Shanna wins Young Horticulturist of the Year 2017!

Untitled Document

17 November 2017


After winning the New Zealand Plant Producers annual “Young Achievers Award” in July this year, Linnaeus Deputy Lab Manager Shanna Hickling went on to represent the nursery and garden industry winning the title of 2017 “Young Horticulturist of the Year” at the competition finale last night in Auckland.

The annual competition brings together young people from all sectors of horticulture (orchard, viticulture, plant production and amenity) to compete for the title and a prize pool of over $40,000. The aim is to identify and develop the next generation of leaders in the Horticulture industry, fostering and encouraging leadership capability.

Shanna has spent the past 5 months in the lead up to the Young Horticulture competition completing a range of tasks and projects including a community engagement submission, a career development plan and development of an innovative product or idea. With the garden and nursery sector estimated to produce 200 million container plants, in her innovation project, Shanna identified an opportunity for the ‘SureMix’ sampler – a tool designed and built (to prototype) for quick, easy and representative media sampling from potted plants.

The last two days of the competition, leading up to the awards night saw the competitors run through practical components and activities on day one and business components on day two including interviews with judges.

As well as a lucrative pool of prizes including a $7,500 travel and accommodation package, Shanna says “connections I’ve made from the competition are going to last a lifetime”.

Young Horticulturist of the Year, in its 13th year, is a great recognition of the best of the best when it comes to high calibre future leaders in horticulture. Shanna noted that she joined the industry quite by chance, “On graduating I asked around to see if anyone knew of jobs where I could utilise my microbiology degree. In the end my dentist was the one to connect me to Riversun and horticulture as a career path, and it’s proven to be a wonderful workplace. We are challenged and offered great opportunities to further develop our skills and competencies and Geoff is excellent at asking us what we need to ensure a satisfying and interesting work experience”.

Raised on a sheep farm just outside of Gisborne, Shanna, has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in microbiology and genetics from Massey University, graduating in 2014. She has worked for Linnaeus, the diagnostics division of Riversun for the past four years starting out as a graduate, progressing to project manage the research department and learning the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the environmental testing department. Her current role as deputy laboratory manager provides support to the team to deliver timely results to the horticulture industry, as the lab expands its testing capabilities.

Riversun Managing Director, Geoff Thorpe recalls the first interview with Shanna over three years ago and says, “when I first met Shanna I was immediately impressed with her positive can-do attitude as well as her adaptability and flexibility. She has the passion for excellence Riversun strives for and I have no doubt she will play an important leadership role in the future of horticulture”.

Shanna Hickling, 2017 Young Achiever winner

10 July 2017

Congratulations to Shanna Hickling of Riversun Nursery in Gisborne who won the Young Achiever title for 2017 at the NZPPI inaugural conference in Hamilton, July 5.

Three finalists, Shanna, Grace Ng from Horticentre Group and Corey Ronaldson from Kericell Nursery, competed in a number of activities during conference. Shanna was announced as the winner Wednesday night at the Gala Dinner at Novotel Tainui Hamilton.

"The Young Achiever Competition has been a great experience. It challenges its competitors in a wide range of skills. Coupled with the NZPPI conference it provided a knowledgeable, supportive (and forgiving) audience for our speeches. Thank you to everyone involved in organising the competition – I had a blast! "

Shanna enjoyed immediate local recognition when she was contacted by the Gisborne Herald. You can read the article here.

Special thanks must go to the sponsors, Hortfert Plus and Horticentre Trust, and the judges Carol Fraser, Grant Eyre, Trina Tully, Michelle Turner, Helen van der Werff and Andrew Bowman for their time and hard work in preparing for this award.

Thanks also to Bahco for supporting the finalists with a pack to each of secateurs, holster, pruning saw and sharpening stone.

Shanna will represent the nursery and garden industry  in the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, in November, managed by the RNZIH Education Trust, where the Grand Final offers a prize pool of more than $35,000. And following this, Shanna can enjoy her Young Achiever prize of a 5 day trip to Melbourne, taking in a visit to the 2018 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

Meet the 2017 Young Achiever finalists

13 June 2017

These three finalist will attend conference and compete in the competition.

Shanna Hickling

Shanna is 25 and has a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Microbiology and Genetics at Massey University, graduating in 2014. She was then hired by Riversun Nursery, Gisborne, as a Research and Development assistant. Shanna currently works as a Senior Technical Analyst and Researcher. This is a temporary role as she transitions from the research department, where she was Project Manager, to 2IC of Linnaeus Laboratory.
In addition to her work at Riversun, Shanna takes a lead role in promoting the opportunities in horticulture to students, taking time to talk to schools and at industry events. She has a commitment and passion for the industry which she would like to share with young people.

