Sustainability – the theme of the Young Grower final

27 Aug 2018


Last week, the national finals of the Young Grower of the Year were held in Napier.  In addition to practical in-the-field events and business sessions, there were a leadership panel run like a media conference and a speech contest. Click here for videos of the leadership panel and the speech contest. The focus of the leadership panel discussion was sustainability and the speech topic was the future for horticulture as we strive towards a carbon-zero future.  Two aspects of the leadership panel and the speech contest were particularly noticeable:

- the high standard of speaking by the contestants; and

- the contestants’ obvious knowledge of and commitment to sustainability. 

 There were seven contestants, aged 30 or under, who had each won their regional competition to qualify for the national final and a chance to become the Young Grower for 2018.

Submissions have closed on the proposed carbon zero act and like many organisation HortNZ made a submission.  Click here  for a copy.  This is a major development for New Zealand and will create the blueprint for reaching its climate change targets by 2030, and then 2050. The question of course is how can these targets be met and what role can, and should, horticulture play. The young grower contestants identified advances in growing systems and technology as one of the key components for horticulture to play a major part to reach the targets. 

Today, there are about 116,000 hectares growing fruit, berries and vegetables. In New Zealand horticulture’s contribution to greenhouse gases control is not large. But if horticulture increased to one million hectares, nine times its current size, modelling has predicted that the price of carbon would reduce by $13/t in 2050. This demonstrates, as the contestants’ observed in their speeches, that horticulture has the potential to play a very important part in reaching the 2050 targets. But this has to be put into context, as to achieve the 2050 targets, there will be impacts on emissions prices, on New Zealand’s GDP, jobs, incomes, and the health of New Zealanders. Primary sector and horticulture farming operations may end up being put out of business as we move to meet these targets. Therefore, particular attention needs to be paid to:

  • New Zealand’s international competitiveness, the ability for our horticulture exports to continue to earn premium prices, and the potential for carbon leakage.
  • Domestic food supply: the impact of the methods of implementation on the reliable supply of fresh fruit and vegetables to domestic consumers.
  • Investment in research to develop alternative technologies and fuels that growers will need to enable viable fruit and vegetable production to continue.
  • Recognition that shelter belts, fruit trees, vines and crops all contribute to reducing greenhouse gases.

Horticulture can add value to a lower emissions economy. But in order to mitigate emissions through increases in horticulture, barriers to horticultural expansion will need to be reduced. In particular, these are trade barriers, access to high quality soils, access to water, and adequate nutrient allocations that recognise that horticulture has a different profile to pastoral farming. Then it will be possible for horticulture to help New Zealand meet its domestic emissions reductions, including from new forest planting and horticultural plantings such as orchards, vines, and shelter belts.

I conclude with the words of the 2018 Young Grower of the Year, Danni van der Heijden, in her speech: “We can remain static and get left behind, or as an industry we can innovate, develop new technologies, and thrive."

- Mike Chapman, CEO