An approach that blends technology, knowledge and signals from nature has seen Brett and Fenella Wheeler take out the Regional Supreme Award at the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Ellerslie this evening.
Since 2015, the couple has been running BFG Kiwi Ltd – a 22ha property that spans two orchards, with 13ha of the land being effective. Always striving to improve, they work together using a science-based approach that is tailored to the natural environment.
The property’s soil is tested annually and has been fully mapped – providing a clear picture of its structure and properties. This knowledge is combined with the use of technology to guide irrigation and fertigation with pinpoint precision – tailored to each plant’s age, stage of growth and variety.
The orchards are divided into seven sections, each with its own water meter and irrigation system that are controlled and monitored through a mobile app. Plant health is central to the team’s approach, and this is achieved with minimal use of sprays.
In awarding the Regional Supreme Award, the judges commended the Wheeler’s clear focus on improving soil health through a combination of regenerative and conventional practices, and their use of innovative methods to enhance soils, improve water efficiency and benefit the natural environment.
Brett and Fenella also won the following awards:
· Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award
· Norwood Farming Efficiency Award
· NZFET Innovation Award
Other Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Award winners include:
Sue Meszaros and Karyn Maddren — Streamland Suffolks
· Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award
· NZFET Biodiversity Award
· Auckland Council Water Quality Enhancement Award
Allan Fong — The Fresh Grower
· Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award
· Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award
· Rabobank Agri-Business Management Award
Mark and Emilie Muir, George Flavell and Jenny Hinton — MG Muir Ltd
· Auckland Heritage Protection Award
The awards also served to showcase local catchment group South Kaipara Landcare, which is a collaborative community project that cares for the South Head Peninsula’s unique ecosystem and protects the peninsula’s natural biodiversity.
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are run by the NZ Farm Environment Trust and champion sustainable farming and growing. The Supreme Winner from each of the eleven regions involved in the awards will go through to be considered for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy at the Trust’s National Showcase at Te Papa in May. The recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy then become 2023’s National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing.