CONTRIBUTING more than a quarter of a century to avocado exports was just one element of success celebrated for Annaleise and Lachlan Donovan who won this year's Syngenta Grower of the Year title at the Hort Connections 2022 Awards for Excellence last month.
The Queensland growers, based at Childers, supply more than half the avocados grown in central Queensland, and have a strong vision for the industry, including making a significant contribution to export markets for avocados over the last 25 years.
The Donovan family has been growing avocados since 1991, with 300 hectares currently under trees, with Shepard, Hass and Lamb Hass being their main varieties.
They also have leased properties at Bellthorpe on the Sunshine Coast.
Their packhouse is situated at the Bundaberg property, with the couple being known for their pride in quality, consistency and reliability.
"If you're not passionate about what you're doing in this industry, it's going to make it very hard to succeed," Mr Donovan said.
"We've been living and breathing it since 1991, moving up to Bundaberg about 25 years ago, before buying out the family about 15 years ago."
The couple's sons Miles, 29, and Clayton, 26, are also keenly involved in the business, with Mr Donovan quick to credit the boys.
More widely, he also acknowledged the value that good people bring to their organisation across the board.
"That new blood really helps grow and expand the business, and it helps share the load," he said.
"It makes a big difference when having different people in key roles in the business, in terms of bringing everything together successfully, which has also helped us branch out in other fields.
"One of the things we focus on is having a team, it's not just the family and the staff, it's the suppliers who are partners in our success."
The business employs about 100 staff, producing macadamias, their beloved avocados, and running the Dons Fort packhouse, which also handles citrus.
Their avocados are produced across 10 orchards in the Burnett catchment.
Mr Donovan said having suppliers who understood the family's needs had helped make a tremendous difference.
"Whether it's chemical, nutrition, irrigation, banking, accounting, or machinery dealers... these relationships are what can make life so much easier," he said.
The Grower of the Year Award is regarded as the highest accolade in Australian horticulture.
Winners draw high praise
AUSVEG chief executive officer Michael Coote said it reflected the Donovans dedication to their business and their tireless efforts on behalf of the horticulture industry.
"Within the last 12 months, the Donovan Family became the first horticulture enterprise to be accredited through both Fair Farms and Reef Certification, both voluntary programs of industry body Growcom, demonstrating environmental stewardship and ethical employment practices," Mr Coote said.
"They have certified all 10 of their avocado orchards, which are located in the Burnett catchment of the Southern Lagoon in the Great Barrier Reef, meaning they can demonstrate best practice with regards the management of topsoil, fertiliser and pesticide use, and irrigation practices.
"They are highly dedicated to the avocado and horticulture industry, with Lachlan Donovan serving on the Board of Australian Avocados for 13 years, and having participated in the development of a guide for growing perfect avocados through the Hort Innovation-funded project Improving market access for Australian avocados in Asia and the Middle East."
Syngenta ANZ country head Paul Luxton congratulated the Donovans upon receiving the Syngenta Grower of the Year Award, as passionate farmers, savvy business people and environmental custodians.
"Annaleise and Lachlan have been trailblazers in horticulture, with the way they have helped develop the avocado industry here and abroad, through collaboration and the highest attention to detail along the way," he said.
"As global leaders in R&D, we share their vision for building opportunities through partnerships, and applaud the care they've shown for the land and the surrounding environment.
"We've had the great fortune to work hand in glove with them, getting them access to new tools that have directly benefited them and the broader industry, in the management of diseases that would otherwise incur unacceptable losses."
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