enables higher animal performance while reducing the need for antibiotics and cutting antibiotic resistance within herds.
To cap the evening, the Outstanding Contribution Award was presented. Hot contenders were outgoing DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle and veteran Country Calendar producer and director Julian O’Brien but the winner was Professor Keith Woodford. The Honorary Professor of Agri-Food Systems at Lincoln University was recognised for his “long and meritorious” contribution to New Zealand’s primary industries spanning five decades.
An agriculture economist, Prof Woodford has taught generations of New Zealanders, run immersion courses for upcoming sector leaders, and contributed to or supervised many research activities.
Judges said his continued research and writing on current topics – A2 milk, composting barns, mycoplasma, greenhouse gases and forestry in farming systems, to name a few – “has explained these complicated areas to many”.