View our 2019 Conference Programme here!



Alto Adige, Italy

Dr Georg Meissner is a leading biodynamic farming and wine-growing consultant and head of production for Alois Lageder’s extensive wine-growing and winemaking operations in the Alto Adige region of northern Italy. He is also a researcher in the Department of Viticulture at the Geisenheim Institute in Rheingau, Germany.  George earned his degree in oenology in Montpellier, France, and his interest in organic and biodynamic grape growing has taken him around the world.

Georg, who grows grapes in France and Italy and consults on large agricultural businesses in Argentina, has a breadth of knowledge to share on organic and biodynamic farming.  He believes strongly that great wine, great produce, comes from healthy and vibrant farms. 




Sydney, Australia

With almost 20 years experience right across the industry, Sophie Otton is now working as an independent wine consultant, presenter, educator and writer.


This past decade, Sophie has been best known for curating award winning wine lists and leading respected sommelier teams at the Rockpool and Billy Kwong restaurant groups. The Sydney-based sommelier took the leap last year and opened her own wine bar in Newtown dubbed She Loves You.


Sophie works concurrently as a feature wine writer for Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine and is a long-standing member of their tasting panel. She is a certified sommelier, has completed the WSET Diploma and is a Certified WSET Educator Level III.

Sophie's visit is proudly sponsored by Wine Marlborough




Casablanca Valley, Chile

Sebastián Tramon is the Sustainability Chief Officer at Emiliana, leading and coordinating the implementation of new sustainable initiatives across all areas of their business.

Sebastián has extended experience in the environmental and social world, working for advocacy organisations, government and also in the private sector before joining Emiliana in 2014. He and his team are responsible to ensure that Emiliana retains and exceeds the expectations of their certifications, including Organic, Biodynamic, Fairtrade and the National Sustainability Standard. He is also charged with the planning and implementation of initiatives designed to improve the quality of life of collaborators, their families and neighbouring communities.

Sebastían graduated from the University of Chile with a degree of Engineering, specialising in Natural Resources Management. He followed that up with post graduates studies in Environmental Sciences at the University of Washington.



Casablanca Valley, Chile

Cristián Rodríguez is General Manager of Emiliana Organic Vineyards, the largest organic winery on the planet. 

He joined Emiliana in 2004 as their European Export Manager before a six year tender as Emiliana's Commercial Director. Through his eight years experience traveling the world for Emiliana and selling wine in more than 50 countries,

Cristián has gained expert knowledge in the various ways of communicating the importance and uniqueness of organic and biodynamic wines.

Cristian has a degree in Agricultural Engineering in addition to an MBA from Girona University in Spain. 




Kelowna, Canada

A New Zealand native, Kurt Simcic is the Senior Northern Viticulturist for Sebastian Farms, the farming branch of Mission Hill Family Estate, Cedar Creek Estate Winery and Martin’s Lane Winery in the Okanagan Valley of BC, Canada. Kurt was lured from his homeland by one of the Okanagan’s most respected winery proprietors Anthony von Mandl and has been charged with converting their stable of vineyards to organic by 2021. It will be no small feat. Sebastian Farms currently grow 13% of the regions wine and, once certified, will result in the Okanagan wine region becoming 17% organic certified.


Kurt’s experience in New Zealand includes Giesen (Clayvin Vineyard), Rock Ferry, Cloudy Bay & Bell Hill.



Colorado, USA

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 agricultureRobyn 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 became 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. 




Wellington, New Zealand

Andrea is an associate professor at Massey University’s Centre for Public Health Research (CPHR). She is involved in a wide range of occupational and environmental health research. Andrea has a particular interest in the occupational causes of cancer, and completed her PhD in occupational cancer epidemiology in 2003 at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.


Prior to moving to New Zealand, she worked in France at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), where she was involved in international studies of occupational exposures and cancer aetiology.




Blenheim, New Zealand

Born and raised in Marlborough, Nigel graduated with a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University in 2000.  While on a Graduate Scholarship Nigel worked in South Australia and then in California at the Bein Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria.  In 2002, not long after his return to Marlborough, Nigel joined the newly formed Dog Point Vineyards team as the company’s Viticulturist.  He has been with the company ever since and in 2015 Nigel travelled to the USA as part of the winemaking team to celebrate a Decade of Dog Point Wines.

During his time at Dog Point Nigel has taken a leading role in developing the property’s organic regime and heads up the Vineyard team. 

OWNZ is proud to confirm that Dog Point is NZ's largest organic certified vineyard. 



Christchurch, New Zealand

Entomology was always an important hobby for Ruud Kleinpaste and soon became part of his media persona: The Bugman.  Ruud was born in Indonesia, raised and educated in the Netherlands and migrated to New Zealand in 1978 with an MSc (Hons) in silvicuture, animal ecology and conservation from Wageningen University. 

