CEO Update

Welcome to the November edition of the NNN Newsletter. I hope it has been a prosperous Spring as we close in on Summer. I also hope that the buoyant trading conditions continue through to the Festive Season.

There were some significant meetings and events over November, including the NGIA AGM and Board meeting, the Hort Innovation AGM, the Plant Health Australia (PHA) series of meetings and an important plant pest incursion exercise called Exercise Fastidious. Details of these meetings and activities are outlined below.

NGIA Annual General Meeting (AGM):
The NGIA AGM was held on Tuesday 13 November with the key item of business to appoint three directors for two-year terms. Following the AGM, the Board reconvened to select the President and Vice President for the coming year to the next AGM. The members of the NGIA Board for the next year are:

Karen Brock, NGIT – re-elected as the NGIT Director for a third term and as NGIA President
Ben Grange, NGINA – mid-term of first term as NGINA Director and elected as Vice President.
Ross Hooper, NGIWA – mid-term of his first term as Director.
David Howard, NGIV – re-elected as the NGIV Director for a second term.
Paul Lancaster, NGIQ – mid-term of second term as NGIQ Director.
Peter Jong, NGISA – elected for first term as NGISA Director.
Hamish Mitchell, NGIV – co-opted onto the Board.

Geoffrey Fuller completed his third and final two-year term as the NGISA Director and was acknowledged for his contribution to the NGIA Board and industry for the past six years. Paul Lancaster was thanked for his efforts as Vice President over the last year.

The President’s report, the financial statements, balance sheet and trading accounts and the reports of the executive and auditor for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 were all received and accepted at the AGM.

NGIA Board Meeting:
The NGIA Board meeting was held on 12-13 November with the key item of business being a joint session of the NGIA Board, the State NGI Presidents and a number invited NGI members to discuss the Future Model for the Nursey Industry. The discussion was based around a report developed by Brian Ramsay of Inovact Consulting on “Establishing a Contemporary Business Model for the Nursery and Garden Industry”.

A new strategic direction to move from the current federated model to a new model, where businesses and associations are directly involved in their national body, was supported by the Nursery and Garden Industry associations at the session. The focus of the new national organisation will be on the three defining pillars of:

  1. Developing Markets
  2. Reducing costs, and
  3. Protecting investments.

The attendees at the meeting gave consensus to the following:

  • Support a reinvention of NGIA and form a new national body.
  • The new body will be a hybrid model and include both businesses and state associations in direct membership.
  • The new body will focus on delivering “three pillars” being developing markets; reducing costs and protecting investments.
  • A Transition Team will be formed with members to be identified by 12 December 2018.
  • The Transition Team will produce an Information Memorandum for Members nationally to consider by June 2019.

The session was ‘live streamed’ and is available on line ( https://youtu.be/QCEu5HxNqmg) to watch and a copy of the report is available on request to structurereview@ngia.com.au The aim of this type of communications, is to ensure members have access to the information on the Future Model that is provided, immediately and uncensored.

Hort Innovation AGM
I attended the Hort Innovation AGM as peak industry bodies are invited to attend. Below is my summary of the AGM.

Special Resolution 1 – To allow PIBs to be members of Hort Innovation
This Resolution was defeated 73.38% for and 26.62% against and needed a 75% vote in favour to be passed.

Chair Address
Selwyn Snell opened the AGM with a presentation on Hort Innovation’s activities over the last year. He indicated that $110m. was invested in 588 R&D projects and 24 marketing programs. One of the achievements highlighted was Plant Life Balance and its international Webby Award - refer slide following.

Selwyn advised that the 14 recommendations from the GHD review were all accepted and how they will be addressed have been included in the Hort Innovation implementation plan. A key message from Selwyn was there will be greater transparency of activities of Hort Innovation.

Company Secretary Address
Sally Holmes reported on the board activities and the company accounts. The four main committees of Hort Innovation are - 1. The Board; 2. Investment; 3. Remuneration and Appointment; and 4. Audit and Risk.

Sally reiterated Selwyn’s message on greater transparency, that the day to day operations of the business are improving and the aim of effective and active engagement with industry.

