Grace Ng wants people to appreciate that nursery production is a technical skill and involves more than just planting a plant, or sowing a seed, and expecting it to grow.
She points out the industry involves a wide variety of roles in horticulture including science, research, breeding, pests and disease management, just to name a few. “It’s really rewarding work,” Grace explains. “No matter what area you specialise in, you’re ultimately contributing to feeding and beautifying the world. I love it.”
In fact, Grace’s initial start in nursery production has now led onto an important role within the wider horticulture industry as a Senior Assessor for AsureQuality. The role ensures that New Zealand exports comply with overseas standards and requirements on behalf of MPI.
“Each country has their own biosecurity laws and standards so it’s important to comply with those rules to keep those markets open for New Zealand’s economy,” she explains.
“The world is becoming more globalised and so consequently there’s a higher chance of biosecurity threats crossing international borders. I like how it’s forever changing. It’s very exciting.”
Grace’s initial interest in plants developed while at high school where she first studied horticulture science.
“Plants are extremely important in our everyday lives. They are an essential food supply, contribute to the air we breathe, they are a source of bioactive and medicinal properties, and form unique habitats. Everything springs from plants so I found that really fascinating.”
Grace completed a National Certificate in Horticulture (Level 4) before moving on to study a Diploma in Horticulture and eventually a Bachelor of Science at Lincoln University. She says qualifications are definitely worthwhile because they give you the skills and knowledge required to successfully work in the industry.
“You can do it both ways – train first, or get a job and then enrol in part-time study. There are a lot of great courses available that are beneficial and will make you more employable. There’s definitely a shortage of skilled, qualified young people in our industry.”
To test her own skills, Grace entered New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated’s annual ‘Young Achievers Award’ in 2017 where she was chosen as one of three finalists.
“It’s a bit of a bold thing to do, putting yourself out there,” she says. “It was a great learning experience and I got to meet a lot of other knowledgeable people in the industry.”
Grace says a career in horticulture offers endless opportunities to pursue.
“As the world becomes progressively more health and eco-conscious, the horticulture industry is experiencing a big growth in demand and popularity. I’m excited to see where horticulture takes me in the future.”