The wine industry was never Stuart Dudley’s first career choice. The viticulturist for Villa Maria Wines in Marlborough had his mindset on research or forensics, having completed a degree in Genetics and Biochemistry.
It's the first time the top prize has been shared.
The two winners – Richard and Annabelle Subtil of Omarama Station and Marlborough's Clearwater Mussels managing director John Young – were named at a ceremony last week.
Clearwater Mussels is a greenshell mussel producer with 90 farms from 2.5-80ha supplying a variety of food and pharmaceutical markets.
Omarama Station is a sheep and beef property with small scale hydro and tourism operations. It also has scientific reserves and has Department of Conservation and QEII Trust covenants on the property.
"Both finalists exhibited above industry standards in their respective fields," said chief judge, Nicky Hyslop.
"They exhibit leadership in innovation, technology, human resource management, marketing and entrepreneurship and, crucially, very strong relationships with their customers."
Lincoln University Foundation chairman Ben Todhunter said the shared top prize produced a unique challenge for the foundation with two winners' field days to organise for Omarama Station and Clearwater Mussels.
"We will be promoting these field days in the new year," he said. "They are an excellent opportunity for farmers and others in agribusiness to learn what makes these two businesses worthy of their shared title."
Clearwater and the Subtils shared the $20,000 business travel grant for research, education or marketing purposes.
Both also featured as competition category winners.
The Subtils won the Silver Fern Farms $5000 red meat producer Plate to Pasture award for best consumer awareness.
Young won the Farmlands $5000 award for best resource management.
South Islanders also won the Agstaff award for human resource management (Tony and Pam Plunkett) and the Lincoln University award for innovation and technology (Paul and Tracey Ruddenklau).