THE citrus industry has honoured some of its top performers and most dedicated participants at this year's Citrus Australia Awards, held as part of the Citrus Technical Forum 2022 on the Sunshine Coast earlier this month.
Presented at a gala awards evening as part of the event, the awards celebrated both newcomers and stalwarts within the industry.
The winners were as follows.
A YEAR after joining the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as a research scientist/plant pathologist in Darwin, Mr Vala detected Citrus Canker in a retail nursery while he was off-duty in April 2018.
Mr Vala joined the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (or NAQS) which aims to protect animal and plant-based production industries from incursions of exotic biosecurity threats from countries that lie immediately to the north.
It has been in operation for more than 30 years. Mr Vala said joining NAQS was a key moment in his career and said it's been the best place for him.
In one year, he has already gained a reputation for having a sharp eye for plant disease symptoms.
DR Chris Johnston is well regarded within the Australian citrus industry, not just for his active engagement in the research and deployment of new grading technologies.
Dr Johnston spent a number of months onsite honing the grading, supporting the customer and ultimately helping Spectrim become the success story it is today.
He continues to develop the citrus-specific grading capability on the system, including clear rot detection and the Albedo algorithm development and deployment.
JOHN Owen-Turner has performed important roles for industry, not just as a departmental extension officer based in Gayndah for many years.
He has an intimate knowledge of every property and applied much effort into maintaining one-on-one relationships with every citrus grower in Queensland.
Mr Owen-Turner has had his hand in almost every citrus project and was active in many citrus committees in Queensland.
He was heavily involved with the export of citrus to Japan, where he spent years on determining, with Pathologist P Mayers, the best treatments to minimise Black Spot expression in Valencia and Navels for export to Japan.
He was the secretary for the Qld Citrus Improvement Scheme (QCIS) for 10 years and also co-authored five Qld Department of Primary Industry books including Growing Citrus in Queensland in 1995 and was a contributor to NSW's Sandra Hardy-produced Australian Mandarin Production Manual.
WHEN Andrew Pergoliti started working on the family's WA farm, they had 25 acres but in just 23 years with the support of his parents, he has turned the family farm into a progressive business.
While steadily tackling the tension during the steep growth phase of an owner operated business, Mr Pergoliti has still found time to contribute to the wider industry.
Mr Pergoliti has been on some sort of committee since the very first year he came to work in the family business, including committees and groups such as WA Fruit Growers, WA Improvement Group, APC Citrus and recently WA Citrus.
He has been successful in obtaining two Coles Nurture Fund grants in 2015 and 2020.
LOCHERT Bros Pty Ltd began in early 1940 during World War II by Robert Lochert's father, Emil Lochert as a fruit packer and merchant business.
Mr Lochert had worked in his father's business since the age of 15 until 1961 where Emil handed the business to him, who was 19 by then, and his brother John, who together purchased the business premises for $4000.
Lochert Bros became the first packhouse in Australia to obtain a Certificate of Assurance for the Export of Citrus to non-Phytosanitary Countries overseas without having AQIS Inspection.
From 1978 to 1999 the business doubled every seven years.
From hand-juicing oranges, selling to local schools and businesses in the 70's as Lochert Juices to Crusta Fruit Juices, Mr Lochert gave the same drive and passion he showed the packing and marketing business to the juice industry.
He still checks all the locks to the packing shed office and juice factory twice both inside and out, highlighting his commitment and passion to the business and industry to this day.
RUSSELL Witcombe is best known for his service to industry as the managing director of Mildura Fruit Company, paving a path for the future of packing sheds in Australia, and influencing high standards and savvy business decisions across the industry.
Mr Witcombe began as an agricultural economist university graduate employed by the Department of Agriculture - Victoria in the early 1970s.
In August 1988, he joined Red Cliff's McLaren Management and Sun Garden Cooperative Sales as marketing manager.
In 1997, Mr Witcombe was appointed the managing director of MFC.
In his time, he grew the grower base from 30 growers to 150 including 20 key suppliers, pulling fruit from a 500km radius.
Mr Witcombe was integral in setting up postharvest processes, MFC grower protocol, plastic bins, decay control and delivery of all fruit into MFC 24 hours from harvest.
While he retired in 2011, he has left his mark on the Australian citrus industry. On completion of his tenure, MFC packed close to 3 million cartons per season.
Sign up here to Good Fruit and Vegetables weekly newsletter for all the latest horticulture news each Thursday...
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.