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Exceptional contributions to industry celebrated at APAL Awards for Excellence 2022


The APAL Awards for Excellence 2022 celebrate the exceptional contribution made by industry leaders, growers, marketers, exporters and researchers.

This year, awards were made across six categories and were presented at the APAL Forum in Melbourne on 30 May in front of more than 100 of their peers.

Congratulations to all recipients, who led a high-calibre field of nominees, and a special thank you to everyone who nominated a colleague within industry.

Learn more about our industry’s deserving Award recipients below.


Grower of the Year: Trent Vedelago, Fonlea Orchards and Fast Fruit Sales, Queensland

Trent is the operations manager of his family’s businesses Fonlea Orchards and Fast Fruit Sales. He is the primary manager for all orchard operations, manages all storage facilities and has strategic input to the business’s packing operations. In recent years he has moved to producing more high-quality apples, with a focus on innovation and investment.

Trent has shown great resilience, particularly during the drought, when he was trucking in a megalitre of water a day to keep the farm going. He also carried out an aggressive pruning program and removed some less-profitable blocks. This unorthodox management and unprecedented expenditure was to ensure the long-term sustainability of the business.

He is an active contributor to the industry, hosting orchard walks and technology transfer opportunities for other growers, being a foundation member of the Granite Belt Growers Association and a strong participant in Focus Orchards which is part of APAL’s Future Orchards program.


Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr Ben Darbyshire, Western Australia

The APAL Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledges Ben’s work and his service and guidance to the Western Australian apple industry. His experience and wealth of knowledge is unsurpassed, and he is a treasured and well-respected researcher, leader and grower.

As the former Chairman of Fruit West Co-operative Ltd., Ben was the driving force behind the commercialisation of the new Western Australian apple variety ANABP 01, known as Bravo™, and was responsible for introducing it to the world.


Young Grower of the Year: Sam Boyce, MJ Hall & Sons, Victoria

As operations manager at MJ Hall & Sons in Goulburn Valley, 33-year-old Sam Boyce has significant experience and skill in orchard management. He is a quiet achiever who is very well respected among those he works with. Sam is extremely generous to other growers in the area, often giving advice or suggestions, as well as mentoring younger growers as they enter management roles.

He stays up to date with new technologies by playing an active role in hosting industry trials and choosing to implement technologies and techniques that best suit the business. With a well-developed understanding of what is required to grow profitable fruit, Sam is in-tune with packhouse requirements and outputs, and targets fruit to maximise return to the farm.


Women in Horticulture Award: Rien Silverstein, Silver Orchards, Victoria

Rien Silverstein is considered a leader in horticulture in the Goulburn Valley. Her experience, wisdom and sage advice is sought across many issues affecting horticulture and women in agriculture.

Rien has worked tirelessly to improve conditions for employers and seasonal workers in what is now the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme. Her ability to clearly articulate the needs of employers in the agricultural sector and the respect she shows the workers has had great influence at the decision-making level. She strongly advocates for the benefits of the PALM scheme, reasonably demonstrates the shortcomings that can be changed and works to educate workers so they are less likely to be exploited by employers who are working outside the rules.

Rien has demonstrated her commitment to success in the industry through her mentoring of others and through her many board positions for organisations, including Australian Women in Agriculture. She was instrumental in setting up the Goulburn Valley Women in Horticulture group.


Research and Extension Provider of the Year: Ian Goodwin

Dr Ian Goodwin has been a long-standing researcher for the apple and pear industry, leading and contributing to research projects over the last three decades. Ian has been a project leader within the industry’s PIPS Program for the past eight years and leads two of the projects in the current third phase. His research encompasses many aspects of the orchard system to increase the profitability outcomes for growers along the supply chain.

Ian is well known by growers because of this willingness and passion to extend his research directly to growers and advisors through Future Orchard Walks, at the same time as hosting politicians and policy makers at the Tatura SmartFarm to advance the profile of the industry.


Marketer of the Year: Nic Giblett, Newton Orchards, Western Australia

Since returning to work on the family farm in 2008, Nic Giblett has been single-handedly responsible for the ongoing success of Newton Orchards’ brand development, promotion and marketing. She is keen to promote fruit as a wholesome and natural product that tastes good and is a healthy snack option. She challenges the Australian consumer demand for perfect-looking produce and has added value to waste products by developing juicing and cidery offshoots to the business and working towards reducing packaging and the business’ carbon footprint.


About the APAL Awards of Excellence

The winners were chosen by the APAL Board, following recommendations by the Nominations Committee. The Nominations Committee is an advisory committee only, providing advice, local knowledge and support in relation to the awards. The committee is comprised of state association and industry representatives from the eight growing regions. This year’s committee was chaired by APAL Director, Greg Mouat, and included:

  • Mike Tarbath, Fruit Growers Tasmania
  • Jose Gill, Fruit Producers SA
  • Nardia Stacy, Pomewest
  • Michael Crisera, Fruit Growers Victoria
  • Ben Antenucci, NSW Farmer’s Assoc
  • Stephen Tancred (Stanthorpe)
  • Jessica Fearnley, NSW DPI (Orange)





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