Rico Mannall - 2019 finalist


Rico Mannall

Seed collecting trips while still in nappies may have played a part in Rico Mannall’s recent competition win.

Rico, from Southern Woods Nursery has won the right to compete at this year’s Young Horticulturist competition.

The 28-year-old says it’s possible his dad planted a subliminal seed of an occupation idea many years ago.

“My late father, Murray, took me on many seed collecting trips when I was still in nappies. So it’s almost no surprise I ended up here,” says Southern Woods business development and marketing manager.

Certainly, Rico’s mum, Susy, will have been an encouraging force. She is a Southern Woods director, with a responsibility for the company’s truffle inoculated tree programme.  Meanwhile, Rico’s sister, Tosca, is studying her PhD in ecology at Switzerland’s The University of Bern.

Rico won the Young Achiever title for 2019 at the recent NZ Plant Producers Incorporated (NZPPI) conference in Christchurch. This gives him the right to compete against representatives from five other horticultural sectors at the 2019 Young Horticulturist Competition grand final in November.

He says he is “stoked” to take the Young Achiever 2019 title, especially given the tough opposition.

“The competition was challenging and very comprehensive, testing a wide variety of skills. I’m proud to represent NZPPI in the next stage of the competition. It’s an exciting time for the industry,” he says.

Rico, who has degrees in commerce and arts from The University of Canterbury, says he is passionate about ecommerce, which he sees as a big growth opportunity for Southern Woods and his industry as a whole. He’s also excited about opportunities associated with Government’s billion trees programme, with its goal to plant one billion trees by 2028.

He has worked at Southern Woods intermittently for more than a decade, taking time off for university and travel. When he has a spare moment, he loves getting back into the production and crop-care side of the nursery where he began.

Southern Woods is no stranger to podium success at the Young Horticulturist Competition. Last year Devin Westley, who remains a Southern Woods employee, was placed second overall in the competition and took home several awards on the night. In 2015, Tom Ferguson – then a Southern Woods employee – also finished second overall and received other accolades.

The South Island is faring well in the lead-up to November’s Young Horticulturist event. Only two finalists have so far been selected to compete and both are South Islanders. Rico will represent the Young Achiever (NZ plant producers) category, while Anika Jackson from Dunedin will represent the Young Amenity sector. Yet to be held are the qualifying competitions for the other sectors: Young Grower, Young Viticulturist, Young Landscaper and Young Florist/floriculturist.

Furthermore, last year’s competition winner was Annabel Bulk, a viticulturist with Felton Road Wines in Central Otago’s Bannockburn.

The 2019 Young Horticulturist Competition has AGMARDT, Countdown, Fruitfed Supplies and T&G as partnering sponsors.
AGMARDT General Manager Malcolm Nitschke says AGMARDT recognises the Young Horticulturist competition truly reflects the diversity of the industry with competing representatives from various sectors.

“AGMARDT is proud to be a significant sponsor of this event, which is a great way to demonstrate to the wider public that there are opportunities for employment and career growth within the horticultural sectors.”

Supporting a competition that encourages young horticulturists across the product and amenity sectors sits well for Fruitfed Supplies says the company’s national manager Max Spence.

“The competition encourages them to challenge themselves, keep learning, develop their own style of leadership and to take pride from their commitment to the horticultural industry that serves NZ well,” he says.

The competition incorporates three main winners, as well as additional prize packages for areas such as innovation, practical components, community engagement and leadership. The total prize pool is more than $50,000.

Rico’s win so far comes with the prize of a five-day trip to Melbourne, taking in a visit to the 2020 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

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Simon Gourley
Young Horticulturist 2019


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