Competition was fierce as the region’s top fruit and vegetable growers contended for the title of champion last week.

The Central Otago Young Grower of the Year was held in Cromwell with eight competitors taking part.

Webb’s Fruit orchard supervisor Jacob Coombridge took out the title.

Organised by Horticulture New Zealand, the competition tests fruit and vegetable growing knowledge as well as skills in irrigation, pests and disease identification, safe tractor operating, first aid, soil and fertilisers and risk management.

Mr Coombridge will represent Central Otago against six other regional finalists at the national finals of the competition in Nelson in September.

He said it felt great to take home the win.

“I feel like I now have an awesome opportunity to represent the industry that I love.”

The example set by his employers Simon and Trudi Webb inspired him to pursue a career in horticulture, he said.

HortNZ vice-president and director Bernadine Guilleux said the Young Grower competition was essential for supporting the next generation of talent in the industry.

“It’s a rewarding career for those who want to help feed New Zealand and the world healthy food.

“Growing fruit and vegetables has been identified as a key way for the country to meet environmental and climate adaptation goals.”