CEO Address
Matt Brand then addressed the AGM and his messages were very similar to the discussion with the NGIA Board on 13 November. His key messages on Hort Innovation were:

  • Driving volume and value of horticultural products.
  • We are an enabler and facilitator to deliver productivity gains.
  • IRBs/PIBs have a role in service delivery.
  • There are opportunities to do marketing better and programs may need to be realigned for better delivery.
  • Matt uses a Fair And Reasonable (FAR) lens on investments. Will it pass the FAR question and test.
  • Keen to drive diversity and inclusion.

A new strategy will be developed by May 2019. It will have a focus on more than just procurement with the aim to simplify processes and deliver outcomes for levy payers. The development of the strategy will include a round of consultation from late January to late March.

Matt’s concluding comments were the significant activities being pursued include a realignment of marketing, FAR approach and simplification of processes to drive outcomes for growers. The year ahead will address:

  • The Statement of Intent between Hort Innovation and IRB/PIBs
  • A new Statutory Funding Agreement
  • Implementation of the recommendations of the Review of Performance
  • More connections, more often
  • Delivering another record year of investment
  • Building the Hort Frontiers Portfolio

Election of Directors
Three Director positions were up for election with Julie Bird elected as a new director and Steven Lynch and Sue Finger reappointed. Mark Napper was not reappointed. Selwyn Snell was reappointed as Chair of the Board and Dr Mary Corbett the Deputy Chair.

Hort Innovation Member Numbers
Currently that are approximately 2,300 grower members of Hort Innovation with only 231 as voting members out of a levy payer grower base of approximately 30,000. Hort Innovation will look to attract more members by having a clear value proposition, developing a new website and through the use of technology.

Levy Payer Register
Guidelines on the register were published in October and Hort Innovation is working with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on how to make a register operational. The register may have the ability for growers to log in and see if their levy has been received and how much is paid.

Plant Health Australia (PHA) Meetings
John McDonald and I attended the following Plant Health Australia meetings earlier this week:

18th PHA Annual General Meeting
Joint PHA/AHA (Animal Health Australia) Industry Forum
Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD) Signatories Meeting
4th PHA Members Forum
16th Plant Industry Forum

The most salient practical information from the two days of meetings was around on-farm, on-nursery or in-business plant biosecurity plan. I believe there is “plant biosecurity fatigue” but if we assess a simple definition of plant biosecurity, it is one of the most important operational aspects of any plant production business:

“Plant biosecurity is the array of strategies aimed to assess and manage the risks of infectious diseases, quarantined pests, invasive alien species, living modified organisms and biological weapons in natural and managed ecosystems”

A simple approach to assessing and managing plant biosecurity is around the following six (6) essentials:

  1. Farm inputs – assess the risk of all things that come onto the nursery to produce plants – including plants for growing on.
  2. People, vehicles and equipment – assess the risk as pest and disease vectors moving around the nursery.
  3. Feral animals and weeds – assess risk and manage.
  4. Farm outputs – assess the risk of sending out pest and disease as your customer does not want them.
  5. Production practices – assess the risk of your production practices in the management of pests and disease.
  6. Training, planning and recording – reduce the risk with good management practices.

Do you have a plan based on the 6 essentials?

Exercise Fastidious:
With funding support from the nursery industry levy, the two-day exercise brought together 59 representatives from 29 plant industries, science, academia and government bodies, for a simulation exercise to investigate and improve Australia’s preparedness to respond to a possible detection of Xylella fastidiosa.

The forum was organised and conducted by Plant Health Australia with support from DAF Queensland, Ag Victoria, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Birdwood Nursery and NGIA.

Xylella is an invasive bacterial plant pathogen and is one of the world’s most feared pests. Although it is not present in Australia, it is of major concern to Australian plant industries.

The first part of the workshop looked at key technical information about the pathogen and its vectors, including known hosts and its increasing spread around the world. After discussing the foundations, the workshop focused on the technical feasibility of eradication tool, an excel-based program designed to support decision makers before and/or during a pest incursion. The tool works by combining a significant amount of information, which allows decision makers to identify data gaps and provide guidance on whether it is technically feasible to eradicate a pest.

Day two was largely based on an industry response strategy. Together in groups, participants looked at key challenges or situations to take into account when coordinating a possible response. The outputs from the workshop will be used to assist in responding to Xylella fastidiosa if it does arrive in Australia.

Comments, Questions?:
As usual if you have any comments, questions or require further information or clarification on my update or NGIA’s activities, please contact me at ceo@ngia.com.au