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speaker bios


  • Creating resilience by partnering with nature
    Jono Frew, Natural Performance Ltd.

    Jono Frew is a passionate leader in the agriculture sector. From an early career as an award-winning farmer and agronomist in the competitive conventional ag sector, to managing a large organic sheep, beef and mixed cropping farm, Jono has learned by doing and being open to learning.
    Having gained a broad perspective and knowledge from going through the transition from conventional to regenerative himself, Jono is now a “big picture” regenerative agriculture coach. Jono stands for bringing people and knowledge together and helping farmers reach new levels of profitability, resilience, joy and peace of mind on their farms and in their lives.


  • A biodiverse vineyard is full of possibilities
    Vaughn Bell, Senior Scientist, Plant and Food Research

    Vaughn Bell is a Senior Scientist working for The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research. Since 2004, he has researched sap-feeding mealybugs in vineyards, with an emphasis on their ecology, biology and ability to transmit (vector) grapevine leafroll virus. By examining the inter-relationship between the vine, virus and vector, his findings contributed to the development of a practical and financially sustainable virus management approach. In addition, Vaughn has investigated ways the vineyard ecosystem might be used (or developed) to minimise the influence of insect pests, and how these changes might help beneficial insects like parasitoids exert greater influence over insect pests like mealybugs.


  • An organic opportunity: The rise of the conscious consumer
    Sarah Szegota, Head of Marketing and Communication, Villa Maria Estate

    As Head of Marketing and Communication at Villa Maria Estate, Sarah Szegota leads the development and execution of effective marketing strategies globally. Having spent over 15 years in wine marketing, Sarah is passionate about growing awareness and affinity for the Villa Maria brands and connecting with consumers in meaningful ways.
    After graduating with a first-class degree in Art History from Nottingham University, Sarah cut her teeth in the UK wine trade, got a few WSET qualifications under her belt and hasn’t left the industry since. In previous roles her experience has spanned digital marketing, PR, corporate communications, new product development, and brand management across key wine markets domestically and internationally.
    Sarah is a big believer in the power of storytelling and is a proud founding member and ongoing supporter of Women in Wine NZ. With two young daughters at home, Sarah is still working out the work/life juggle and can be often found wrangling her children on Northland’s beaches.


  • Regeneration and beyond – the role of cover crops in Central Otago viticulture
    Nick Paulin, National Viticulturist, AONZ Fine Wine Estates

    Nick’s journey to viticulture started with a family history of farming and horticulture in Central Otago. His great grandfather started an orchard in Clyde that is still a family business today. Growing up, Nick had a strong desire to live and work in Central Otago, both for the family connection and the fabulous lifestyle.
    Upon graduating from Lincoln in 2004, Nick was lucky enough to land a job at Felton Road, which started his journey with organic and biodynamic viticulture. Since then, he has developed a passion for organic and biodynamic farming and continues to learn constantly from each season and the challenges each year throws at us. He is currently National Viticulturist at AONZ Fine Wine Estates.


  • Lessons and insights from organic conversion
    André Lategan, Vineyard Manager, Amisfield

    Born in Cape Town, André grew up on a family wine farm in the winelands of the Western Province of South Africa. He studied viticulture at Elsenburg Agricultural College. He immigrated to New Zealand with wife Susan in 2002. Daughter Adrienne was born in Waitakere. Soon after, with the family of three, André joined Amisfield as vineyard manager and has had a rich and rewarding time since.


  • Organic winemaking 101 with the next generation
    Rosie Menzies, Winemaker, Carrick

    Rosie Menzies joined Carrick in late 2018. Originally from Hawke’s Bay, Rosie’s interest in wine was sparked by her charismatic 6th form chemistry teacher, who tasked students with making their own wine as a special project. Inspired to make it her career, she completed the Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University in 2007. Since graduating, Rosie has worked at some of the world’s finest producers – Craggy Range (Hawke’s Bay), Seresin (Marlborough), GD Vajra (Piemonte, Italy), Chapoutier (Rhone Valley) and Cristom (Oregon).
    Rosie’s travels around the globe also developed her respect for the influence of organic principles in wine farming and production, a quality that is inherent to Carrick. The 2020 vintage marked her first harvest at Carrick as Chief Winemaker.

    James Dobbs, Assistant Winemaker, Rippon
    Assistant winemaker at Rippon, James caught the wine bug in a damp Canterbury student flat, which eventually led him to complete a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University. Since graduating he has completed multiple harvests throughout New Zealand and overseas. These experiences have helped him forge a passion for organic and biodynamic farming, while developing his own philosophical stance in winemaking. James now calls Central Otago home and is loving being a part of the Rippon whānau.
    James will be talking about ‘Organic and biodynamic practices in the winery’ at this year’s event.

    Ben Leen, Assistant Winemaker, Amisfield
    Ben started at Amisfield in 2014 in the vineyard and then became cellarhand later that year. Since 2017 he has been the Assistant Winemaker. Amisfield started farming organically in the 2014-15 growing season. Ben has enjoyed being on the journey to becoming fully certified organic and the challenges and rewards that has brought over the years.

    Anika Willner, Winemaker, Coal Pit
    Anika, originally from the United States, is an Ohio State University and Lincoln University graduate. It was during her time studying her undergraduate degree in biochemistry that she started a university wine club. Through the success of this club and the people surrounding it, she discovered her passion for wine, which led her to follow vintages all over the world before eventually settling in New Zealand and joining Coal Pit as Winemaker in 2018. Her experience and inspiration spans across the world’s cool-climate growing regions including Oregon, Burgundy, mainland Australia, Tasmania, Germany, South Africa and New Zealand. Anika now lives and works on site at Coal Pit Vineyards in Gibbston. Whenever she is not in the winery, she is in the vines. The constant interaction allows her to live and breathe the vineyard energy.

  • Closing gaps in markets and minds: Organics as a wine purchase driver
    Catherine Douglas, Sales and Marketing Manager, Carrick
    Originally from the US, Catherine began her wine career in Central Otago in 2005 and subsequently built on that experience in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA and in the Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada. A graduate of Ferris State University in Michigan and the University of Adelaide, she has held roles in marketing and communications, brand management and export sales at some of the world’s leading New World Pinot Noir producers. She joined Carrick as Sales and Marketing Manager in 2021 upon her return to New Zealand. 


  • Organic and regenerative: The big picture (video presentation)
    Robyn O’Brien, Vice President, rePlant Capital

    Robyn O’Brien is the Vice President of rePlant Capital, an impact investment firm, deploying integrated capital from soil to shelf in order to reverse climate change and support farmers in their conversion of farmland from conventional to organic agriculture. Robyn is a leader in the good food movement and an advocate for organics.
    Robyn adjusted the direction of her career after her daughter had a life-threatening allergic reaction to breakfast. She has since written a bestseller book (The Unhealthy Truth), delivered a 2011 TEDx talk viewed more than a million times, and become a sought-after food industry advisor, public speaker and media personality. She also works with legislators, trade associations, grocery chains, some of the world’s largest multinational food companies and some of its most powerful startups to better understand the changing landscape of consumer behaviour and expectations while navigating in a broken food system.


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