CARROT king Doug Nicol has been recognised for his contribution to the horticulture industry, named the 2021 SA Grower of the Year.
He was just one of those honoured at the 2021 AusVeg SA and William Buck Industry Awards for Excellence, held on Wednesday night.
More than 280 growers and industry members gathered at the Arkaba Hotel to celebrate the important contributions of members of the state's vegetable and wider horticulture industry, and showcase their leadership, dedication and innovation.
Bunch line vegetable grower Anthony De Ieso, Thorndon Park Produce, Waterloo Corner, was named SA Young Grower of the Year while Maria Colangelo, Rainbow Fresh, won the Women in Horticulture award.
Jon Ferguson, Viscon Australia, picked up the Industry Impact title, Greg Baker, SARDI, was the researcher of the year and the SA Produce Markets took out the Biosecurity Award.
"After a tough year of challenges brought on by COVID-19, the Ausveg SA Vegetable Industry Awards for Excellence are a fantastic opportunity for industry to come together and celebrate the people who make our industry great," Ausveg SA chief executive officer Jordan Brooke-Barnett said.
"In the past year our South Australian growers have worked harder than ever to keep fresh produce on tables throughout Australia and it is great to see so many of our leaders get recognised at these important awards for industry."
Mr Nicol, BD and MD Nicol and Son, Penfiel Gardens, was recognised for his significant contribution to industry as a grower and industry leader.
Mr Brooke-Barnett said the company was respected Australia-wide as a leading carrot producer renown for its commitment to quality, with Mr Nicol a driving force for innovation in the business by investing heavily in expanding production, packhouse and distribution operations and export operations in recent years.
At the industry level Mr Nicol has regularly contributed time to initiatives outside of the business such as marketing campaigns to promote local produce and in working with leading transport provider Collins Transport to establish a state-of-the-art distribution facility in Virginia, which will improve freight access and services for growers throughout his growing region.
He was selected as Grower of the Year by a panel of prominent growers and advisors .
Mr Brooke-Barnett said the award recognised the efforts of a quiet achiever who was well regarded both within his family business and the broader industry.
"Doug Nicol is a true leader in our industry and someone who the rest of the industry can aspire to," he said.
"He is respected for his commitment to the broader industry and his willingness to roll up his sleeves to assist with commercial and industry projects which benefit the entire industry."
Mr De Ieso regularly gives his time to support industry R&D projects and trials on property and recently developed a program called Feed the Need, which provides agricultural students with the opportunity to experience and work on a horticultural property trial site, with produce grown then donated via Foodbank SA.
"Anthony is a strong leader within our industry and always goes above and beyond to trial new technologies and approaches on his farm," Mr Brooke-Barnett said.
"He is a committed and valued member of our industry and always makes time to share his knowledge with his peers," said Jordan Brooke-Barnett.
"With committed growers such as Anthony the industry is in good hands."
Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham was on-hand to present a number of key awards said that the South Australian vegetable industry was an agricultural success story in the face of unprecedented challenges over the past year.
"COVID-19 has seen wide sweeping constraints and volatility, but the response by our horticulture producers is a testament to the strength of our industry," he said.
"This sector has continued to provide premium food for consumers locally, nationally and internationally despite the challenges posed by both the pandemic and other issues such as fruit fly.
"Resilience shown in the sector as a whole is reflected in the fact that these awards could not be held in 2020, but this year AusVeg SA held its first ever Hort SA conference on Tuesday, with more than 300 people registered to attend and that nearly the same number of the industry's leading figures gathered for the gala awards event."
Mr Nicol and Mr De Ieso will be the SA state-endorsed nominees at the National Awards for Excellence, held at Hort Connections 2021 in Brisbane from June 7-9.
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