Fieldays 2023: Innovation Awards winners committed to sustainability and advancing the sector

Fieldays 2023: Innovation Awards winners committed to sustainability and advancing the sector Photo by Stephen Barker, Barker Photography

19 June 2023

Not only Fieldays is celebrating its 55th anniversary, but the event organisers are also celebrating 55 years of highlighting innovation in the primary sector.

The Fieldays Innovation Award winners cover three categories – prototype, early stage, and growth and scale – which cover the full innovation lifecycle. This year’s awards also paid tribute to a younger generation of innovators with the Young Innovator of the Year Award.

Fieldays programme manager Steve Chappell says the calibre of this year’s entrants was “exceptionally high” and even more outstanding considering the quick turnaround of events with the past awards having been held only in November.

“This demonstrates how the innovation eco-system is thriving, it’s fantastic. The judges had a difficult time selecting the winners and we echo their sentiment and wish the entrants luck for the future”.

The 2023 Young Innovator of the Year Award went to St Paul’s Collegiate School, of Hamilton, for their Capra Skin Goats Milk lip balm.

The student group placed in the top three of the school’s version of the Shark Tank called The St Paul’s 2023 Crocodile Pit, where students create a new agri-business product or service and learn the process of pitching innovation and business strategy.

The judges said the group identified a need, formulated steps and iterations to come up with a final product and made a real difference to its target market.

The 2023 Prototype Award winner is Waikato Milking Systems which won the honour for its ErgoPOD.

Aimed at the local and international market, the ErgoPOD provides a step change in milking and “revolutionises” the way cups are presented and managed in the milking shed, the judges said.

“With just the right amount of automation, the ErgoPOD reduces injury risks, halves the time to apply milking cups, removes multiple hazards for a cow entering and leaving the milking platform, creates opportunities for precise measurement and control of milk quality, and even speeds up the process of cows exiting a rotary milking platform.”

The Early-Stage Award winner for 2023 is eClean Envirotech, of Christchurch, which is exhibiting within the new Fieldays Sustainability Hub.

The team combined contemporary science and Mātauranga Māori, and its application of scientific theory with practical implementation impressed the judges.

“They have partnered well with an engineering firm and have the ability to manufacture from the beginning. They have already achieved early commercial success and the IP strategy is clearly articulated for NZ and export,” the judges said.

The 2023 Growth & Scale Award went to first-time entrant Wilderlab, of Wellington, which provides a New Zealand approach to protecting and mapping the environment through an environmental DNA monitoring solution.

The judges were impressed with the novel technology, multiple avenues for growth and a strong commitment to values that epitomise the best of New Zealand. Wilderlab is also exhibiting in the Sustainability Hub.

Honourable mentions were given to St Paul’s Collegiates Post Wizard team, SPS Automation for its AI tool for the control of invasive plant species, and Levno for its milk innovation.

New Zealand National Fieldays Society chief executive Peter Nation said Fieldays has always been the home of innovation in the primary industries.

“It started here in 1968 with Shoof owner Geoff Laurent taking money tagged by wife Bev for a family couch purchase and entering the awards instead, highlighting the Kiwi No 8 wire mentality of having a crack and backing yourself. That braveness and can-do attitude are again evident in this year’s entrants,” said Nation.

The Fieldays 2023 Innovation Award event was live-streamed and can be viewed online. The awards had a total prize package valued at more than $60,000.

You can visit the award winners at their exhibitor sites at Fieldays today. Find them via the Fieldays app.

Fieldays Innovation Awards entries for 2024 are already open and can be made online.

The students who won the award were: Students: Lucy O'Meeghan, Mackenzie Lenton, Emma Lobb, and Lachie Mouat

(Source: New Zealand Herald)