Sunday, August 14, 2022

Solar move clinches award

Vegetable and arables farmer receives HortNZ Environmental Award.
Nominations for environmental awards were of a high calibre this year, says HortNZ vice-president Bernadine Balle-Guilleux, here presenting one of the awards to Robin Oakley of Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables.

Robin Oakley, a fifth-generation grower from Canterbury, has won one of the two HortNZ Environmental Awards to be presented this year.

“Oakley’s is dedicated to continuous improvement,” said Robin. “I am proud that our efforts have been recognised by HortNZ and want to share with New Zealanders the good work that is done on our farms.”

Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables grow potatoes, beetroot, broccoli, pumpkin and arable crops including grass seed, wheat, peas and maize on more than 450ha. They wash, grade and pack produce on site.

In recent years, Robin has taken considerable steps to reduce, monitor and manage greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen leaching and to improve soil quality, through initiatives such as the Sustainable Vegetables System project.

In particular, Robin has looked to power usage, and in April this year installed 564 solar panels at Oakley’s Southbridge post-harvest site. These 390-watt panels will account for about 40% of the site’s annual energy demands.

HortNZ took the unusual step of awarding two Environmental Awards this year.

The other HortNZ Environmental Award for 2022 was presented to MG – Market Gardeners Ltd Auckland Branch – in July, in recognition of its commitment to environmental sustainability.  

“The nominations the HortNZ Board received this year were of a high calibre and for the Environment Award, we chose to recognise two of the organisations nominated,” said HortNZ vice-president Bernadine Balle-Guilleux, who presented the award to Robin at a function in Christchurch on August 4.

HortNZ usually gives out its awards at the annual Horticulture Conference, but the event was cancelled this year due to covid uncertainty, and the awards handed out at various growers’ events. The next award will be presented at the HortNZ AGM in Nelson on September 21.

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