Ben Smith

Bachelor of Science (Hort)

The Young Horticulturalist of the Year in 2011, Ben Smith is in charge of producing 10 million kilos of tomatoes a year for Turners and Growers.

Lots of people know New Zealand for its apples and kiwifruit – but Ben is helping to make a mark for one of our most popular other fruits – the tomato.

Ben’s one of two Grower Managers at Status Produce, a subsidiary of Turners & Growers, who are in charge of a group of assistant growers in three glasshouses near Auckland, producing a total of 9-10 million kilos of tomatoes a year. These are destined for supermarkets, food service and export.

Locally grown tomatoes currently contribute a total of $115 million in retail value to New Zealand every year, mostly for the local market with just $7 million exported to Australia, the Pacific islands and other Pacific Rim countries. That’s 300 growers producing 40,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year.

Part of Ben’s job is to look at the new varieties of tomatoes being developed around the world and figure out which will do well in the New Zealand climate, market and production cycles.

It has been trial and error with some of the new varieties, such as yellow and orange cherry tomatoes, but the relatively new grape tomatoes – marketed under the Beekist brand as Angel – are growing and selling well.

Horticulture in New Zealand is valued at $NZ5 billion – that’s one of our largest industries. The industry want to see that figure double by 2020.