Innovation and diversification sees Peter Rensen of Utopia Nurseries take out the Regional Supreme Award at the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.


Home / News / Award News / Innovation and diversification sees Peter Rensen of Utopia Nurseries take out the Regional Supreme Award at the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Peter Rensen of Utopia Nurseries has been named the Regional Supreme Winner at the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Ellerslie this evening.

His 18ha (8ha effective) Pukekohe nursery produces orchids, chrysanthemums and ruscus greenery, as well as miscanthus, which is grown and processed for potentially heating greenhouses in future.

Extensive riparian planting has been carried out since the early 2000s, with the property now boasting more than four hectares of native bush. This includes the Raupō wetlands which are one of the few habitats of this type remaining in the region. As well as enhancing the natural environment, the native planting reduces soil runoff and ensures excess water from the glasshouses is filtered before entering streams.

This focus on freshwater extends to future planning, with new irrigation ponds installed to ensure that any future expansion is not reliant on external water sources.

Biodiversity is further boosted with comprehensive monitoring systems in place for pest control and actively managing predators. The team is reducing the use of chemical sprays, using natural nematodes to control butterflies, thrips and other insects, and fungi. Lavender has been planted to attract bees onto the property and its glasshouses.

Regular soil testing is completed with crop-specific recommendations implemented, resulting in healthy plants.

Innovation is also a prominent theme, for example a railing system has been installed to transport cut orchid stems from the glasshouses to the packhouse with minimal handling.

The judges were impressed with Peter’s knowledge and passion to innovate and grow the business. There is a big focus on continuous improvement, automation and mechanisation to improve efficiency and health and safety outcomes in the operation.

In awarding the Regional Supreme Award, the judges identified innovation and diversification as key ingredients in the success of Utopia Orchids. They also noted that Peter has a real passion and commitment to improving the property and leaving the land in better shape than he found it – ready to hand on to sons Mich and Tim.

Peter also won the following awards:

· Hill Labs Agri-Science Award

· Rabobank Agri-Business Management Award

· NZFET Innovation Award

Other Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Award winners include:

Sam Waugh — Donald’s Farm, Whitford

· Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award

· Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award

· DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award

· Norwood Farming Efficiency Award

Matt Wech and Ana Sevilla — Matt Wech Family Trust, Pohuehue

· NZFET Biodiversity Award

· Auckland Council Water Quality Enhancement Award

Kathy & Craig Maxwell — Paparimu Valley Farm, Paparimu

· Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award

The awards also served to showcase Kaipara Moana Remediation, a programme that is aiming to halve sediment flows into the environmentally, culturally and economically significant Kaipara Moana – although its projects generate much wider benefits. Since forming in 2020, Kaipara Moana Remediation has facilitated the planting of about 1.4 million native plants across more than 300ha, and the installation of almost 600km of fencing. They’ve engaged with half of the catchment’s pastoral landowners to create almost 550 sediment reduction plans that cover a whopping 100,000ha.

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 in Hamilton in June. The recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy then become 2024’s National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing.

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