Top apple & pear growers awarded | PHOTOS

Growers and leaders awarded at 2019 APAL Awards for Excellence | PHOTOS

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See who won this year's top apple and pear industry awards.

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THOSE pushing the apple industry forward both, and those who have been doing so for many years, were acknowledged at this year's Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL) Awards for Excellence in June.

The contribution of industry leaders, growers, marketers, exporters and researchers was given due attention at a breakfast awards ceremony in Melbourne.

The event was held prior to the APAL Industry Forum.

The winners were:

Grower of the Year: Jason Shields, Victoria

JASON Shields been the orchard manager at Plunkett Orchards, Victoria since 2000 and in that time has developed a reputation for excellence, innovation and leadership, turning Plunketts into one of the most innovative and successful orchards in the country.

He has been one of the leaders in the Future Orchards program in the Goulburn Valley - hosting the first orchard walk in 2006 - as well as the Community Orchard Group.

He has gained a reputation for a focus on matching profitability to tree management, his research and purchase of harvest platforms towards improving harvest management, lead in integrated pest management and his willingness to share and communicate his knowledge, as well as encourage his staff participation in growers' events and development.

Lifetime Achiever: Jon Durham, Victoria

JON Durham has made a formidable contribution to the apple and pear industry over his lifetime, driving investment in research, the development of the Pink Lady brand internationally and industry development as head of both APAL and its predecessor, the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Assocation (AAPGA), until 2013.

He is still active in industry leadership through the International Pink Lady Alliance (IPLA) and in his role of independent Chair of the National Fruit Fly Council.

Mr Durham guided the Pink Lady brand from its infancy, establishing it as a world powerhouse brand and the first apple to be protected by intellectual property rights.

Lifetime Achiever:Harvey Giblett, Newton Orchards, WA

HARVEY Giblett has made an exceptional contribution to his industry and community over the past five.

He is a passionate and innovative fruit grower whose drive to succeed has transformed Newton Brothers, Manjimup, from a small family business to a medium-sized corporate enterprise with a strong reputation for progressive fruit growing, storage, packing and marketing with integrity, and widely known for applying the latest innovative technologies in production methods, cool storage, grading, and packing fruit.

Mr Giblett has driven constant revision and improvement of orchard techniques and is always at the forefront of trialling and assisting development of new technologies, including pioneering the locally-developed Cripps Pink and ANABP 01 varieties (marketed at Pink Lady and Bravo respectively).

He has championed efforts to lift the quality standards of apples through the current WA industry-led Apple Maturity project for Gala, Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples.

Rising Star:John Hearman, WA

JOHN Hearman is a young grower who has demonstrated excellence and early leadership through his innovation at orchard level and involvement in industry.

Mr Hearman has taken on the lead role at the family-owned business in Donnybrook and in recent years has diversified into growing his own apple trees, establishing a nursery on the property, from which he has begun to supply other growers with high-quality apple trees.

He has implemented an innovative approach, by growing bench-graft apple trees which can be transplanted without the shock that goes along with uplifting bare root trees.

The establishment of these trees into new orchards or as fillers into recent plantings at any time of the year shows his innovative thinking as trees are fast tracked and established much quicker than bare root trees.

Exporter of the Year: Chris Georgopoulos, Victoria

CHRIS Georgopoulos shows exceptional leadership in developing export markets through his commitment to long-term relationships with international buyers and supplying premium fruit.

Mr Georgopoulos, and his GVIP partners and staff, have worked hard at developing relationships with buyers and understanding their international customers towards achieving growth in their exports and ongoing success in the global market-place.

They have demonstrated commitment to their markets, despite fluctuations in domestic prices, continuing to supply the best product to build trust and respect as a long-term supplier.

Chris places a high emphasis on the idea of building trust in the safety of the product, and using Australia's high health and safety standards as a marketable asset for Australian fruit. Integrated pest and disease management is given a high priority to minimise chemical use.

Women in Horticulture: Bec Whittaker, WA

BEC Whittaker manages the Ladycroft Orchard in Manjimup for the Casotti Group which is home to one of the largest plantings in the state of ANABP 01 (Bravo) apples.

She has built a reputation for passion and innovation in fruit growing and for championing and empowering her staff.

She places high emphasis on empowering her staff through providing greater individual responsibility, support and access to further training.

Her enthusiasm spreads throughout the orchard empowering her staff of mainly women to take on the challenges of producing great apples.

Ms Whittaker is a keen observer of international orchard management developments and is quick to see new ways of growing that can be trialled at Ladycroft orchard.

Innovative Marketing: Andrew Smith, Tasmania

ANDREW Smith has built a phenomenal reputation for both organic apple production and the organic cider brand Willie Smiths in the two decades at the helm of the Tasmania family business.

An early adopter, Mr Smith saw the potential of organic production systems to provide a market edge in a challenging environment in the region and made the bold move to go organic in 1997 with the support of father and partner, Ian.

The business now lays claim to being the largest organic apple grower in the country, helping retailers meet rapidly growing demand for organic produce.

R&R Smith was the inaugural recipient of a $500,000 grant from the new Woolworths Organic Growth Fund, which is to be invested in commercialising a new apple variety.

Researcher of the Year:Nigel Swarts, Tasmania

NIGEL Swarts has made a significant contribution to the productivity and sustainability of the apple and pear industry through his work in nitrogen and irrigation research in commercial apple orchards.

Mr Swarts is passionate about the role of managing nitrogen use for achieving both fruit quality outcomes, improved profitability and environmental gains.

He is an articulate advocate for the industry, actively promoting the positive outcomes of research including demonstrated apple growing is one of the lowest GHG emitters on a yield basis of any agricultural industry.

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