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Young Farmer awards announce new focus

Newshub logoNewshub 12/09/2018

Ash-Leigh Campbell was recently elected as chair of the NZ Young Farmers board . © Video: Newshub Image: Newshub Ash-Leigh Campbell was recently elected as chair of the NZ Young Farmers board . New Zealand's longest-running agricultural contest is set to undergo a major overhaul.

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year has been running since 1969 and attracts up to 300 contestants each year.

Organisers have announced a revamp designed to get more women to take part and to help showcase the country's food story.

"We've just celebrated our 50th anniversary, which is an amazing achievement," said dairy farmer and NZ Young Farmers Contest Board member Cole Groves.

"However, if we don't make some major changes now, this contest won't be relevant in another 50 years."

The changes are outlined in a new strategy which was unveiled this month.

"There will still be a strong practical side to the contest, but our modules and challenges need to utilise technology more," said Dannevirke banker and NZ Young Farmers Contest Board chair Rebecca Brown.

"In future, contestants might have to use GPS technology to mark out and erect a fence around riparian planting."

Contest organisers are keen to tap into innovation and technology being used and developed by sponsors.

"We'd like to inject a bit of excitement and unpredictability into the contest through the use of innovation," Mr Groves said.

Awards for the highest-scoring competitor in each of the five challenges, from agri-business to agri-skills, are being scrapped.

They'll be replaced with new awards assessing contestants' skills and knowledge across innovation, food, people, environment and technology.

"We're hoping the changes encourage more women to give the contest a go," said Mr Groves.

"We want to expand contestants' knowledge beyond just fencing and identifying different types of fertiliser."

Ms Brown said the changes give them clear direction, which has been lacking until now. 

"The changes won't happen overnight at regional level, but we've set the ball rolling," she said.

The contest will also be used to better tell New Zealand's paddock to plate food story.

"I think that can often get forgotten. There is a huge amount of public pressure on the primary industries at the moment. We're all food producers and showcasing what we do is vital," said Mr Groves.

The changes will start rolling out at regional finals across New Zealand early next year.

The 2019 FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final is being held in Hawke's Bay in July.

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