Longstanding Australian Pome Fruit Improvement Program (APFIP) operations manager Mark Hankin stepped down in October after over a decade running the program.
Mark leaves the role for a family business venture outside the apple and pear industry, but still in the Huon Valley, where he and his wife Trici have bought the Huonville Goodyear Autocare franchise.
Succeeding him is former Huon Valley grower, Marcus Oldham graduate and Nuffield scholar Thomas Frankcomb.
Mark said since its inception in 1997 the APFIP program had delivered enormous value to industry in giving them access to better varieties earlier through regional evaluation trials, certification of virus-free scion wood and rootstock and more efficient and effective quarantine services.
In addition to providing a tree procurement service for growers looking to buy trees or rootstocks, Mark has also been instrumental in organising the annual Variety Showcase at the annual horticultural conference Hort Connections.
“Having the independent variety evaluation information available when growers are making a decision on what to grow in that area means they are making informed decisions and getting the best variety for the region,” he said.
Certification that scion and rootstocks were free of latent viruses also offered growers better productivity due to better plant health, and more consistency of apple quality and packout.
Mark said he would miss the interaction with industry.
“The growers are marvellous, that will be the bit I miss,” he said. “I’ve made some really good friends.”
APFIP Chairman Scott Price said Mark had made a tremendous contribution to industry productivity during his tenure and he would be greatly missed.
“Mark has brought ten years of exceptional leadership and experience to the role,” he said. “He has a thorough understanding of certification and an exceptionally good rapport with the custodians of the evaluation sites and is highly respected as a previous grower himself. He is forthright and you need someone who is decisive to effect change.
“Mark is a strong believer that clean, certified scion and rootstock material is vital for a successful industry future. He has put a lot of work into the certification program and has been instrumental in introducing that certified material into stoolbeds of nurseries around Australia.
“The industry would like to thank Mark for his years of dedication and wish him all the best for the future.”
Scott said Tom would be a familiar face to Tasmania growers, having grown up and farmed at Ranelagh. He has held the offices of chairman of the Tasmanian Apple and Pear Growers Association, president of Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGT), President and Treasurer of Young Tasmanian Fruit Growers Association and is a former ring master of the Huon Show.
Tom undertook a Nuffield scholarship in 2009 to research dwarf hops production systems and fruit supply chain challenges.
Scott said Tom would bring to the role a wealth of industry knowledge.
“He will hit the ground running as he already has a great understanding of the industry and the value of certification,” he said.
Thomas will initially be based in Victoria. In addition to the certification work, he will work with the custodians of evaluation sites in the Huon Valley, at Lenswood, Manjimup, Batlow, Orange, Stanthorpe and Shepparton, be responsible for the AFPIP repository of mother trees and virus-free wood and continue to work with quarantine authorities as well as continuing Mark’s work in tree procurement for growers.
“It is a very varied role,” Scott said. “Mark has left large shoes to fill, but I am confident Tom is up to the challenge.”