Avoco is excited to announce it has donated $10,000 to a Bay of Plenty project aiming to train and educate people of all ages in horticulture.

The donation to the Katikati Innovative Horticulture Trust comes just as the trust has reached an exciting milestone in its fundraising efforts to build a purpose-built innovative learning facility at Katikati College.

It has recently passed the fundraising target’s halfway mark and is hopeful construction of the new building will get underway early next year.

The project has strong support from the horticulture industry which is suffering from a serious workforce shortage amid a period of intensive growth due to global demand for quality, sustainably-grown New Zealand primary products.

By 2025, the industry is expected to need a net increase of 7800 workers, including 14,900 across the workforce with qualifications.

Avoco director Alistair Young says one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is a shortage of labour, making the educational facility essential to the industry’s future.

“Everyone working in horticulture understands the pressure our industry faces during the intensive harvest periods, but our industry is growing at such a rate that we need more permanent skilled workers right through the production cycle and supply chain if we are going to capitalise on the global opportunities emerging.

“The facility is exactly what our industry needs to ensure our sector has trained people in all areas. What’s more, we’re delighted that we can support our community and contribute to a project that enables people to enter an industry with exciting career opportunities for all interests and skills.”

Alistair and the Avoco Grower Relationship Committee (AGRC) is also encouraging growers to make a donation to support the project.

Katikati College Innovative Horticulture Manager Hilary Johnson says with more than half the funds required raised, the trust now has confidence to commission drawings and specifications for the building.

“We are grateful for the support we have received so far and, with continued support, we will have plans drawn up and construction underway early next year.

“Such a centre is desperately needed. Growers are part of a rapidly growing industry which requires a skilled labour force. We will grow that through the Katikati Innovative Horticulture Centre for excellence, with pathways direct from curriculum to industry.”

Constructed on the college grounds, the facility will be available to college students and adults keen to find careers within the horticulture industry, or go on to further education, including university.

“Now we need more businesses, especially those associated with the horticultural industry, and individuals to support us in the effort to raise the last $250,000 needed to begin construction.”

The impacts of COVID-19 and the restrictions on overseas workers entering New Zealand have highlighted the urgent need for skilled horticultural workers. Meeting that need is among the goals of Katikati Innovative Horticulture Trust, says Hilary.

The building will be a simple, utilitarian facility purpose-designed for courses providing pathways into the horticultural industry’s diverse careers. Building the facility in Katikati will benefit students of all ages, the local community, and the wider industry.