Grace Ng

Grace is 25 and working for the Horticentre Group as a customer service representative, but is much more than that, with Grace assisting technical staff, and overseeing and organising the retail store, promotions& events, quality testing, field trials and communicating with nurseries and landscapers.
She holds a Bachelor of Science from Lincoln University and the National Certificate in Horticulture (Level 4). She is very committed to the industry and would like to use her skills to advance into a technical role.

Corey Ronaldson

Corey is 20 and employed at Kericell Nursery, Kerikeri, where he has been for 3 years. He is currently the leader of the Da-Ross transplanter team, meaning he is responsible for selecting the best seedlings and maintaining quality control through the week’s production of punnets, plus keeping the transplanter running. He also assumes other nursery work as required. He is currently studying to achieve Level 1 to 4 advanced certificates in horticulture, which he’d like to complete next year.
Corey recognises the potential for him to diversify his knowledge and skills both within the Kericell environment and outside it. His main ambition is to own his own horticultural business.

The Competition

Tuesday afternoon – practical activities and interviews at Growing Spectrum
Wednesday morning – speeches to conference delegates
Wednesday night – results and winner announced

The Judges

Carol Fraser, Growing Spectrum; Helen van der Werff, Primary ITO; Andrew Bowman, Twining Valley Nurseries; Trina Tully, Lyndale Custom Mix


Thank you to the Sponsors


2017 Award

Entries now closed

This annual award, sponsored by Horticentre Trust and HortFertplus, aims to reward and encourage young people who are excelling in their chosen career. Applicants must be under 30 years who have a love for the nursery and garden industry and have an excellent knowledge of the products they deal with plus can demonstrate managerial ability.

Applicants are assessed by a panel of industry professionals, and three finalists selected. The finalists are accommodated to attend the NZPPI Conference where they participate in a series of activities to test their skills whilst being scored and assessed by the judges. The winner is announced at the Gala Dinner.

Why You Should Enter

“What a rewarding experience for all involved. I encourage all nursery industry leaders to support their young people into the Young Achiever competition. The journey sees your young people grow immensely as they progress through the competition stages, in fact all your staff will benefit.
We supported the winner of the 2016 event, Daniel Howard. Daniel grew immensely with his passion for horticulture driving him all the way. His thirst for knowledge supported by some coaching from us, and people within and out of the industry, saw his knowledge build and his confidence grow.
Having the winner of the competition is a real boost for our business, as people come into meet Daniel after hearing of his win. We know how the competition helps grow your team as our current General Manager, Matt Jellicoe, won the competition back in 2002.”

Dave Fletcher, Managing Director, Moores Valley Nurseries.

The winner receives a trophy to hold for one year, a framed certificate and a 5 day trip for two to Melbourne, taking in the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show. Runners up receive a $500 Prezzy card, and a framed certificate. All applicants receive a full appraisal of their entry.

The winner also goes on to represent the nursery and garden industry in The Young Horticulturist of the Year where young people from all sectors of horticulture come together to compete for the title and a raft of valuable prizes.

What's involved?

Initial Application - see brochure

  • Complete entry form - outline your experiences and aspirations and demonstrate your knowledge.
  • CV with references from industry associates (customers, suppliers, workmates etc.)

Finalists attend the NZPPI conference for:

  • Practical Assessments
  • Q&A session
  • Presentation

Few young employees have the financial resources required to compete in this award, so employers are encouraged to help entrants wherever possible with time and financial support to attend the competition. It is an investment for any employer in the future of their business with the employee gaining skills and confidence to bring back to their place of work.

Many thanks to Horticentre Charitable Trust and HortFertplus for their continued sponsorship of the Young Achiever Award programme. Please support these sponsors wherever you can.



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Daniel Chong, HortFert's Young Achiever 2012 came up trumps at the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition. While not placed in the overall competition, Daniel's speech was adjudged best - in three minutes he summarised the characteristics that our industry leaders need to face the challenges ahead.

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Our Young Horticulturist Finalist

Daniel Chong, HortFert's Young Achiever 2012 is competing in the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, representing the Nursery and Garden Industry. Daniel, 22, is Production Foreman at Rainbow Trees, South Auckland.

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Shanna Hickling
Shanna Hickling from Riversun Nursery