Awarding excellence in horticulture

10th June 2021 | Eativity editors

Australia’s leading growers, researchers and suppliers have been recognised at the Hort Connections 2021 National Awards for Excellence, with attendees from every sector of Australian horticulture celebrating the significant contributions of the industry and its members. The award ceremony was held last night, on the final day of Hort Connections 2021, the premier event in Aussie horticulture, which featured 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, recognising 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, recognise the outstanding achievements of our leading growers and industry members, and celebrate the great work that our industry undertakes to keep Australia healthy and safe,” says AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside.

“It was more important for the industry to meet up and reconnect with each other this year than ever before after the unprecedented challenges over the last 18 months due to the pandemic, and it was pleasing that so many people could come together, celebrate the industry’s successes and provide support to peers and colleagues.”

Andrew Moon and Paul Luxton, Australia New Zealand Managing Director, Syngenta.

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, which has supported the local community by creating jobs and contributed to business growth.

Heinrich Van Der Westhuizen of E.E. Muir accepting award on behalf of Xavier Toohey with Nick Koch, Corteva.

Corteva Agriscience Young Grower of the YearXavier 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 community. Potato grower Xavier Toohey has adopted technologies and processes on his farm reduce his energy and water consumption, and has a strong focus on improving soil health, reducing the risk of pests and using cropping techniques that have produced yields of up to 10-20 percent above district averages. Toohey was also the winner of the 2021 AUSVEG VIC Young Grower of the Year.

Belinda Adams of AUSVEG accepting award on behalf of Catherine Velisha with Ian Willert, Boomaroo Nurseries.

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. Updating the business 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 building a career in the industry.

Steven Moffatt, Mitchell Moffatt and Julie Bird, Hort Innovation Chair.

Exporter of the Year – Steven Moffatt, Qld

Moffatt Fresh has operated for nearly 100 years and now has the fifth generation of Moffatt family farmers putting quality fresh vegetables on the tables of Australian families and those in key markets around the world. Moffatt Fresh started to export directly from the farm around six years ago and is now shipping directly to customers in Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East. Steven Moffatt has been active in supporting a wide range of national industry export activities, and openly collaborates with other growers to support the growth in export of Australian fresh vegetables. 

Dr Jenny Ekman with Scott Ward of Bayer.

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.

Sharron Windolf accepting award on behalf of EGVID with AUSVEG’s Nathan McIntyre and Wayne Dunn, Visy.

Visy Industry Impact Award – East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days, Vic

East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days (EGVID) began on a small paddock in 2014 and has evolved to 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 – like so many others – or adapting. With much hard work, planning and communication with local and state authorities, they were able to pivot to a reduced capacity but ramped up digital format very quickly.

Andrew Smith and Troy Muller of E.E. Muir and Sons.

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.

Tim Withers of AUSVEG accepting award on behalf of Todaro Farms with Belinda Adams of AUSVEG.

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 and 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, but also resulted in improved soil fertility and overall soil health.