Gisborne's Shanna Hickling last night became the third woman in 13 years to win horticulture's top Young Horticulturalist of the Year Award.
Hickling is from Riversun Nursery and was the winner of the NZPPI Young Achiever of the Year winner, representing the Nursery and Garden Industry of New Zealand - and now the new New Zealand Young Horticulturalist of the Year 2017.
Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture Education Trust Chairperson Elle Anderson said she was delighted that this year's competition - considered a strong indicator of who tomorrow's leaders in horticulture will be - had such strong female representation.
"Just making it as one of the finalists in the Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture Education Trust's 'Young Horticulturist of the Year 2017 Competition' is an achievement because every one of the finalists must first win their sector competition to be eligible.
"This year's New Zealand top grower, top amenity horticulturist and top nursery grower were all women. Horticulture's future looks bright - horticulture is the new black.
"We're very proud of these young three women, and our lone male contestant, all of whom have proven themselves against the best-of-the-best in horticulture
Andrew Keaney, Executive General Manager, NZ Produce at T&G Global says, "It's extremely positive to see an increased number of young women reaching the finals of this year's competition and demonstrating not only practical but professional ability.
"While the overall split of our industry's workforce is healthy, we need more women to reach leadership positions - something T&G actively supports - to ensure horticulture continues to grow and remains attractive for tomorrow's employees."
Finalists compete for a prize pool valued at more than $40,000.00.
In taking home the 'Young Horticulturist of the Year' title, Hickling receives $7500 of 'study' travel and accommodation to a horticultural destination of her choice from T&G, $1000 worth of ICL Specialty Fertiliser products and $100 NZ Horticultural magazine subscription for one year.
Tim Adams, who takes home a $5500 Massey University study scholarship, $750 worth of ICL Specialty Fertiliser products and $100 NZ Horticultural magazine subscription for one year.
Adams is from Obsidian Vineyards, Waiheke.
He is also the Young Viticulturist of the Year winner, representing New Zealand Winegrowers.
Pippa Lucas takes home a $1000 cash prize, $500 worth of ICL Specialty Fertiliser products and $100 NZ Horticultural magazine subscription for one year.
Lucas, who works for Auckland Botanic Gardens, won the Young Amenity Horticulturist of the Year award, and represented Amenity Horticulture supported by the New Zealand Recreation Association.
The AGMARDT Market Innovation Project Winner: Pippa Lucas
Lucas wins the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT) Market Innovation Project prize for her well research blog/vlog concept, designed to raise youth awareness about a career in horticulture.
This challenge is designed to stretch contestants' abilities to come up future thinking that adds value to the industry, and the winner comes away with a $5000 cash prize.
Second place runner up Shanna Hickling wins $2500 and third placed Erin Atkinson earns $1500.
A consolation prize of $500 is awarded to each contestant who completed his or her project.
The Bayer Best Practice Award: Tim Adams
This award goes to the finalist who receives the highest score in a range of activities with a focus on crop management practices and sustainability during the Grand Final receives a $2500 scholarship.
The T&G Best Practical Activities Award: Pippa Lucas
This award goes to the finalist who receives the best overall score for practical activities in the Grand Final and earns a $3500 travel scholarship.
The Fruitfed Supplies Leadership Award: Shanna Hickling
This award goes to the finalist who demonstrates outstanding promise and leadership during the competition and earns a $2500 scholarship towards a Leadership or Outward Bound course.
Horticentre Charitable Trust Community Engagement Award: Erin Atkinson
Erin Atkinson is from Apata Group, Te Puke, winner of the Young Grower of the Year and representing Horticulture New Zealand.
The Community Engagement Award goes to the finalist who receives the highest score for community involvement, and earns $1500.00.
Primary ITO Career Development Award: Pippa Lucas
As the winner of this award, Lucas receives a $3000 scholarship, to assist with further study or to attend a conference, and is adopted as a Primary ITO ambassador to promote training and career pathways in horticulture.
The Countdown Best Speech Award: Tim Adams
The finalist who achieves the highest score for their speech receives $500 cash.
The Young Horticulturist of the Year competition is made possible through the generous support of: Young Horticulturist of the Year 2017 competition partners AGMARDT, T&G and Fruitfed Supplies.
Young Horticulturist of the Year Supporters are Bayer CropScience, Massey University, Primary ITO, Countdown, NZ Gardener Magazine and Trillian Trust.