Ruud studied kiwi in Waitangi forest and worked as a scientist with the Ministry of Agriculture (now MPI) for 14 years before tackling the world of media, communication and consultancy on his own. Newstalk ZB's Ruud's Awakening was a popular radio talk-back program for more than 27 years. TV programmes were numerous including Maggie's Garden Show, What Now?, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel to name just a few. 

In 2008, Ruud was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen with an Order of Merit and the Waikato University bestowed upon him an Honorary Doctorate. The following year, his alma mater University in Wageningen awarded him the prestigious prize of Outstanding Alumnus.



Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

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 recent years, Vaughn has investigated ways the vineyard ecosystem might be used (or developed) to minimise the influence of insect pests. Vaughn looks at interactions between plants, mealybugs and natural enemies, and how these potentially important associations might, or might not, be realised within your vineyard.


Vaughn's visit is proudly sponsored by the Bragato Research Institute.     



Blenheim, New Zealand

With 15 years' of consultant and in-house experience, Joanna Glover’s expertise ranges from brand management and marketing strategy through to digital communications. Joanna Glover Marketing & Communications took on Organic Winegrowers NZ as a client just prior to Organic Wine Week and has been managing its Facebook and Instagram social media platforms ever since - lifting OWNZ’s presence and sharing their stories.


Joanna’s affinity with the wine industry, passion for the delicious ‘product’ and astute skills around all things social make her well placed to assist OWNZ with their goal of raising awareness for the calibre of New Zealand organic wine.



Nelson, New Zealand

Founder of the innovative fertiliser company Waikaitu, Alex Pressman has turned an invasive marine pest into a business. Waikaitu harvests wakame seaweed (undaria pinnatifida) and turns it into fertiliser, food and even bee tucker.


Alex has a diverse business background, retiring to New Zealand from California's Silicon Valley after selling his software company. Realising he wasn’t yet ready for retirement he discovered a fast-growing seaweed introduced to New Zealand waters in the 1980s via ballast water from cargo ships. The seaweed had quickly became a problem, choking out native species and fouling chains in mussel farms, so Alex found a better use for the wakame as the base ingredient for his certified organic fertilisers.




Christchurch, New Zealand

Luke Thomas is the founder of The New Zealand Organic Wine Awards, an independent wine show dedicated to finding and promoting New Zealand’s best organic wines. 2018 marked the fifth annual awards since their launch in 2014, during which time they doubled vineyard participation and tripled the number of wines judged.


The New Zealand Organic Wine Awards is New Zealand’s only dedicated wine show for organic wines and is proudly independent in their processes and judging.




Hastings, New Zealand

George Bostock own’s New Zealand’s only Organic Free Range Chicken Farm with his brother Ben Bostock. The Bostock Brothers are passionate about organic farming and are focused on sustainability.


Bostock Brothers Organic Free Range Chickens are raised on an organic apple orchard in Hawke’s Bay. The orchard provides the perfect environment to farm organic chickens - the birds enjoy a happy life roaming freely among the apple trees and are housed in uniquely designed French chalets.


Bostock Brothers produce superior tasting chicken which is antibiotic free, hormone free, GMO Free, Chemical Free and Chlorine Free.



Adelaide, Australia

Dr Ash Martin is the Managing Director of Microbiology Laboratories Australia (Microbe Labs), a world leader in commercial microbiology analysis of soil, fertilisers and compost for agriculture, forestry and the environment.


Ash’s broad range of experiences gives him a unique ability to apply science to practical problems. From working in orchards as a boy until completing a PhD in applied soil microbiology (Adelaide), Ash has worked as an experimental scientist (CSIRO), postdoctoral researcher (Monash), technical officer (NSW Agriculture) research officer (CSR Wood Panels) agronomist, farmer and nurseryman.


Ash enjoys helping to make soil management and compost production more sustainable by providing tests and expertise to help manage soil and compost microbiology.



Blenheim, New Zealand

Will Kerner is a Research Programme Manager for Bragato Research Institute, the new research arm of New Zealand Winegrowers. He has been involved in the New Zealand wine industry since the late 90s, when his family developed land in the upper Wairau Valley in Marlborough. Will oversees a number of research projects, including the Vineyard Eco-systems and pathogens research projects.

Will holds a Master of Science degree, completed with 1st Honours.



Tasmania, Australia

Cynthea Semmens arrived in Tasmania as a five year old from San Francisco where her parents purchased a 30 acre bush block and started to plant vines on the Tamar River. Cynthea studied Wine Marketing at Roseworthy, Wine Science at Charles Sturt, and had done seven vintages overseas before beginning a six year position with Hardy Wine Company in South Australia where her first introduction to Biodynamics was with the International Biodynamics conference in 2004.

