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Emerging Rural Professional Award winner takes his prize on tour

Since 2012, we’ve sponsored the Emerging Rural Professional of the Year Award at the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management (NZIPIM) annual conference. This award was created to celebrate and recognise passionate and innovative young people in Aotearoa’s agricultural industry. 

Previously known as the FARMAX Emerging Rural Professional of the Year Award, following a merger and rebrand, the award is now sponsored by FarmIQ Systems Ltd. Despite a change in sponsorship title, the award recipient still receives the same great package from previous years. This includes prize money to the value of $3,000 toward their professional development, such as a research project, an overseas study tour, professional development programmes/qualifications or research equipment. 

We sat down with last year’s winner, Blake Gunn, Forage Systems Specialist at Agricom, to ask him how he utilised his winnings to further his industry exposure and education – his answer did not disappoint.  

We called Blake while he was en-route to catch a flight from Dublin, Ireland to San Francisco, California and he graciously made time amid his adventures to let us know all the fantastic things he’s been up to.  

Blake let us know he has been making the most of the opportunity provided by his award with his recent trip to Europe. He noted he attended the three-day International Herbage Seed Group (IHSG) Conference in Angres, France, which followed with a three-day technical tour through the northern region of France. This opportunity allowed him to meet and mingle with people from New Zealand, Australia and across Europe.  

Following his trip to France he spent a week in the UK and Ireland to catch up with colleagues and further his knowledge about what success in the agriculture industry looks like overseas, and compare and contract tactics to those he’s known from New Zealand.  

The biggest learnings thus far? Well, he said it’s safe to say the trip has been fantastic, and although only a few weeks, it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that’s changed his perspective or given him new ideas he can bring forward on his return home. He did say one eye opening learning has been being exposed to how people in other markets have incorporated additional revenue streams into their practice. He noted, in the UK alone, some have diversified to have up to 50% of income coming from off-farm activities.  

In terms of what’s next, Blake’s looking forward to bringing his new ideas and skills back to New Zealand, and he’s looking forward to taking on a bit more of a leadership role in the North Island. He’s also really looking forward to reconnecting and supporting new and old contacts within the farming community.