Ballance celebrating student innovation


Regional science fairs - Sustainable Agricultural Award

Ballance is delighted to be awarding our inaugural Sustainable Agricultural Award as part of our national programme of science and technology fair sponsorships that launched earlier this year, aiming to foster and support primary and secondary students’ interest in the science and innovation space. The award celebrates students who demonstrate a keen understanding of a current or emerging sustainability issue affecting New Zealand’s agricultural sector, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural chemical use, nutrient loss to waterways, and other environmental concerns.

The programme builds on Ballance’s $25 million Future Ready Farms programme in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund as part of its Fit for a Better World programme’, with the goal of developing solutions to help farmers and growers further improve on their sustainable agricultural practices.


The 2021 regional science fair winners are:


Arwen Milward, Year 8 student at Pirongia School, received the award for their science investigation into the environmental impacts of rising sea levels, and how the potential increase in salination of soils may influence seed germination.

Ian Power, representative judge and Environmental Management Specialist at Ballance, says “From hypothesis to conclusion, Arwen’s project displayed scientific thinking beyond their year level.

“It had a clear focus unpacking an environmental concern we’re seeing with our rising sea levels, and offered a sound solution with the planting of more salt-resistant plant species.”

“Being involved in this year’s science and technology fair has helped highlight the role our next generation will play in combating the effects of climate change. Despite their age, we can all learn so much from these students and their drive to protect and preserve the natural environment that we’re proud to call our home,” said Ian.

Auckland central

Joshua Gowing and Ari Hunter, Year 8 students from Ponsonby Intermediate, received the award for their science project - testing the amount of energy generated by different plants. They explored whether plants could be a sustainable power source in the future, helping reduce the impact on the environment.

Jai Prakash, representative judge and Ballance’s Horticulture and Arable Specialist, says “Every project had its own merit, but Joshua and Ari’s research on ‘Plant Batteries’ stood out as being future-ready as this is the kind of technology that we see many leading companies actively investing in. This project both challenges our knowledge while opening a new world of imagination around the future of sustainability practices.”


Sophie Hall, Hana Klein and Rosie Dunn, Year 7 students at Evans Bay Intermediate School, earned the prize for their investigation into measuring nitrate levels in Wellington’s urban and rural rivers, and examining how the potential difference would impact the surrounding ecosystem.

Briar Robertson, representative judge and Farm Sustainability Regional Manager at Ballance, says “While all the entries were interesting and well-presented, this particular project was a cut above the rest. It was well thought-out and comprehensive in its methodology and findings, and I was especially impressed with their extensive background research and data collection.

“An important part of what we do at Ballance is to work alongside our local farmers to identify and mitigate areas at risk of nutrient and sediment loss, so seeing these students understand and apply this thinking in their science project was really encouraging.”


Ryan Williams, a Year 11 student at South Otago High School, was recognised for his investigation of sustainable farming solutions to New Zealand’s degrading waterways, testing the viability of Kūkūwai (grass wetlands and marshlands) and Wairepo (native swamps).

The Ballance representative judge, says “Ryan’s project on ‘Wāriu wai kare toitū ahuwhenua: Valuing water for sustainable agriculture’ was very detailed, making it stand out from the rest. Not only was it great to see how he conducted sound testing to prove his hypothesis, but how he related his findings back to real life examples on the farm.

“This is just one example of what Kiwi farmers can be implementing right now to better improve water quality on their farms, while also being an inexpensive option to help mitigate nitrogen and phosphate loss.”


The winning projects explored issues such as dealing with fertilisers and fertiliser runoff, environmental monitoring, and alternatives to traditional agricultural chemicals.

Mark Douglas, representative judge and senior leader at ’Ballance's Kapuni site, says it was fantastic seeing the range of entries across the whole fair, which spanned everything from traditional Māori medicine to solar powered lawn mowers.

“For the Sustainable Agricultural Award, these five students showcased how new technology and smart application of science can help improve local farming practices, through the implementation of innovative solutions and measuring the impact of those changes on grass growth and our waterways.

“Their understanding of the agricultural challenges which lay ahead of us was very impressive – but even more so was their problem-solving and scientific application to address the issue.”