Apples Business Manager, Ben James has been named the Horticentre Group Horticulturalist of the Year 2024 at the Napier Ports Hawke’s Bay Primary Sector Awards.

The awards were presented at a sell-out event on 4 April with judges commenting on the strong contingent of high-calibre entrants across all categories.

General Manager Horticulture, Con Williams said this award is testament to Ben’s tireless pursuit of growing the best apples and people in Aotearoa.

“Ben epitomises the Craigmore values – he delivers the goods, owns it every day, turns knowledge into action, and engages our community. These are actions echoed in the judges’ comments and observations.

“Of course everyone needs a great team to deliver on the dream. So we acknowledge the wider apples and Horticulture support teams for their contribution to helping Ben realise his vision for the apples business and achieve this great accolade,” said Con.

Ben joined Craigmore Sustainables in 2021 as the business was expanding its horticulture sector portfolio in Central Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne. During this time, Ben has led the business through significant growth with the establishment of new orchards in the regions and increased production on existing sites to around 17,000 bins this season as trees start to mature on existing operations.

Success has not come without its challenges – Cyclone Gabrielle in 2023 left one orchard badly affected and saw Ben leading his team through a significant clean-up.

Looking ahead, Craigmore has plans to expand further and expects to have in excess of 600 hectares of modern and highly productive apple orchards under management within the next two years.

Published: 9 April 2024