Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Utopia takes Auckland top spot in Ballance regionals

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Constant innovation and improvement scoop Farm Environment Award for nursery.
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Peter Rensen of Utopia Nurseries has been named Regional Supreme Winner at the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Ellerslie.

His 18 hectare (8ha effective) Pukekohe nursery produces orchids, chrysanthemums and ruscus greenery, as well as miscanthus, which is grown and processed for potentially heating greenhouses in future.

Extensive riparian planting has been carried out since the early 2000s, with the property now boasting more than 4ha of native bush. 

This includes the Raupō wetlands, which are one of the few habitats of this type remaining in the region. As well as enhancing the natural environment, the native planting reduces soil runoff and ensures excess water from the glasshouses is filtered before entering streams.

This focus on freshwater extends to future planning, with new irrigation ponds installed to ensure that any future expansion is not reliant on external water sources.

Biodiversity is further boosted with comprehensive monitoring systems in place for pest control and actively managing predators. The team is reducing the use of chemical sprays, using natural nematodes to control butterflies, thrips and other insects, and fungi. 

Lavender has been planted to attract bees onto the property and its glasshouses.

Regular soil testing is completed with crop-specific recommendations implemented, resulting in healthy plants.

Innovation is also a prominent theme, for example a railing system has been installed to transport cut orchid stems from the glasshouses to the packhouse with minimal handling.

The judges were impressed with Rensen’s knowledge and his passion to innovate and grow the business. There is a big focus on continuous improvement, automation and mechanisation to improve efficiency and health and safety outcomes in the operation.

In awarding the Regional Supreme Award, the judges identified innovation and diversification as key ingredients in the success of Utopia Orchids. They also noted that Rensen has a real passion and commitment to improving the property and leaving the land in better shape than he found it – ready to hand on to sons Mich and Tim.

Rensen also won the following awards:

• Hill Labs Agri-Science Award

• Rabobank Agri-Business Management Award

• NZFET Innovation Award

Other Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Award winners include:

Sam Waugh — Donald’s Farm, Whitford

• Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award

• Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award

• DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award

• Norwood Farming Efficiency Award

Matt Wech and Ana Sevilla — Matt Wech Family Trust, Pohuehue

• NZFET Biodiversity Award

• Auckland Council Water Quality Enhancement Award

Kathy & Craig Maxwell — Paparimu Valley Farm, Paparimu

• Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award

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