The Young Horticulturist of the Year is enthusiastic about the outlook for the sector and the job opportunities it will offer for budding growers and others.
Patrick Malley from Northland represented Horticulture NZ and competed with five other finalists under the age of 30 in the grand final which wrapped up two days of intense comeptition this week.
The win caps off an eventful year for Mr Malley. Earlier, he won the Young Grower of the Year title and is the proud father of a new baby son.
Mr Malley co-owns a kiwifruit and avocado operation with his parents at Maungatapere and said he was excited about the future for horticulture.
"Me and my fellow competitors, we're in a fantastic position in the industry being young. We've got a whole host of opportunities going forward, but there's really something like 26,400 new qualified jobs that people are going to have to fill in the next 10 years.
"So not just for the six of us - but for a whole wide range of other people there's going to be a huge amount of opportunity in the horticulture industry in the years to come."
Mr Malley said there would be challenges too, including having to contend with with foreign exchange and market access issues in exporting.
"But I think we're up for it. Really excited about overcoming those challenges and actually looking at the successes. There's been a bit of a history sometimes to look at the challenges first, rather than the potential success and there is such a massive potential, I'd rather focus on that first."
As well as the Young Horticulturist title, Patrick also won three other awards, including the AGMARDT Market Innovation award for traceability technology he had developed for kiwifruit.
"I did a project called Bin-Wise which is really around revolutionising how we track and trace harvesting between orchards and pack-houses and then how that information flows right through to the retailers and consumers in the market, where the fruit's being sold. It's using technology like RSID chips and smart phones to try and get a really good, robust system that enables historical and real-time tracking of harvesting.
"It has a wide range of applications outside the kiwifruit industry, in both fruit and vegetables and maybe other stuff, too. So now that the competition's finished, we're definitely going to sit down and have a look at how we can implement this - not just for ourselves as orchardists, but maybe for the whole fruit and vege production industry in New Zealand."
Second prize for market innovation went to Sarah Fenwick of Southland, who has designed a new lightweight glove for gardeners.