The people whose efforts help farmers, foresters and fishers thrive locally and globally were honoured at the 2023 Primary Industries New Zealand Awards.
Winners from 65 nominations across nine award categories were announced at the awards evening at Tākina, Wellington’s new convention and exhibition centre.
AgResearch personnel took out three of the coveted trophies, indicative of the role that science and research plays in finding solutions to gnarly environmental, climate and production challenges.
The Science & Research Award went to the AgResearch Endophyte Discovery team for their 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 Primary Industries New Zealand (PINZ) awards judging panel for his knowledge sharing and effective communication, Leathwick was said to have demonstrated “an unwavering commitment to the rural sector”, in particular championing parasite control and anthelmintic drug resistance management.
DairyNZ’s Tararua Plantain Project and Adam Thompson of Restore Native Ltd received awards for their environmental work.
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.
Mortgage broker Thompson’s love for restoring land has made him into one of New Zealand’s most passionate advocates for the country’s 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.
The Fibre Producer Award went to Kaituna-based sawmill OneFortyOne for what the 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 past 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 live, are some of the reasons 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.
The Outstanding Contribution Award was presented to Professor Keith Woodford, beating former DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle and veteran Country Calendar producer and director Julian O’Brien.
The honorary professor of Agri-Food Systems at Lincoln University was recognised for his “long and meritorious” contribution to NZ’s primary industries, spanning five decades.
An agriculture economist, 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”.