Awards for excellence in horticulture
Australia’s leading growers, researchers and suppliers have been recognised at the Hort Connections 2021 National Awards for Excellence. Attendees from every sector of Australian horticulture celebrated the significant contributions of the industry and its members. The award ceremony was held last night, on the final day of Hort Connections 2021. This is the premier event in Aussie horticulture, which also features a trade show with local and global supply chain partners and presentations from leading industry thinkers.
The awards cover a range of areas in horticulture. They recognise outstanding growers in multiple categories, as well as researchers, innovative agribusinesses and exporters.
“The National Awards for Excellence provide an opportunity for the industry to come together,” says AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside. “They recognise the outstanding achievements of our leading growers and industry members, and also celebrate the great work that our industry undertakes to keep Australia healthy and safe.
“It was important for the industry to reconnect this year after unprecedented challenges over the last 18 months. It was pleasing that so many people could come together, celebrate industry successes and provide support to peers and colleagues.”
2021 National Awards for Excellence winners
Syngenta Grower of the Year – Andrew and David Moon, Qld
Fifth generation farmers Andrew and David Moon are from Moonrocks, a family-owned business based in Western Queensland. Moonrocks supplies a wide range of horticulture crops, specialising in broccoli, onions and garlic. During the pandemic, Andrew and David started the G’day Garlic range of garlic powders, which deliver a true paddock-to-plate experience. Processing and packaging of the products also take place on-farm. This has supported the local community by creating jobs and also contributes to business growth.
Corteva Agriscience Young Grower of the Year – Xavier Toohey, Vic
The Corteva Agriscience Young Grower of the Year award is presented to a fresh produce grower and future leader in horticulture who champions the success of the industry, shows a commitment to innovation to help inspire the next generation of growers and helps to enrich their own community. Potato grower Xavier Toohey has adopted new technologies and processes on his farm to reduce his energy and water consumption. He also has a strong focus on improving soil health, and uses cropping techniques that have produced yields 10-20 percent above district averages. Toohey was also the winner of the 2021 AUSVEG VIC Young Grower of the Year.
Boomaroo Nurseries Women in Horticulture Award – Catherine Velisha, Vic
Third-generation farmer Catherine Velisha, Managing Director of Velisha Farms, has taken the spirit and history of the family business and modernised by viewing problems from a different perspective. She encourages a culture of innovation by fostering creative thinking from her team. In particular, updating the brand to connect customers and using social media to tell the story of Velisha Farms behind the scenes has been paramount to its current growth. Velisha also makes regular donations to food relief charities and has established a horticulture-specific education business, VEG Education, partnering with others to promote and increase awareness on-farm safety and careers in the industry.
Exporter of the Year – Steven Moffatt, Qld
Moffatt Fresh has operated for nearly 100 years. It now has the fifth generation of Moffatt farmers putting quality vegetables on the tables of Australian families and in key markets around the world. Moffatt Fresh started to export directly from the farm around six years ago. The business is now shipping directly to customers in Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East. Steven Moffatt has also been active in supporting a wide range of national industry export activities. He openly collaborates with other growers to support the growth in export of Australian fresh vegetables.
Bayer Researcher of the Year – Dr Jenny Ekman, NSW
Dr Jenny Ekman, Senior Research Scientist from Applied Horticultural Research and Adjunct Associate Professor with the University of Sydney, has been a leading post-harvest physiologist, food safety expert and science communicator for more than 20 years. Her research aims to help vegetable growers, packers and processors deliver high-quality fresh produce to consumers while keeping losses to a minimum. More recently, Dr Ekman has added the important area of food safety to her research portfolio.
Visy Industry Impact Award – East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days, Vic
East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days (EGVID) began on a small paddock in 2014. It has evolved into one of the Australian vegetable industry’s major events in 2017 and 2020, offering Australian vegetable growers a permanent gateway to industry research and development, new seedling varieties and new technology trials. When COVID hit last year, EGVID 2020 organisers were faced with either cancelling the event or adapting. With much hard work, planning and communication with local and state authorities, they were able to pivot to a reduced capacity. They also ramped up a digital format very quickly.
E.E. Muir and Sons Community Stewardship Award – Andrew Smith, Tas
Andrew Smith, fourth-generation apple grower and Managing Director of R&R Smith, has been recognised for his achievements in compostable packaging. R&R Smith introduced the first fully home-compostable package for its pre-packaged fruit. The pack, which originally consisted of a plastic punnet overwrapped with plastic film, has been replaced with a cardboard punnet overwrapped in bioplastic. The entire pack will decompose in a home compost bin. The packs are available in the organic section of major supermarkets.
Butler Market Gardens Environmental Award – Todaro Farms, Vic
Traditionally asparagus growers, Todaro Farms has diversified its product portfolio into cabbages, silverbeet, parsley and coriander. The business successfully transitioned their soil from asparagus production with long-term herbicide use to leafy green veg production. It also adopted cover crop rotations to support brassica production and prevent root disease. The results of these practices have not only benefited the business’s bottom line through better yields; it also resulted in improved soil fertility and overall soil health.
For more on the Hort Connections National Awards for Excellence, click here.