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Kiwifruit Growers Enjoy Benefits of Farm Environment Competition

4 September 2015

Kiwifruit Growers Enjoy Benefits of Farm Environment Competition

The lingering effects of the devastating PSA outbreak didn’t stop Bay of Plenty Kiwifruit growers Stephen Kenna and Phillipa Wright entering the Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

“We are passionate about the Kiwifruit industry, despite its biosecurity issues, and we thought we had a good story to tell,” Stephen says.

He and Phillipa run a 15ha orchard at Ongare Point, north of Katikati. Like many kiwifruit growers they were hit hard by the vine disease PSA-V, but the couple’s positive attitude and careful planning have helped them cope with the disaster. This impressed judges of the 2015 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA), who awarded the operation three category awards, including the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award.

Stephen says they entered the competition to benchmark their operation against a wide range of agricultural enterprises.

“We’ve always focussed on sustainable management that pays, and we are constantly questioning our practices and looking for better ways to do things.

“So our key motivation for entering the awards was to compare ourselves with others and see what similar-thinking people were doing to improve the sustainability of their operations.”

Their business, KWKIWI Ltd, is still very much in recovery mode following the PSA outbreak, but they didn’t regard this as an excuse to not enter the Bay of Plenty BFEA.

“Just like any farming operation, the work is never quite finished, you are never 100% ready, and each year the climate throws something different at you. So you’ve got to take the long term view. We thought the competition would help us tweak our operation and make it more sustainable, more profitable and better for the environment.” 

Stephen says their involvement in the competition was a valuable learning experience and they thoroughly enjoyed the judging process, which was conducted in a non-intimidating manner.

“It was more like a peer to peer discussion. The judges came from a diverse range of backgrounds and we really enjoyed the opportunity to show them what we were trying to achieve.” 

Stephen and Phillipa were “ecstatic” to win three category awards in their first time in the competition.

Along with the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, the orchard also picked up the Zespri® Kiwifruit Orchard Award and the Massey University Innovation Award.

The Hill Laboratories Harvest Award recognises excellent crop, pasture and soil management while taking into consideration the effects the farming system has on the land resource now and in the long term.

“It was a big thumbs-up for our focus on measuring and quantifying what is happening in the soil and our goal of maximising production while minimising the downside effects,” Stephen says.

Fiona Calvert, Hill Laboratories Senior Client Service Manager for Agriculture, says Stephen and Phillipa are worthy winners of the 2015 Bay of Plenty Harvest Award.

“Their belief in ‘measuring to manage’ together with their very strong sustainability focus are deserved of recognition and reward. They are outstanding role models for what these awards are about and why Hill Laboratories are proud to be a sponsor.”

Stephen and Phillipa would strongly recommend the competition to other horticulturists.

“It’s a great way to learn more about how to improve sustainability.”

Stephen says the competition also provides an interesting insight into what other sectors of the primary industry are doing to improve environmental management and lift profitability.

“It doesn’t matter if you are growing fruit or animals, the basic principles are the same. We are all trying to produce a healthy product and protect the environment as much as possible.”  

Entries for the 2016 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on 16 October 2015. Entry forms are available online at www.bfea.org.nz