In 2011, Cynthea and husband David established their own brand Beautiful Isle Wines in Tasmania, Last year they "got back to their roots", partnering with Cynthea's brother Nick as co-owners of their family's Marion's Vineyard. The transition of this unique vineyard property to certified organic and biodynamic viticulture has begun.



Wellington, New Zealand

Gareth has spent his entire adult life working for good, green change and is currently the longest serving Green Party MP. Gareth manages an impressive number of parliament portfolios at present and is the spokesperson for Food Safety, Primary Industries, Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Biosecurity.

From plant to plate, Gareth is passionate about food and our food systems. He is a strong advocate for initiatives and policy which support the health of people and the planet. Most recently, Gareth shepherded the Country of Origin Food Labelling Bill into law and works closely with the organics community in New Zealand.



Bannockburn, New Zealand

Annabel Bulk is the Assistant Viticulturist at Felton Road. Her enthusiasm for biodynamic practices and eagerness to learn has seen her spend her time learning from and challenging Gareth King. They have become quite the dynamic duo.

Annabel grew up in Dunedin where she developed an enjoyment for working outdoors doing conservation and amenity horticulture work. Following horticultural study in Dunedin Annabel decided to specialise, and spent three years in Blenheim studying viticulture and winemaking before falling in love with the vineyard.

In 2018 Annabel earned the Young Viticulturist title and went on to win the Young Horticulturist of the Year. She is committed to training and inspiring young viticulturists and future leaders of the industry.



Bannockburn, New Zealand

For the past two decades, Gareth has led the vineyard team at Felton Road in Central Otago. For him Central Otago is and has always been home. Brought up on his family’s fruit orchard, Gareth's love of the land took him to Lincoln University where he studied Horticulture Management.  


Felton Road was one of the first vineyards in New Zealand to register for biodynamic certification in 2006. Following his arrival in 1999, Gareth oversaw Felton Road’s conversion into organic and biodynamics. In 2002 the first BD preps were used, and he has nurtured the four estate vineyards and his team ever since.  


Gareth has travelled widely visiting organic and biodynamic vineyards across the globe, his appetite to learn is insatiable. Gareth is highly regarded for his genuine personality and willingness to share his own biodynamic farming experiences and has become an unofficial mentor of the organic wine industry.  



Gisborne, New Zealand

Shanna Hickling is Manager of Linnaeus Laboratory, a former subsidiary of Riversun Nursery. Based in Gisborne, with its origins in grapevine health certification, Linnaeus delivers rigorous diagnostic testing and R&D, providing measurable insights for improved product quality.

Shanna has a technical background in microbiology and genetics, horticultural research trials, and analytical testing. After winning the nursery industry’s Young Achiever competition, Shanna went on to be named the 2017 Young Horticulturist of the Year. This placed her as an observer on the Primary Sector Council advising government on the direction of the industry.


With a passion for the primary sector and helping growers pave their way towards true sustainability, Shanna is proud to see Linnaeus grow and become the sole New Zealand provider of Dr Ash Martin’s Microbe Labs soil testing.



Auckland, New Zealand

Richard Lees is the Chief Executive of Huckleberry, New Zealand’s leading organic grocer. As CE, Richard has curated Huckleberry’s growth over the past four years. It has moved from three stores to nine and invested heavily in systems, tools, people, supplier partnerships and supply chains.  Huckleberry is excited by the opportunity to share organics with the mainstream consumer and make Organics an affordable and accessible choice. 


Richard is committed to organics and recognises it as a global commercial movement with environmental, social and economic befits at it roots. Richard believes we need to embrace the immediate opportunity to develop robust, collaborative and coherent strategies to see organic products continue to develop well into the future.



Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

As Hawke’s Bay Regional Viticulturist, Jonathan overseas the management of Villa Maria’s company, leased and contract-grown vineyards in Hawke’s Bay. Villa Maria’s experience in organic viticulture started in Hawke’s Bay 16 years ago and now covers 70ha of vineyard in the region.


Jonathan has always had an interest in wine. He completed a degree in conservation ecology, a postgraduate diploma in Viticulture and Oenology and a Certificate in Organic and Biodynamics. Jonathan is the Chair of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand.  


Jonathan says his key motivation is simply to “grow great wines that reflect their site.” He has great confidence in organic production as a commercially viable management system and believes its sustainability benefits are critical for the future success of the New Zealand wine industry.



Auckland, New Zealand

Shaun is the co-founder and Director of Production at Dung Beetle Innovations (DBI).  He is an internationally recognized entomologist, with PhD and MSc (Hons) degrees specialising in dung beetle reproduction, ecology and evolution. His work has been published in all media and peer reviewed scientific journals.

In his previous role as a research scientist for Landcare Research, New Zealand’s foremost environmental research institute, he received a science excellence award for his key role in the Dung Beetle Project that ultimately led to the establishment of DBI. Combined with his extensive rearing experience and fieldwork, he brings to DBI a wealth of expertise that is instrumental in its success.

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