This year will be a stimulating and challenging one for Te Puke orchardist and businessman Simon Cook.
The 42-year-old is one for five New Zealand Nuffield Scholars who will be travelling the world, learning about agriculture and horticulture and conducting their own specific research projects.
Together with his wife Katey, Simon owns a five canopy hectare green and gold kiwifruit orchard near Te Puke, and with his father Bob, owns and operates Ranfurly Orchard Services, specialising in spray services for kiwifruit and avocado orchards.
Simon is also on the executive of Kiwifruit Vine Health and New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc.
It was because of his obvious leadership abilities and industry knowledge that Simon was encouraged to apply for the scholarship which he was awarded in November.
As part of his 12 month long Nuffield Scholarship, Simon will spend up to 20 weeks travelling overseas, firstly as part of an organised study tour and secondly based around his individual research project.
“I think at this stage I’ll join the study tour to India, Turkey and the Middle East. India is certainly a potential future market for kiwifruit and I’m sure I will learn a lot from this tour.”
Simon has yet to plan exactly where he wants to go as part of his personal research, which will probably focus on bio-security.
The scholarship will mean significant time away from Katey and their daughters Kody, 10, Jessy-Mac, 8, and Sammy, 7.
“I’m so fortunate that Katey fully supports me in this opportunity.”
Simon is among the most diverse group the scholarship has seen for many year, as it has traditionally been dominated by people from the red meat and dairy industries.
The other 2017 scholars are Andy Elliot, of Wakatu Incorporation, Nelson, who has 20 years’ experience in New Zealand’s aquaculture industry; Turi McFarlane of Bank Pennisula who works for Ravensdown Environmental with experience in agricultural systems and sustainable land management; Solis Norton from near Port Chalmers, who manages the industry funded national animal health and productivity programme for the New Zealand Deer Industry and Kate Scott, from Central Otago, owner of an environmental planning and surveying business which services a broad range of agri-sector businesses.