PNZ Biennial Conference a huge success

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By Gemma Carroll, Communications and Engagement Officer

It was 5-6 months in the making, but I am happy to say we had a rich and thought-provoking gathering for our biennial conference and AGM.

It was two days covering all things R&D at our Agronomists Forum, brilliant minds, experts in their fields as keynotes at our Plenary Sessions and a celebration of paddock to plate at our dinner and awards nights.

Christchurch put on her best mid-Winter sunshine, with luminescent snowy Alps as our backdrop.

The Agronomists Forum successfully trialed a new format this year, which involved dividing into concurrent sessions, with around 30 people in each group and an hour to discuss a specific project or topic.

Topics discussed were; Canterbury TPP Spray Programmes & Regreening, PMTV update and literature review, Spongospora Suppressive Soils, Genetics of liberibacter & psyllid, Future Proofing Vege Production, NZGAP Soil Erosion& Phosphate dashboard, “Don’t Muddy the Waters”, Improving Water Efficiency, All things Seed, Potato Storage, Spectral Imaging & NIR and Pulse Electric Field work.

The rooms were abuzz from 10 until 5 with time to feedback to the attendees as a whole, after each session throughout the day. The 120 attendees enjoyed drinks and spuddy nibbles to end.

The next day, proceedings were opened by Minister of Agriculture the Rt. Hon. Damien O’Connor and led into a day of brilliant minds. Each keynote an absolute expert and highly engaging presenter.

Issues of importance covered were; Media, Marketing, Economy & Politics, Technology, Biosecurity, Diversity and Inclusion, Consumer Trends, Retail Reports and Post-Harvest advice.

The CEO of PNZ Chris Claridge took the opportunity to launch our latest project The Nutrient Emissions Project, which it is hoped will maintain industry’s social license to grow potatoes. This on the day that the government was announcing new plans to protect prime food-growing land, amid growing concern about the impact of urban sprawl and meanwhile Environment Canterbury was launching proposed new regional plan changes which will restrict grower and farm activities on Canterbury land, in relation to Nitrates.

If the status quo needed to be challenged, this day would do it. Not all of the opinion conveyed was easy to hear, with serious consequences to be considered in the current economic, political and environmental climate. This is exactly what’s needed at a conference for a leading horticultural product group, an industry which contribute $1 billion dollars per annum to the NZ economy.

We know of many growers who have already met with speakers or arranged meetings to follow-up on ideas presented at the conference.

The dinner and awards night was a glittering yet relaxed culmination to the 2 day event.

MC Mike McRoberts was friendly, entertaining and right at home in the city where he grew up and where he later covered the earthquakes news. It was only fitting that we dined and enjoyed jazz music from local band Garden City Combo, in the newly refurbished Limes Room at the Christchurch Town Hall, returned to it’s former glory. Growers met end-users, from the food service industry, who were invited as finalists in the best chip shops awards Bidfood People’s Choice 2019 and Judges’ Supreme 2019.

The Chair of the PNZ Board also awarded a lifetime achievement award to Monty Spencer.

Around 150 people had a fantastic gathering and we felt proud to have enabled the coming together of industry from across the country, to celebrate their work.