Our team

Our team, led by experienced horticulturalists and founders Ross and Sharon Kirk, strives to achieve quality at every step along the supply chain.

Ross Kirk photo

Co-founder, project & orchard development manager

Sharon Kirk photo

Co-founder, marketing & sales manager

Brylee Bradley photo

People, systems and culture manager

Liam Kirk photo

Technical consultant

David Smith photo

Sales & marketing co-ordinator

Diana Jimson photo

Packhouse systems administrator

Christie Kirk photo

Horticultural apprentice

Damian Febery photo

Horticultural foreman

David Mackessy photo


Makayla Rasmussen photo

Horticultural apprentice

Willie Field photo

Net and canopy supervisor

Maaka Roberts photo

Horticultural apprentice

Stephanie Taylor photo

Horticultural apprentice

Kees Geels photo

Horticultural apprentice

New Zealand

Ross Kirk

Co-founder, project & orchard development manager

Ross is a born and bred orchardist with more than 40 years' experience in sourcing, developing and, managing land, orchards and project-managing and operating packhouses. He has a deep understanding of horticulture and how to maximise production.

His broad experience includes all the practical aspects of husbandry, such as the latest machinery developments, irrigation set up, sprays, crop protection and compliances.

This knowledge, combined with the invaluable experience he has in effectively managing and setting up orchards and packhouses, plus his constant push to bring new technology, systems, and techniques – sourced from the best in the world – into the business, means he is at the leading edge of horticulture production in New Zealand.

Ross is renowned for designing his own equipment in a quest to create efficiencies and be ahead of the curve in New Zealand cherry production. While overseeing two significant planting phases at Lindis Peaks and Mt Pisa orchards, Ross designed a planting machine, which was built to his specifications. The machine enables up to 6,000 trees a day to be planted, nearly double that achieved previously.

In 2022, he project-managed the construction and fit-out of the state-of-the-art Lindis Coolpac packhouse. The packhouse was the third packhouse Ross had project managed from greenfield to turnkey site in the Central Otago region since 2014.

Ross oversees multiple crews to develop and manage orchards at Tarras Cherry Corp, Mt Pisa, Lindis Peaks and Ardgour Valley Orchards, Central Otago.

He attended Massey University to study for a Diploma of Horticulture.

New Zealand

Sharon Kirk

Co-founder, marketing & sales manager

Sharon is an experienced horticulturalist and export marketing professional who has played a leading role in developing the profile of New Zealand premium fruit on the world stage since the early 1990s.

During her international career, Sharon has established the export function and elevated the brand profile for multiple leading New Zealand fresh produce companies. She has also developed and operated her own businesses, including Southern Kowhai Exports.

In 2016, Sharon and orchardist husband Ross Kirk combined their expertise to establish Hortinvest. Sharon holds multiple positions on companies and boards that Hortinvest has founded or is a shareholder of. She is co-founder and chief executive officer of cherry producer and investment company Deep Creek Fruits NZ LP; international sales and marketing manager of Southern Fruits International, international sales and marketing manager of cherry producer Tarras Cherry Corp NZ; and co-founder and director of apricot and cherry producer Ardgour Valley Orchards.

Her background includes 13 years with export marketer Turners and Growers and 18 years running her export business, Southern Kowhai Exports and various consultancy roles helping fresh produce companies develop their export and marketing businesses.
She has a Horticultural Science Degree from Massey University and a Diploma in Management from the Institute of Management.
A people person, Sharon is dedicated to building a team as passionate as she is about delivering high quality produce to the world.

New Zealand

Brylee Bradley

People, systems and culture manager

Former teacher and educational administrator Brylee Bradley brings a passion for communication, and working with people from all walks of life to her role as People, Culture and Systems Manager.

Appointed in 2023, Brylee is responsible for recruiting employees including a seasonal harvest workforce, ensuring staff wellbeing, developing and implementing procedures and systems, fulfilling the health and safety function and performing personal assistant duties for Ross and Sharon Kirk. She was inspired to apply for the position after working in the Lindis Coolpac packhouse with her teenage sons during the summer of 2022-2023.

Prior to joining the team, Brylee was director of external relations and development at King’s School, Auckland where she managed the school’s gifting program. An extensive career in education included roles such as dean and director of admissions and special events manager. In 2013, Brylee was awarded a Fulbright-Meg Everton Professional Enhancement Award in Education which enabled her to undertake professional development in the United States.

Her wide-ranging interests include raising guide dog puppies, travelling with her family in their caravan volunteering and competing in trail runs. She is also a qualified rugby referee.

Brylee has a Master of Management and a Diploma of Business and Administration from Massey University and a Bachelor of Education from Auckland University.

New Zealand

Liam Kirk

Technical consultant

Fourth generation producer Liam Kirk – the son of Hortinvest founders, Ross and Sharon Kirk – is a horticultural entrepreneur.

Liam is focused on acquiring knowledge in the technological sector of the horticultural industry including operating Compac grading machines at three high-tech cherry packhouses since 2014, when he was still a teenager.

Since graduating from Mt Aspiring College, Wanaka, in 2018, he has owned and managed his own fruit and vegetable company and operated a retail pop-up business during Central Otago cherry season.

