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New Directors appointed to APAL Board

Board information

APAL bid farewell to two longstanding members of the APAL Board and welcomed new faces as Board Directors. 

Each year at least two APAL Board Director positions are renewed and, this year, APAL sought nominations to fill two director vacancies representing New South Wales and Victoria, following the resignations of Greg Mouat and Kevin Sanders, who dedicated 12 and 21 years to the APAL Board, respectively.

A strong field of highly experienced candidates were nominated. Fiona Hall was appointed as the Director representing New South Wales for a 3-year term, effective at the end of APAL’s 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was held on 22 November. The position of APAL Director for Victoria was settled via a Member vote during the AGM, with Mitchell McNab being named as the new Director. Mitch also began his 3-year term on the APAL Board on 22 November. 

Mitch and Fiona join the other recently elected Board Member, Jacqueline Wilson-Smith, who began her term as an Independent Director in September 2023. Their appointments further strengthen the leadership team at APAL, contributing to the organisation’s commitment to growth and sustainability. Read on to find out more about how their diverse backgrounds and experiences will enrich the strategic direction of APAL. 

At the AGM, Phil Turnbull, APAL CEO, and Reg Weine, Chair of the APAL Board of Directors, expressed their gratitude and acknowledged the valuable contributions of outgoing APAL Board Directors, Kevin Sanders and Greg Mouat. Their unwavering dedication and the profound impact they both had during their many years on the APAL Board have significantly shaped the apple and pear industry . 

Greg Mouat

Representing the apple and pear industry in New South Wales for 12 years, Greg has offered much more than just his orcharding expertise over the years. His sound counsel and well-considered opinion has always been valued by the APAL Board and management. He has contributed valuable experience from his roles as Director and Chair of Batlow Fruit Co-op, his service at NSW Farmers Association, and his active involvement in the Rotary Club of Batlow.  

Greg also played key roles in several committees and initiatives over the years, serving as Chair of the Finance Audit and Risk Committee and the APAL Awards for Excellence Committee. 

He was also instrumental in the response to the fires that struck Batlow in late 2019 and early 2020. Collaborating with the APAL team, Greg contributed significantly to the development of the “Build Back Better” bushfire recovery plan. The effort ultimately helped to secure grants for those affected by the fires in Batlow – an incredible achievement. 

Greg’s time on the Board is marked by his unwavering dedication over the years, collaborative spirit and the positive impact he has had on the industry. 

 

 

Kevin Sanders

Kevin joined the Board of APAL in 2002 when the association was transitioning from the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association to APAL, so he has served almost 22 years on the APAL Board.  

Research and development has always been Kevin’s passion and he played a significant role as Chair of the R&D Industry Advisory Committee, managing the investment of both the R&D and marketing levies. A progressive fruit grower, he has also played a role in helping to shape Future Orchards®, which has become one of the most successful extension programs of its kind in the world. 

He is fiercely passionate about the industry and committed to the advancement of apples and pears. Kevin will be leaving a great legacy in the industry and his long-term commitment to the APAL Board over the last two decades is testament to that. 

His carefully considered feedback and observations have contributed significantly to the evolution and success of the industry. Thank you for pushing boundaries, advocating passionately and fairly representing your constituents in Victoria and growers across the country. 

 

 

Mitchell McNab

Mitchell McNab, Director for Victoria 

Mitch is a fifth-generation apple and pear grower from Ardmona, Victoria. He has a strong connection with the industry through his role as Orchard Manager in the family business, McNab Orchards, and as Chair of Fruit Growers Victoria for the past five years. 

He is an active member of the industry, participating in numerous industry events and committees, including being a former member of the Hort Innovation Strategic Marketing Panel. In 2016 he received a Nuffield Scholarship to research robotic technology for the apple and pear industry and was awarded the 2023 Australian Young Farmer of the Year.  

What are the biggest challenges you see in the industry? 

“Apple and pear growers around the country have experienced an exceptionally challenging past few years, with low pricing due to oversupplied markets, weather events including floods and hailstorms, challenges with labour, and Covid-19. While APAL is addressing some of these challenges, I believe more needs to be done to enable a sustainable industry into the future. 

“We need to enable greater industry cohesion to tackle the issues of the supermarket duopoly. We must also tackle price and market transparency to enable a fair price for produce grown and supplied throughout the supply chain.  

“Furthermore, we need more assistance to support growers to export larger volumes of produce each year and develop stronger export market relationships that are sustainable now and into the future.” 

What are the biggest opportunities you see in the future of the industry? 

“The Australian apple and pear industry needs to adopt change and innovation through new growing practices, mechanisation, new varieties and breeding programs, as well as innovative post-harvest practices, to consistently present high-quality fruit to retailers, wholesale and export markets. 

“Through this, the industry would be better placed to market our fruit and extract greater value for growers.” 

What particular skills and experience do you bring to the APAL Board? 

“I have the right mix of knowledge, innovation and passion to address some of these challenges and help identify solutions and opportunities that would benefit growers, orchard businesses and, ultimately, the apple and pear industry as a whole. 

“I bring a valuable, dynamic skillset to the APAL Board and I aim to encourage the apple and pear industry to embrace change and innovation to move forward as a sustainable and profitable Australian industry. 

“In addition, I have a strong network in the fruit growing industry, particularly in Australia’s largest growing and levy-paying region, the Goulburn Valley.” 

