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Finalist always trying to improve

Rhys Roberts of Mid Canterbury was named a Transtasman finalist for the Zanda McDonald Award.

The award is presented as the Australasian badge of agricultural honor.

Mr. Roberts was one of eight finalists selected for their passion for the industry, strong leadership skills and contributions to the primary sector.

He is the CEO of Align Farms Group in Mid Canterbury and operates with his wife Kiri, who is a farm manager, at Align Clareview in Westerfield.

The Align Farms group, founded by directors John Buchanan and Rob Cameron, is made up of seven farms in Mid Canterbury, covering 1,786 hectares and handling 4,500 cows.

Clareview – a 296 hectare property – was purchased by the group in 2013 and is the largest farm in the Align group.

They milk 1080 cows on an 80 bale rotary, reaching around 480,000 kg of milk solids per year, supplying Westland Milk Products.

They have launched various initiatives to help them, including a list system app where staff choose their working days in four-week periods, and a five-year trial is in place to collect data on regenerative dairy farming at commercial scale.

Mr Roberts has spent over 20 years in the industry and has always strived to find a better balance on the farm – environmentally and socially where they could “work the farm, not the farm work us”.

The president of the award, Richard Rains, said that Covid’s travel restrictions had resulted in the change from one winner to two last year, but also created an exciting opportunity.

The move to eight finalists and two winners is having a positive impact on more future leaders in Australia and New Zealand, he said.

“We are delighted to be able to invest in the future of the eight finalists and our two winners, and to contribute to their future careers and personal development.

Our judges were once again overwhelmed by the level of talent and abilities of this year’s nominees, who come from a wide range of backgrounds in the primary industry.

They display a deep desire to make a difference, as well as ambition, personality and drive. We look forward to meeting the finalists in person for interviews and providing them with mentorship and media training as part of the process. ”

The Zanda McDonald Award recognizes future young leaders working in agriculture and offers an impressive set of awards focused on a tailored transtasman mentorship program.

The four New Zealand finalists are Mr. Roberts (34); Adam Thompson (35), director of Restore Native Plant Nursery, Cambridge cattle breeder and mortgage broker; Katie Vickers (28), Sustainability and Land Use Manager for Farmlands, from Christchurch; and Olivia Weatherburn (33), National Extension Program Manager for Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Mossburn, Southland.

The four finalists from Australia are Charlie Perry (35), manager and partner of the family wagyu beef farm Trent Bridge Partnership, in Gurya, north New South Wales; Kate McBride (23), fifth generation farmer and station worker at Tolarno Station, and researcher at the Australia Institute, West New South Wales; Gavin Rodman (28), District Director – Far North, Sugar Research Australia, Cairns; and Jeremy Cummins (34), owner and manager of a feedlot and long-distance training company Bottlejac Trading Company in New South Wales and Queensland.


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