In 2019, Liam travelled to Turkey where he consulted on packhouse technology at a 4,500-tonne cherry packhouse in Turkey and in 2020 and 2021, he consulted on packhouse technology use in the cherry industry in the United States of America.

In the leadup to cherry season, Liam supports our marketing function, showcasing cherries to international buyers and during the season, he is a vital cog in the packhouse chain, ensuring the smooth operation of technologies and systems.

New Zealand

David Smith

Sales & marketing co-ordinator

David Smith has a wealth of experience in market development including executing sales and marketing strategies gleaned over more than 20 years as a result of owning and operating his own businesses.

David joined the team in June 2022 and is charged with supporting Sharon Kirk in marketing cherries and apricots domestically and internationally including deepening connections with existing markets and developing emerging markets. His role includes developing marketing materials and identifying opportunities to elevate the brand presence of Hortinvest and its related companies on the world stage. He is also responsible for project work across the business including handling specifications for machinery required to operate in multiple orchards and packing facilities.

From 2015 to 2021, David was business owner and co-founder of GoodNoze Pet Cuisine Ltd which developed and provided freeze dried raw pet food to national and global markets.

David, who is passionate about the outdoors life that Wanaka and Central Otago offers, has a love of skiing, mountain biking and playing tennis.


Diana Jimson

Packhouse systems administrator

Business analyst Diana is responsible for managing software systems including Radfords Software technology at the high-tech Lindis Coolpac packhouse during the intense summerfruit harvest at Central Otago. She also helps the HR department in the payroll process.

Diana is adept at recording, analysing and interpreting data in a fast-paced environment and has a background in mathematics, having worked as a lecturer and trainer in the field.
Living and working in New Zealand is a long-held dream come true for Diana and her family who yearned to settle in a safe and beautiful environment.

Originally from India, Diana has worked in Oman where she was a mathematics lecturer at the International Maritime College for more than 12 years. Diana provided additional administrative support from 2009 to 2018 as college examination office/committee member and assistant academic planner including handling examination software. More recently, she was employed as a business analyst intern at Livetree Seed Intelligence Ltd, United Kingdom, a media company and crowdfunding platform for creatives.

Appointed in November, shortly after arriving in her new homeland, Diana’s first task was to develop a standard operating procedures manual in time for the packhouse’s opening in mid-December.

Diana has a Master of Science (Business Analytics), a Bachelor of Education (Mathematics), a Master of Science (Mathematics) and a Bachelor of Science (Mathematics).

New Zealand

Christie Kirk

Horticultural apprentice

A passionate advocate for New Zealand horticulture and the possibilities it offers young people, Christie Kirk was inspired to follow the family path by parents and Hortinvest founders, Ross and Sharon Kirk.

Christie is studying for a Level 3 and 4 in Horticulture through Primary ITO. She is also completing a Diploma in Horticulture from Lincoln University.

Christie enjoys the rewards of seeing trees grow and change with the seasons and expanding her knowledge and love for horticulture. Her responsibilities include pruning, planting, bagging trees, laying irrigation, tree training, spraying, tractor work and mowing at Hortinvest’s four managed orchards in Central Otago. During harvest, she assists with supervising seasonal workers and the Quality Assurance function.

While she prefers orchard work, Christie also has a wide range of experience in quality control, setting up and maintaining packhouse compliance systems such as GlobalGAP and GRASP and assisting with staff inductions. Christie gained this experience at various leading New Zealand cherry and apple packhouses after graduating from Mt Aspiring College, Wanaka in 2015. She joined Hortinvest in 2020.

New Zealand

Damian Febery

Horticultural foreman

Damian Febery has a background in multiple crops in Australia and New Zealand including apples, blackcurrants, avocados and mangoes. He enjoys the challenges that a career in horticulture offers.

His many responsibilities include plant husbandry and crop management, pest management, operating machinery ranging from forklifts to tractors and vehicles with tracks and rollers, health and safety implementation, crop irrigation and fertigation and managing orchard staff. He is involved in all orchard developments managed by Hortinvest in Central Otago and works closely with orchard and project manager, Ross Kirk.

Appointed to the Hortinvest team in 2020, he previously worked as operations manager at Viberi New Zealand Limited, a certified organic blackcurrant orchard. This role saw him responsible for post harvest processing, pest management, plant husbandry and more.

Damian, who relocated to Wanaka from Timaru to take up his position, has a diploma in horticulture from Lincoln University, Canterbury and holds various certifications and licences including a Grow Safe certificate, HACCP training and a Primary ITO certificate.


David Mackessy


David Mackessy applies a knowledge of farm machinery and equipment gained over more than 20 years to his role at Hortinvest.

David is responsible for maintaining machinery and equipment at all Hortinvest-operated orchards in Central Otago. He grew up on a dairy farm in Ireland which gave him a sound knowledge of farming practices and machinery. David later moved to London where he spent 20 years working as a plant fitter, fabricator welder and machine operator.

