British food and clothing retailer Marks and Spencer has recognised a Hawke's Bay deer farming couple's sustainable farming practices.
It has named Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe as its 'Farming for the Future Champion of Champions'.
They had already been judged the best international supplier, and were up against four other finalists representing Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England for the champion title.
The couple farm at Tikokino in Central Hawke's Bay, operating a deer stud with 600 breeding hinds. They also farm dairy bulls and breed horses.
They export venison to the UK and other markets through farmer-owned marketing company FirstLight Foods.
Mr Aitken says it's a huge endorsement of the farming systems and philosophies they have developed over the years.
"We've been here 18 years and over that time we've putting in wetlands, shelter belts - just looking at the whole farm and the strength and weaknesses of different soil types."
He said there are 7000 totara trees on the farm, not including those on QE II covenant land.
He says judges were impressed with the couple's animal health management, with their minimal use of drenches and vaccines.