A big thank you to all our speakers for presenting at the Conference. 

Kate Trufitt - CEO Potatoes New Zealand

Kate has held many roles in the horticulture sector and has a great breadth of experience from plant nursery, growing, postharvest and processing through to the market both domestic and export.  This experience has been gained across a number of horticultural crops.

With a career started in marketing and operational logistics, Kate then turned her skills to human resources, compliance, health & safety and more recently sustainability.

Kate has been involved in Senior Management and Governance roles and believes this gives a perfect balance of experience to take the helm of Potatoes New Zealand.

“I love to work for a sector that is passionate about what it does and has a genuine value-based story”.

Cameron Bagrie

Cameron is the Managing Director of Bagrie Economics and previously Chief Economist at ANZ. He has other hats including Chaperon – helping business navigate banking, property, Equity Release NZ (under construction), various directorships including NZ Apple and Pear, Te Waka – Waikato Economic Development Agency, Life Education NZ and an advisor to the NZ Police Association Welfare Fund.

He has a real bee in his bonnet about improving education and financial literacy. 

John Jackson

John Jackson has been involved in the potato industry for more than 35 years and is currently Agriculture Director, McCain Foods Australia and New Zealand, with experience in crop procurement, strategic planning, research and development, agronomy and company operations.

John began his career over 40 years ago for J Wattie Canneries in Timaru with their vegetable processing operation. John was involved from the inception of McCain Foods, the country’s first manufacturing operation which now has two processing plants in New Zealand. These process in excess of 200,000 tonnes of potatoes and vegetables annually with a permanent workforce of more than 300 employees nationwide.

John is passionate about New Zealand potatoes domestic and the international brand, and along with the Potatoes New Zealand Board will work to generate more overseas opportunities for the wider New Zealand potato community.

Andrew Barber

Agrilink Director Andrew Barber has been involved in agricultural engineering consultancy for 20 years. A Winston Churchill Fellow, he has a BHort (tech) Hons from Massey University. Andrew has extensive experience in project managing complex multi-stakeholder projects. Among his successes is the Franklin Sustainability Project, which was launched in response to soil erosion.

One of his current responsibilities is managing the joint industry project Sustainable Vegetable Systems (SVS), focusing on nitrogen leaching and nutrient budgeting in outdoor vegetable production systems. Andrew has published multiple papers on a range of topics, including the widely publicised Food Miles report in 2008

Iain Kirkwood

Technical Manager - PHD in Microbial ecology & plant pathology

Iain’s career in the potato industry started 35 years ago as a potato roguer for seed growers on the east coast of Scotland. He went on to study Plant Science at St Andrews University before completing a Master’s Degree in plant breeding at Cambridge University.  He continued his studies completing his Doctorate in plant pathology at Cranfield University. He has worked on and managed several seed certification programs around the world including in Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and China. He was the chairman of the Australian Seed Potato Advisory Group who were responsible for coordinating Australia’s National Seed Certification Rules. He was the Agronomy Manager for Technico Pty Ltd and managed potato production programs throughout the world.  He joined the University of Tasmania where he took on the role of the Research Director for the Australian Potato Research Program,  $M30 international research program involving 10 different institutes in Canada, South Africa, Australia, the UK and New Zealand. More recently he moved to New Zealand to work for Eurogrow Potatoes Ltd as their Quality Assurance Manager, responsible for developing and maintaining their seed potato QA program. He joined Potatoes New Zealand as their Technical Manager in 2018 where he has taken on the joint roles of managing the New Zealand’s seed potato certification,  R+D and Biosecurity programs.

Professor Calum Wilson

Professor Calum Wilson is a plant pathologist within the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) at the University of Tasmania. He has over 25 years’ experience in research and teaching. He actively works with a diverse range of plant diseases including those caused by viruses, bacteria, protozoa and fungi with a focus on those that induce significant disease in potato. He has a passion for the realisation and application of quality research by industry and is actively involved in connecting research and industry to deliver real-world benefits.

Dr Trish Fraser

I was born and raised on a mixed cropping farm in the Black Isle in Northern Scotland. I completed my undergraduate degree - Joint Honours in Plant and Soil Sciences - at the University of Aberdeen in 1988 and then was fortunate to receive a scholarship to continue my studies at Lincoln University in New Zealand. There I completed a PhD in soil science on the "Fate of Nitrogen under an animal urine patch". In August 1992, I joined the newly formed Institute of Crop & Food Research as a Soil Scientist (soil biology focus). Apart from three stints on maternity leave (to look after our three daughters) I have remained working for the same company ever since - these days (after Crop & Food Research merged with HortResearch in 2008) it is called Plant & Food Research.