 

Fiona Hall

Fiona Hall, Director for New South Wales 

Fiona has been deeply involved with the agriculture and horticulture sectors, dedicating the last 25 years to working within the apple and cherry industries. Her upbringing on the family cattle farm in Braidwood in the Southern Highlands laid the groundwork for her current role as Owner and General Manager of BiteRiot! Operations in Orange, New South Wales. BiteRiot! has a diverse and dynamic presence in the market, engaging in growing, packing, exporting, marketing, value adding and agritourism. 

Fiona’s deep involvement in agriculture and horticulture extends to her tenure as CEO of the Australian National Field Days and leadership roles in various industry associations across agriculture. 

What are the biggest challenges you see in the industry? 

“The apple and pear industry has undergone significant changes over time, transitioning from many orchards and growers to smaller production areas and fewer growers. Cultivating a positive mindset among growers is essential for the industry’s resilience and potential growth.” 

What are the biggest opportunities you see in the future of the industry? 

“By combining strategies, producers can position themselves strategically within the apple industry, whether through collaboration with larger entities or by carving out their own unique niche in the market. Adaptability and a proactive approach to market trends will be essential for sustained success.” 

What particular skills and experience do you bring to the APAL Board? 

“I bring a commitment to collaboration to achieve shared objectives, experience in running a diverse business and experience in developing strategies for growth. I am passionate about the future of the industry and intend to use my skills and experience to support the sustainability of the industry for the next generation, peers and all stakeholders within the supply chain. I am dedicated to fostering positive changes that shape the industry’s path ahead.” 

 

Jacqueline Wilson-Smith

Jacqueline Wilson-Smith, Independent Director 

Jacqueline Wilson-Smith brings 25 years of experience in agrifood to APAL, having worked for several global food and agribusiness companies, including McCormick, Gourmet Garden, Mondelez and Constellation Wines. Passionate about creating better food systems and facilitating impact, Jacqueline is the Founder and Executive Director of the Sustainable Innovation Co. and Co-founder and former Chair of the Food and Agribusiness Network.  

With a board portfolio spanning several membership-based organisations focused on the agrifood sector, sustainability and innovation, Jacqueline is also a Board Director of the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre, Meat & Livestock Australia and Travellers Choice. She is Chair of AgriFutures Ginger Research Advisory Panel and is an industry steering committee member of the Australian Food and Beverage Accelerator.  

Jacqueline was the Queensland recipient of the 2017 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award and is a participant in the Australian Rural Leadership Program, cohort 30. 

What do you see as the biggest challenges for the apple and pear industry? 

“Challenges facing the apple and pear industry are shared with other agrifood industries in Australia, such as volatility in supply and quality due to unseasonal weather events, ongoing management of biosecurity risks (such as the Varroa mite incursion and import risks), industry fragmentation (not working to the industry’s full collaborative potential), rising input costs, economic downturn and inflationary pressures.  

“Challenges perhaps more specific to the apple and pear industry include a softening of domestic consumer demand, inadequate pricing for growers and risk of excessive plantings that are not in step with customer demand.” 

Where do the biggest opportunities lie? 

“The flipside, of course, is to resolve industry challenges and leverage APAL’s strengths to provide sustainable growth for the Australian apple and pear industry. 

“There are great opportunities to digitise supply chain systems, adopt technologies that use to data to help growers take the guesswork out of the season ahead and for packhouses to make better quality decisions. Unlocking data insights will improve weather, supply and demand predictions, smooth out price fluctuations, increase quality, consistency, yield and profitability, and help monitor and reduce environmental impacts. 

“Data advancements coupled with APAL’s collaborative leadership style, industry programs and extension activities will help provide transparent, fair pricing for growers, enable consumer and regulatory trust, and provide collaborative marketing opportunities. Improved trade access and a coordinated effort via the APAL Export Hub sets the apple and pear industry up to deliver meaningful export volumes. 

“APAL will further strengthen its enviable position of being a self-funded peak industry body through commercial diversification (Twenty Degrees) that leverages fresh produce brand marketing credibility and licensing capability to secure future funding for further industry investment and sustainability.” 

In your experience, what is the key to success in the FMCG sector? 

“Having worked on the front line, marketing and innovating fresh and value-added produce brands domestically and internationally for over 25 years, I believe the key to success starts with consumers. Deeply understanding their path to purchase, eating experiences and the competitive options through the customer lens is mandatory.  

“Processes that I advocate in fresh produce marketing and innovation include consumer journey mapping and shopper insights to identify customer pain points that in turn guide the innovation program, including brand positioning, optimising taste profiles, setting quality specification for desirable characteristics, improving merchandising and for better shopper navigation and education. 

“Looking to global food and health trends and broadening the lens of the competitive landscape for apples and pears is sensible. For instance, packaged branded snack offerings are increasingly becoming healthier and seek to steal share from fruits and vegetables. Finding and leveraging the competitive advantage of apples and pears is becoming a more complex task.  

“The marketing mix is becoming more and more diverse, and the competitive stakes are rising. Marketers have a toolbox of levers to pull to ultimately ensure brands are truly adding value to consumers such as premiumisation through claimable attributes, provenance storytelling, influencer campaigns and category management.” 

 

This article was first published in the Summer 2023/4 edition of AFG.

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