Support the Guardian

Available for everyone, funded by readers

Industry godfathers recognised

Industry godfathers recognised
Ross Smith received the 2023 APSA Award posthumously for his contribution to the seed industry, including introducing Asian vegetable production to New Zealand.

Two Mid Cantabrians have been recognised for their contribution to the New Zealand seed industry at one of the sector's biggest global conferences.

John McKay, managing director of South Pacific Seeds in Methven, and the late Ross Smith, from Smiths Seeds in Ashburton, received the 2023 Asia and Pacific Seed Alliance (APSA) Awards at the Asian Seed Congress held in Christchurch last week.

New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) general manager Thomas Chin describes McKay and Smith as the "godfathers of the vegetable seed export business to Asia".

"These two gentlemen were instrumental to the development of the export trade to all parts of Asia, so much so that their peers acknowledged them.

"They have put New Zealand seed exports to Asia on the map.

"It's a tremendous effort on their part."

Mckay said he wasn't expecting to win the award and that working with businesses in Asia had been an "absolute pleasure".

"I grew up on a farm in Methven, and if I hadn't had the chance to start in this business, I would have been on the farm all my life.

"And now I've had this wonderful opportunity to meet and work with these people; it's been amazing."

McKay joined South Pacific Seeds in 1991, growing the business to be the largest production company for vegetable seeds.

McKay is regarded as instrumental in establishing the hybrid vegetable seed production industry into New Zealand crop farming systems.

McKay also served several years as an industry advisory member of the Seed Industry Research Centre at Lincoln University, which has grown to be at the forefront of seed industry research in New Zealand.

Smith, who passed away in July last year, received the award posthumously.

His son, Grant Smith, accepted the award on his behalf.

Smith says the award for his father was "well-deserved".

"It's recognition of the work he's put in over many, many years not only in our company, Smiths Seeds but in his working life previous to that, before we started our own company."

Ross Smith founded Smiths Seeds in Ashburton in 1990 with sons Grant and Michael after spending the early part of his career developing seed exports for companies such as Pyne Gould Guinness and Elders.

Smith was responsible for introducing Asian vegetable production into New Zealand after bringing brassica seeds back from Thailand in 1980.

Smith also served as president of the NZGSTA during the 1980s and, during his tenure, championed the bid for the 1987 FIS Congress to be held in Christchurch.

This resulted in delegates from around the globe visiting New Zealand and showcasing local seed expertise.

The 2023 Asian Seed Congress was held at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre onNovember 20-24, the first time New Zealand has hosted the annual event in its 28-year history.

The congress saw over 1000 delegates from around the globe attend the congress for business meetings, entertainment, trade exhibitions, technical sessions, and farm tours through Mid and North Canterbury.

By Claire Inkson