Over the last 30 years, I have studied a range of different topics such as: the role of earthworms and the impact of management practices on their activities and survival; nitrate leaching from cropping/vegetable systems; crop residue management practices; impacts of different tillage practices on soil properties; and assessing biological nitrification inhibition in soil as influenced by urine of animals fed plantain or plantain root exudates. I was also a very active member of the NZ Society of Soil Science Executive Council for about 24 years, including over 20 years as Secretary and 2 years as the first female President.

Bruce Searle

Bruce is a Senior Scientist in the Cropping Systems and Environment group of Plant & Food Research, based in Hawke’s Bay and leader of the Field Crop Physiology team. His research interests are in nutrient management, crop variability and sustainability in arable and vegetable cropping systems.  He has been involved in modelling vegetable crop responses to nutrient inputs to improve sustainability of production. Bruce also leads several programmes of research, including the Sustainable Vegetable Systems programme.

Darren Long

For over 20 years, Tasmanian potato grower Darren Long has been involved in cover cropping and biofumigation, which is the use of specialised cover crops that are grown, mulched and incorporated into the soil prior to cropping.

Darren, who runs the family-owned operation in Sheffield on Tasmania’s north-west coast, has been hailed by others as a leader in this field. Along with Dave Roberts-Thompson from Table Cape Tulip Farm, Darren successfully established Soil First Tasmania in 2016 to educate other growers about cover cropping and other innovative growing practices. Premium Fresh Tasmania Farm Manager Deon Gibson said that he was inspired by Darren to revive cover cropping on his property when interviewed for the 2018 Vegetable Grower Success Stories.

Jessica Vereijssen

I trained as a crop protection scientist at Wageningen University and specialised in entomology and plant pathology. I am interested in insect vector population biology, spread, host plants, behaviour, and seasonal phenology, and the effects the insects and plant pathogens they vector may have on a plant. I also work on sustainable management and IPM of pest insects. I am the Theme Leader Surveillance and Eradication in the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) research collaboration.

ASSOC. PROF. Clive Kaiser

I am a horticultural scientist with an interest in fruit production, with a particular interest in pre- and post-harvest physiology, who has collaborated with leading experts on many fruit and nut crops. My work has been in academia as well as for government, private industry, and the not-for profit sector in Africa, Europe, Australasia, and North America. I have seen the world fruit industry from bud to shelf, including imports and exports. I developed and helped commercialize a US Patent for innovative research on biofilms to mitigate fruit cracking in cherries and blueberries and prevent sunburn in apples and other fruit, and I am the principal inventor of another two International Patents. Other projects have included USAID programs in Georgia, Tajikistan, Ethiopia, Moldova, Dominican Republic, and Lebanon. My current focus is to develop new cuticle supplements, to reduce water usage in agricultural production systems and refining IPM systems of potato zebrachip. In 2019, I received the US National Association for County Agriculture Agents Distinguished Service Award, following on from the Search for Excellence in Crop Production Award (2016), and Search for Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture Award (2014). In 2023, I was awarded the 2022 Charles Cox Volunteerism Excellence Award by ACDI/VOCA for humanitarian aid through the USAID Farmer2Farmer Program in the Republic of Georgia. As a result of 6 X 2 week volunteer projects over 5 years we were able to increase yields of walnuts and hazelnuts by 360% to more than double the national US average yields for these crops.

Potatoes New Zealand Board

To view the Potatoes New Zealand member biographies - Please Click Here

Pre Dinner Speaker - Hamish McKay

Currently hosting MEDIAWORKS flagship agribusiness REX on MAGIC RADIO seven mornings a week (for more check out REXONLINE.CO.NZ) Hamish also serves as a residential property specialist in the Eastern Suburbs of Auckland.

Born and raised in Manawatu, Hamish has strong connections to the region, giving him a unique perspective in bridging the urban-rural divide on his radio show. Alongside his media career, he is highly sought after as an MC, skillfully hosting various events and guiding audiences through memorable experiences. Additionally, Hamish offers his expertise as a speaker, sharing insights and stories from his extensive career across rugby, television presenting and commentary - including 3 Rugby World Cups - and primary industries on radio.

When time permits, Hamish enjoys feeding his burgeoning ‘McKay on Sport’ Facebook page that continues to challenge the norm and encourage debate and discussion. He is passionate about his favourite sporting teams: The Boston Celtics, West Ham United, and the West Tigers. A one time avid cyclist, he has twice participated in the Wellington to Auckland retro cycle classic, and he has even made a cameo at the NZ Shearing Championship, demonstrating his shearing skills 35 years after making the junior final.

With his warm personality, wealth of experience, and ability to engage audiences, Hamish McKay is the perfect choice as an MC or speaker for your event.

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