While on holidays in New Zealand in 2003, he decided to stay and now calls “the land of the long white cloud”, home. He has experience working on agricultural, construction, vehicle and site equipment in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

David is trade certified as a mechanical engineer and has a National Diploma in Engineering from Rycotewood College, Thame, Oxfordshire. He joined the Hortinvest team in 2021.

New Zealand

Makayla Rasmussen

Horticultural apprentice

Growing up, much of Makayla Rasmussen’s time was spent outside mountain biking, horse riding and tramping – making for an easy transition to her role as horticultural apprentice where she works in all kinds of weather.

Makayla started as a casual in winter 2021 and seized the opportunity to take on an apprenticeship when it arose, relishing the chance to discover the world of horticulture and learn an array of new skills.

Makayla’s duties include spraying, pruning, ground preparation and maintenance, fruit harvest management and post-harvest care at Tarras Cherry Corp orchard.

Before joining the team, Makayla was employed as a horse groom at Taupo Hunt Master, Reporoa on the North Island, where she managed six horses.

New Zealand

Willie Field

Net and canopy supervisor

Willie Field transitioned from a varied career of driving trucks and coaches to working outdoors, supervising the net and canopy construction team at Hortinvest’s Central Otago orchards.

Willie, and a team of 13, is responsible for erecting and installing nets over more than 164 hectares of cherry orchards including Mt Pisa and Lindis Peaks.

This involves using hydraladas for elevation to thread wires via a threading machine to act as the framework for the installation of retractable nets. Once in place, the nets are retracted in winter due to potential snow load and unretracted in summer to protect the cherry crop from birds.

As safety is paramount, Willie’s job includes ensuring the safe movement and use of machines such as mules, tractors, hydraladas and other potential hazards.

Willie joined the team in late 2022, after eight years of working as a coach driver, driving American tourists around New Zealand. Before that, she was a delivery truck driver, delivering goods all around the Auckland area, North Island.

Originally from Hamilton on the North Island, she relocated to Cromwell and now considers Central Otago her home.

New Zealand

Maaka Roberts

Horticultural apprentice

Maaka Roberts, who joined our growing family of horticultural apprentices in 2021, is assigned to the Lindis Peaks orchard, one of several in Central Otago under development by Hortinvest.

Maaka is responsible for maintaining safe work practices throughout the Lindis Peaks orchard, planting and caring for trees, preparing for harvest and supervising the orchard crew.

He has embraced the opportunity to further his career in horticulture and learn a range of skills in orchard production including tractor and machinery operation.

He joined during the team during the 2021 planting season, bringing four years’ experience in cherry production including pruning, planting and harvest. He is also familiar with the end-stage of the cherry supply chain, having worked five seasons in a cherry packhouse until 2018. His experience extends to a winery where he was employed as a bottling hand.

New Zealand

Stephanie Taylor

Horticultural apprentice

Stephanie Taylor fulfilled a wish to move into outdoors work when she joined the Lindis Peaks orchard team in 2021.

Stephanie’s background is in hospitality, where she has a wide range of experience from behind the scenes to front-of-house including administration, as a kitchen and duty manager, barista and commis chef since 2012.

She has also worked in the vineyard industry as a pruner. Stephanie joined the team just prior to the first commercial harvest in 2021. She works alongside a team of apprentices and experienced orchardists developing the Lindis Peaks orchard.

Together they are responsible for general tree husbandry and maintenance, including pruning and training, operating frost protection equipment, applying and recording crop and weed sprays, using and maintaining farm equipment and more.

New Zealand

Kees Geels

Horticultural apprentice

Kees Geels fell in love with the orchard industry when doing some seasonal cherry harvesting work while on summer holidays from university.

Kees, who is part of the team working at Mt Pisa orchard, completed a Bachelor of Science (majoring in food science) from the University of Otago in 2021. However, while exploring Central Otago and working during the cherry harvest, he realised the career opportunities in orchard production were too good to overlook.

His tasks include tree maintenance from planting to harvest, orchard development and upkeep, operating equipment and machinery and keeping records.

This “Kiwi with Dutch blood” grew up in Timaru and enjoys working outdoors in all weather in the Cromwell area. He joined Hortinvest in May 2022.

New Zealand

Jade Macmillan

Orchard worker

Jade MacMillan grew up on the iconic Mt Pisa Station where the impressive Mt Pisa cherry orchard is set and, after two years in the United Kingdom, appreciates more than ever the stunning landscapes the Central Otago region has to offer.

Jade joined the orchard teams at Lindis Peaks orchard and Argour Valley Orchard in November 2022 after a two-year adventure in the United Kingdom where she managed a coffee shop and worked in a vintage clothing shop, both in Surrey.

But with farming in the blood – albeit sheep and beef farming – and a short stint at Hortinvest during picking season before her overseas adventure, Jade returned to Central Otago.
She is thrilled to be working outside in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. And while Central Otago is the coldest and driest part of New Zealand, it’s a far cry from England’s continual cold and wet and a welcome relief.

Jade works in both cherry and apricot production and her duties include crop spraying, weed spraying, general tree care and all manner of tasks required to maintain large-scale commercial orchards.

We are always looking for talented and driven people to join our growing team.