A Tauranga woman has been named New Zealand's Young Grower of the year.
AVOCO technical advisor Danni van der Heijden, 24, won the Horticulture New Zealand award, which comes with a $12,000 prize, in Napier last night.
She beat six other contestants in a daylong session of horticultural challenges.
It's the second year running a Bay of Plenty woman has won the title, awarded to Erin Atkinson last year.
"It's really great to have won, and bring the title back to the Bay of Plenty," said Van der Heijden.
"I was convinced to enter by both last year's winner and some colleagues, and I'm very glad I came back.
"This is a wonderful industry and a great career; it's diverse, there's lots to learn, and you can see the results of your work every day. I love what I do, and I'm thrilled to have won."
Van der Heijden was also named the top young fruit grower ($1500 prize) and took home awards for finance, innovation, and speaking.
The challenges included practical and business tests as well as taking part in a leadership panel discussion on sustainability and delivering a speech on the future of horticulture at the awards dinner.
"We can remain static and get left behind, or as an industry we can innovate, develop new technologies, and thrive," she told the 200 people at the dinner in her award-winning speech.
Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine said Van der Heijden's victory was hard won and well deserved.
"Danni is a fantastic young grower, and an excellent representation of the talent both in the Bay of Plenty and New Zealand as a whole."
Van der Heijden will go on to represent the fruit and vegetable sectors at the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, competing for a share of a $40,000 prize pool.
First runner-up was Lisa Arnold from Hawke's Bay, while third place went to Central Otago's Hamish Darling.
The competition is for under-30s.